Pursuing postgraduate education can provide valuable skills for a successful future. In Australia, there are various education pathways to choose from, including graduate certificates, diplomas, master and doctoral degrees.

This guide is designed to simplify the decision-making process by highlighting the benefits and differences of your postgraduate study options. By understanding what each pathway offers, you can select the one that best aligns with your goals.

Requirements for postgraduate study in Australia

Every degree is different, and the prerequisites will vary between courses. In general, some of the eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet include:

  • A bachelor degree in your desired study area or a relevant study area (recognised by the Australian education system)
  • Proof of English language proficiency
  • Work experience (in some circumstances)

To undertake postgraduate study in Australia, you’ll also need a valid student visa. You can find all the information on applying for a student visa on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Postgraduate study options in Australia

The first step in pursuing postgraduate study is choosing the right course in your field of interest. Luckily, Australia is one of the most popular choices for higher education and has a fantastic range of study options available.

Graduate certificates and graduate diplomas

If you’re looking for an option that’s cost-effective and flexible, a graduate certificate or graduate diploma is a great choice.

A graduate certificate is a highly specialised qualification that develops skills in a specific industry. It’s usually designed for people who are already working in their field. Some of the industries where you can pursue graduate certificates include business, IT, health and hospitality.

A graduate diploma provides slightly more in-depth knowledge, sitting at a more specialised level than a graduate certificate but below a master degree.

In general, a graduate certificate or graduate diploma requires you to have a bachelor degree in your area of study. A graduate certificate can take about six months to complete; however, a graduate diploma usually takes a year.

Masters degree

A master degree is a fantastic way to increase your specialisation in your subject of study and your employment options.

According to the QILT Graduate Outcomes Survey 2022, master graduates tend to earn more than bachelor graduates. In 2022, the median salary for full-time employees with undergraduate degrees was around $68,000, whereas postgraduate by coursework employees were earning around $91,600.

There are two kinds of masters degrees: master by coursework and master by research.

Similar to a bachelor degree, a master by coursework requires students to complete a set of both mandatory and elective units, along with assignments. This involves a mix of lectures, seminars and coursework. A master by coursework usually takes 12-18 months to complete.

Research master programs enable students to design their own research project with the guidance of an academic supervisor. For those who want to take their postgraduate study even further, a master by research provides a pathway to a PhD. Typically, it takes two years to complete this type of master degree.

Doctoral programs (PhDs)

In Australia, a doctorate is the highest level of academic achievement. There are two kinds of doctoral programs: a doctoral degree by research (PhD) and a professional doctoral degree.

While completing a PhD, students develop extensive, original research projects under the guidance of academics who have a substantial impact on their field of study.

A professional doctorate requires students to provide extensive and unique contributions to a particular professional practice. These degrees are often earned by completing coursework and creating an original thesis.

Most PhD programs require candidates to hold a master degree in a relevant field. Each university may have unique eligibility criteria, but here are some documents you generally need to submit:

  • Evidence of your previous qualifications
  • Academic and/or professional references
  • A research proposal (if you’re proposing your own PhD topic)

The length of doctoral programs can vary greatly depending on the subject area, funding, and whether a student is enrolled full- or part-time. While the majority of full-time Australian students earn their doctorate in three to four years, some programs can take up to five years.

Learn more about postgraduate study in Australia

No matter what level of postgraduate study you pursue, you’ll have plenty of education providers to choose from, both in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

According to Daniel Onovo, a Master of Engineering Technology student at Federation University, Churchill, studying at the postgraduate level in regional Victoria has offered a host of unique advantages.

“Closer engagements and quick access to educational support, resources and libraries; variable social activities; spacious and budget-friendly living conditions; exposure to industries; life and career-enhancing opportunities - [these] are just a few of the many benefits you'll enjoy while studying here,” he says.

There are also funding opportunities available across all levels of postgraduate study in the form of scholarships and government incentives. One such example is the Australia Awards, which provide long-term funding to people from developing nations hoping to study in Australia.

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You can use the Study Melbourne Course Finder to explore available scholarships and learn how to apply here.