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What Are my Options for Postgraduate Study in Australia?

postgraduate study australia

Education is always valuable. Not only is it personally fulfilling, but it also provides you with key skills and opportunities that will lead to a successful future. With that in mind, maybe you’re considering taking your own education to the next level by pursuing postgraduate studies. 

When it comes to postgraduate education, the world is your oyster. There are many study pathways available, including graduate certificates and diplomas, master’s programs, and doctoral degrees. But having so many options may leave you wondering: which one is right for me? This guide breaks down your options for postgraduate study in Australia and what each one offers, so you can feel confident that you’re choosing the pathway that best suits you and your goals.  

Postgraduate study in Australia

Graduate certificates and diplomas

If you want to continue your studies but aren’t ready to take on the financial or time commitment of a master’s degree, a graduate certificate or diploma is a great option for you. Both courses require students to complete a set number of units that specifically target their selected field of study. Students can choose to either build upon the skills they developed in their bachelor’s degree or to pursue a completely new vocational skill altogether. Upon completion of such degrees, you will have a more comprehensive and specialised knowledge of your area of study. 

In most cases, you must have a bachelor’s degree in order to complete a graduate certificate or diploma. Depending on the university and the program, however, you can sometimes be admitted on the basis of relevant work experience. 

When considering these two degrees, remember their differences in duration: a graduate certificate usually takes six months to complete whereas a graduate diploma typically takes one year.  

Master’s degrees

Pursuing your master’s is an excellent opportunity to become more specialised in your field of study and to expand your career prospects. Generally, there are two types of master’s degrees: a coursework master’s or a research master’s. 

Much like a bachelor’s degree, coursework master’s programs provide students learning content through a unit program framework, offering compulsory and elective units, but at a more advanced level. You can usually complete a coursework master’s in one year to 18 months. 

Research master’s programs, on the other hand, allow students to craft their own research project for the duration of their studies under the supervision of an academic supervisor. When applying for a research-based master’s, you will generally be responsible for finding your own supervisor and working with them to brainstorm research ideas and to secure funding for your project. This type of master’s degree typically takes two years to complete.

Doctoral degrees (PhD) and Professional Doctorates

A doctoral degree is the highest educational distinction that you can receive in Australia. There are two main types of doctoral programs: a doctoral degree by research (PhD) or a professional doctoral degree. 

A PhD has a more academic focus, wherein students develop in-depth, original research projects under academic supervision that make a significant impact to their field of study. 

A professional doctorate, on the other hand, requires students to make an in-depth, original contribution to a specific professional practice. These degrees are generally completed through coursework and the development of a unique thesis.

The duration of doctoral programs can vary significantly depending on the field of study, whether a student is studying part-time or full-time, and funding requirements. While most full-time students in Australia achieve their doctorates in three to four years, some programs can take over five years to complete.  

Extending your student visa

A valid student visa is an essential component to pursuing postgraduate study in Australia. If you’re close to completing your current degree, this means you’re likely nearing the end of your current student visa. However, you have a few options when it comes to renewing your current visa or applying for a new one. 

All student visa applications need to be submitted to the Department of Home Affairs, which offers a helpful list of options for how to stay longer in Australia

Depending on how long it will take for your visa to be processed, you may need to consider applying for a bridging visa. If your current visa has expired, a bridging visa will allow you to lawfully remain in Australia while your new visa is being processed. There are five types of bridging visas: Bridging Visa A (BVA), Bridging Visa B (BVB), Bridging Visa C (BVC), Bridging Visa D (BVD), and Bridging Visa E (BVE). Each type of bridging visa varies slightly in its application requirements and working rights for its holders, so be sure to carefully assess which is right for you.

If you’re struggling to navigate the visa renewal process, consider seeking the help of a registered migration agent. They will be able to walk you through the process of extending your visa or applying for a new one, which should help to minimise any stress you may be feeling.