Postgraduate study options
Australian and New Zealand universities offer a large number of course options for students considering postgraduate study. In addition to masters degrees (which can be taught, undertaken by research, or by a combination of the two) there are also graduate and postgraduate diplomas and graduate certificates available. Postgraduate and graduate diplomas and certificates are generally considered to be less academically demanding than masters, and at some universities are used as pathways to masters study for students who do not initially meet entry requirements for admission to masters.
There are several different types of postgraduate courses available in Australia and New Zealand, just as there are in the UK.
1. Professional development programmes
These programmes would include, for example, a Master of Marketing, Master of Engineering or Master of Education. These programmes offer people who have already qualified in a profession or subject the opportunity to specialise in a particular area or niche. For a qualified teacher, for example, this might mean studying education for gifted children, special needs teaching or school management.
In order to be eligible for entry to these courses, applicants are usually required to have relevant work experience in their industry or profession. These courses are usually taught, though some may offer research modules or options.
2. Graduate entry professional qualifications
These would include courses such as the Master of Physiotherapy Studies – which allows graduates of related subject areas, such as sports science, sports therapy or biomedicine, to train and qualify as physiotherapists – Graduate Entry Medicine (MBBS), or the Master of Teaching, which allows graduates of non-teaching degrees to train and qualify as teachers. These courses are almost always taught, with very little or no option to undertake research.
3. Traditional masters courses
These aim to strengthen and develop a student’s knowledge in a particular subject. They are the most traditional form of postgraduate study, and include programmes such as a Master of Arts in, for example, History, or a Master of Science in Physics. In order to be eligible for entry to these courses, an applicant would usually need to have an undergraduate degree in the same subject, or a strongly relevant subject, to the one they want to study at masters level. These masters courses can be taken by coursework or by research, or by a combination of the two.
4. ‘Change of direction’ masters courses
These masters allow students who have an undergraduate degree in one academic area to gain a solid understanding of and qualification in another academic area. They include programmes such as the Master of Commerce – a general programme which provides a solid grounding in most major aspects of business before allowing students to choose a specialism such as marketing or management. These courses are open to applicants with a degree in any academic discipline. They are predominantly taught.
Masters courses vary in length. In New Zealand, masters courses are either around 12-18 months (coursework qualifications) or two years (coursework and research); while in Australia they can be one, one and a half, or two years long. The duration of a course depends on the subject, but also often on the applicant’s background.
Masters degrees can be taught, or undertaken by research, or by a combination of the two.
The basic entry requirement for admission to postgraduate study in Australia and New Zealand is for a student to have successfully completed a UK or Irish bachelors degree, but the exact academic and professional background and achievement level required varies considerably between courses and universities.