If you’ve finished your undergraduate studies but are not entirely sure whether you want to pursue a graduate or postgraduate diploma, you’ll probably be surprised by how easy it is to find answers to your dilemma.
But before that, you’ll need to clear a lot of confusion made by language.
In a nutshell, even though there are no differences between graduate and postgraduate studies, the higher education vocabulary and regional variations can really make a mishmash in students’ heads.
So, without any further ado, here’s how to avoid rubbing your forehead.
As a rule, the answer to this question will vary depending on the location you wish to continue your studies. For example, universities put an equation mark between graduate and postgraduate studies in some countries, while, in others, they make a clear distinction between the two.
And, sometimes, explanations that use vague terminology further vail the issue with more uncertainty.
For example, Wikipedia’s article on a postgraduate diploma (PgD, PgDip, PGDip, PG Dip., PGD, Dipl. PG, PDE) refers to it as “a postgraduate qualification awarded after a university degree, which supplements the original degree and awards them with a graduate diploma.“
But why would a postgraduate degree be referred to as a graduate? This would imply that the two terms are interchangeable. However, the subsequent definition of a graduate diploma makes it clear that there are some differences between these qualifications:
“A graduate diploma (GradD, GDip, GrDip, GradDip) is generally a qualification taken after completion of a first degree, although the level of study varies in different countries from being at the same level as the final year of a bachelor’s degree to being at a level between a master’s degree and a doctorate. In some countries the graduate diploma and postgraduate diploma are synonymous, while in others (particularly where the graduate diploma is at undergraduate degree level) the postgraduate diploma is a higher qualification.“
Other sources, including forums and popular online meeting spots, will simply end the question by stating that it’s just a matter of British vs. American English. And they would have a point, but a bit later on that.
And, alas, the universities themselves will sometimes contribute to the widespread bemusement.
The University of Oxford, for instance, offers admissions to graduate studies while explaining that the info is intended for those applying for postgraduate studies.
Of course, we’re not saying the referenced sources are misleading; we’re just illustrating the point of how easy it is to get to a spot where you no longer know what a postgraduate diploma is and what a graduate diploma is.
However, behind the conundrum of definitions lies the simple fact that the two qualifications have their similarities. These primarily have to do with postgraduate and graduate degree requirements, i.e., the students can only enroll them upon completing undergraduate studies.
So, when used interchangeably, postgraduate and graduate studies refer to the level of education that students pursue upon obtaining a bachelor’s degree. In this sense, both notions accommodate an array of qualifications, from vocational and conversion courses, non-research degrees, all the way to masters and doctoral programmes.
And, yes, the US education system will more often use the term “graduate,” while the UK education providers will likely term this level of studies as “postgraduate.” Likewise, the people who enroll in these programmes will be referred to as “graduate students” and “postgraduate students,” respectively.
That said, note that there can be quite a few differences depending on the particular geographic region and its educational system.
In the UK system, a postgraduate diploma is comparable to a master’s degree, and it’s considered as its non-research counterpart. By contrast, a graduate diploma is a course undertaken by students who already have an undergraduate degree in another field of study.
Comparably, graduate studies in the US list consider graduate diplomas as “Intermediate Graduate Qualifications” that offer professional specializations and are in the same category as graduate certificates, specialist certificates, and specialist degrees.
In sum, the real point of your choices concerning graduate (or postgraduate) education should bypass the issue of nomenclature. Instead of asking yourself whether your graduate diploma is a postgraduate degree or not, you should be inspecting its benefits to your career or academic growth. Anyway, each educational system will provide you with a different answer to that question.
The true essence of postgraduate and graduate diplomas lies in their immediate applicability on the job markets. Most of them are designed to provide you with practical skill sets that lead more directly to employability. That said, some of them are nestled under more advanced postgraduate programmes and offer the opportunity to progress onto research studies upon completion.
So, if you’re looking for ways to get to the job market as soon as possible, postgraduate diplomas might be a wise choice.
Or, if you’re still indecisive about the research studies and you find a programme that allows easy transition to higher-level education, these diplomas could make a whole lot more sense.