Should you study a Graduate Certificate or Diploma?

What’s the difference between a Graduate Certificate or Diploma and a Masters Degree? Let's explore your postgrad study options.


A postgraduate qualification can propel your career to the next level. It's your chance to deepen your knowledge and become an advanced specialist in your chosen industry. In some cases, a postgrad degree can also act as a stepping stone to a new career or field of work.  

When we think of postgraduate studies, we often think of a Masters Degree. However, there are other options to consider once you’ve got a bachelor degree under your belt. It’s worth looking into a Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma, because they share a lot in common with a masters degree, while boasting their own benefits. Here, we explain the differences between these qualifications, and how you can complete your postgraduate degree online through Open Universities Australia (OUA).

What is a Graduate Certificate?

Completing a Graduate Certificate will generally take six months and can be the first step towards a Graduate Diploma or Masters Degree. However, you may choose to only complete the certificate qualification. Unlike its higher-level counterparts, a Graduate Certificate focuses on developing a student’s practical skills in a short timeframe, as opposed to academic knowledge.

What is a Graduate Diploma?

A step up from the Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diplomas generally take a year to complete full-time and thread academic knowledge alongside practical skills. Similar to the Graduate Certificate, a Graduate Diploma can have you job-ready much faster than a Masters Degree.

What are the benefits of studying a Graduate Certificate or Diploma?

Get qualified faster

While Masters Degrees will generally take two years to complete (or longer if you’re studying part-time), a Graduate Certificate or Diploma can provide you with a qualification in less than a year.

Study only what you need

In many cases, the areas covered in a Graduate Certificate or Diploma form part of a Masters Degree. If you only want to cover the core units of study, this can be a more viable option than completing the entire masters course. 

Start your journey towards a Masters

If you intend to study a Masters but don’t meet the entry requirements, you can complete a certificate or diploma as a pathway into the course. Although these courses generally have different entry requirements, successful completion should make you eligible to enter a related Masters Degree. Not all Masters Degrees have equivalent Graduate Certificates or Diplomas, so it’s worth doing your research before launching into your studies.

Get qualified for less

Getting your Masters can open a lot of doors, but if you’re looking for an option that’s a little friendlier on the wallet, then a Graduate Certificate or Diploma may be the way to go. Both can still provide you with many of the same skills and benefits as a Masters Degree.

Choose your specialisation

According to a recent Australian Government labour market report, work in Australia will require a greater level of skill and experience in the future, with around 90% of jobs needing a vocational or university qualification. These two qualifications allow you to really hone in on a specific area of interest and become a specialist in that field, which could help you go after more niche, higher-paying roles. 

Browse all postgraduate courses

The verdict

A Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Masters Degree each have their own benefits, depending on your personal and professional goals. Consider what matters to you when studying before making your final call. If you aren't sure which option to choose, we can provide advice on selecting a course and getting enrolled. 

Postgraduate course FAQs

What are the entry requirements for a postgraduate course?
In many cases, you’ll need a Bachelor Degree in order to be considered for a postgraduate course. However, you may be eligible for entry into a Graduate Certificate even without a degree, provided you have at least five years of relevant industry work experience. Specific entry requirements vary from course to course, so look up your preferred qualification for more details. 

Is funding available for postgraduate courses?
Depending on your course and personal circumstances, you may be eligible for fee support. You may also be eligible to apply for a scholarship, which could help fund part, or all, of your postgraduate studies. Scholarships are offered independently through individual universities, so check your preferred institution's website to find out if you meet the criteria. Every grant will differ, but it’s common for scholarships to support marginalised students, or those with strong undergraduate results and leadership potential. 

Can I complete a single postgraduate subject?
If you don’t want to commit to a full postgraduate qualification just yet, you can get a taste for a particular area of study with a single postgraduate subject. This is also a great way to upskill in an area that interests you. 

Study postgrad online through OUA

Through us, you can access hundreds of Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and Masters Degrees with leading universities across Australia. Plus, the flexibility of online study means that you can fit your postgraduate course around your existing commitments. 

To find out more about studying online through OUA, our expert student advisors are just a message away. If you need assistance deciding what postgrad option to take, we can help.

Our student advisors are available 24/7 via these platforms:

  • Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • SMS: +61 451 562 253
  • Or give us a ring during business hours at 136 736