Skip navigation

Types of Postgraduate Study

If you're at a crossroads between employment and further study, looking to advance your current career or thinking about a change in direction, you might want to consider the huge variety of Postgraduate Courses on offer at Northumbria University.

If you're at a crossroads between employment and further study, looking to advance your current career or thinking about a change in direction, you might want to consider the huge variety of Postgraduate Courses on offer at Northumbria University.

From one-year taught courses to three-year research PhDs, choosing the right Postgraduate course can give you the edge you need to reach your goals. Discover what's available, what's involved and which type of course will best suit your personal circumstances.

Did you know, people who have studied a Postgraduate Degree can earn up to £200,000 more over the course of their career? - Sutton Trust report, 2013

Taught Courses

Taught courses include Masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas or certificates.

This type of postgraduate study is most similar to an undergraduate degree in that you will be taught a subject by our experienced academics and then assessed on what you have learned. There may be other aspects to the course such as practical projects, placements, research projects or dissertations.
Most commonly in the form of a Masters degree

  • One to two years full-time
  • Two to three years part-time
  • Led by a tutor, students attend seminars and lectures
  • Other elements can include workshops, tutorials, project work, presentations, some research, a dissertation and exams. The mix of each element varies depending upon the course
  • Types of Masters degrees available include; MA (Master of Arts); MSc (Master of Science); MBA (Master of Business Administration); LLM (Master of Law); MEd (Master of Education); MRes (Master of Research)
  • You may also have the option of omitting the dissertation element and gaining a Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) or Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert). These two qualifications can provide a route to particular careers, or they can serve as stepping stones towards studying for a Masters degree
  • A PG Cert usually takes around four months to complete, and a PG Dip usually lasts for around nine months
  • A PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) is a specific postgraduate qualification for those wanting to train to be a teacher. These usually last a year

Law Courses

The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) - occasionally referred to as the Common Professional Examination (CPE) - is a one-year course for graduates of subjects other than law who want to go on to train to practice law.

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is a one-year course which must be taken by those wishing to become solicitors, regardless of whether they studied an undergraduate law degree or the GDL.

The GDL, LPC and BPTC are all available part-time and spread over two years.

Research Degrees

Independent research constitutes a big part of postgraduate study and people usually undertake it because they love being immersed in the subject they are studying.

The main aim of a research degree is to produce one (or more) pieces of original research. The subject and format can vary widely depending on what you choose to study.

Research degrees are often called Doctorates. The main kinds of doctorate are PhDs, integrated PhDs and professional doctorates.

Doctorates (PhDs)

  • Can be started immediately after your undergraduate degree or following a Masters course. They involve research into a chosen topic under the supervision of an experienced academic
  • Three to four years full-time
  • Five to six years part-time
  • Considered very intellectually challenging
  • Includes a thesis of between 40,000 - 120,000 words and usually a presentation
  • It should contribute something new to the field of study and be suitable for publication

Masters programmes by research (including MSc, MPhil, MRes)

  • Put simply, these are masters programmes that rely on your own private research, supervised by an experienced academic, as opposed to a taught programme
  • One to two years full-time
  • Two to four years part-time
  • Similar in structure to a doctorate, but shorter
  • Includes the production of a thesis and usually an oral presentation. These theses are usually much shorter than that required during a PhD, at around 30,000 – 35,000 words

Routes to a Profession

Certain careers will require particular types of postgraduate study. Postgraduate conversion courses can offer a bridge to these careers for those who have not studied an undergraduate degree for the profession they are looking to enter. They are great for anyone looking for a change in career direction.

  • Conversion courses are usually one-year, taught courses
  • Suitable for careers such as teaching, for which graduates need a one-year PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) in order to pursue primary or secondary school teaching
  • A Master of Engineering is highly valued for a job as a Chartered Engineer

Business – MBA, MSc and MA

  • In business, a Masters degree is increasingly seen as an opportunity to help you expand your opportunities and move into an alternative, often more strategic role
  • There are a range of degrees in business - the MBA is perhaps the best known. It lasts one to two years and can help you to change career, move into a highly-paid job or gain a promotion. Then there are MScs in business that can help you get ahead, and some Masters degrees in finance which have helped our graduates to secure well-paid jobs in the financial services sector.

Full or Part Time Study

Postgraduate courses can be studied in flexible ways.

  • For people who are in work or have family commitments which keep them busy during the day, full-time study may be out of the question. At Northumbria University, you can choose how you study to fit around your busy lifestyle
  • That means you can extend your course by studying part-time, by day release from work or by evening study. Many of our courses are also available to study via Distance Learning, so you can complete your studies and assignments online from anywhere in the world and at any time

Usually, a flexible course takes longer than a full-time course, but you still cover the same syllabus, assignments, classes and exams.

  • As with so many other aspects of postgraduate study, part-time and flexible study can vary from course to course
  • Sample timetables for a selection of our courses will be available on this page soon

Latest News and Features

Dr Steph Yardley
Gondola in Venice
Campus Sunset Generic
IVCO 2024
gettyimages/Robert Ingelhart
Seagrass habitats are expanding in some areas, to the surprise of researchers. Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND
Student Isobel Randall-Evans pictured with handbells
More events

Upcoming events

REVEAL: Fine Art
REVEAL: Computer and Information Science

Back to top