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Postgraduate Conversion Courses

Want to change your career path but studied something unrelated at undergraduate level?

A postgraduate conversion course might be the perfect way to pursue a different subject and open up new opportunities, including in professional careers such as Law and Teaching.

Here you can view guides to specific types of qualification, or read our introduction to conversion courses including further information on popular subjects and funding.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education

The PGCE provides initial teacher training, usually in a subject related to your degree.

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Graduate Diploma in Law

The GDL allows postgraduates to train professionally in law, despite having studied an unrelated undergraduate subject.

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Psychology Masters degrees

These degrees provide professional training and education for postgraduates seeking to qualify as psychologists.

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Masters in Social Work (MSW)

The MSW is a specialised Masters for students training as social workers.

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What is a conversion course?

A conversion course is a programme of study that trains a graduate in a new subject and (usually) prepares them for a specific profession.

These are often (but not always) Masters-level courses. However, many are shorter than a full Masters, with a greater focus on practical training in place of a dissertation.

Postgraduate conversion courses come have many different study options, but these are the most popular:

Who should study a conversion course?

In professions such as teaching, a conversion course is a common qualification pathway that draws on the expertise a student has gained in their undergraduate subject. An English teacher, for example, might study Literature at Bachelors level, with the intention of then taking a PGCE and qualifying to work in schools.

In other areas, conversion courses offer a chance for people to ‘redirect’ their careers, or transition from an academic to a vocational subject. A Philosophy graduate, for example, might choose to study for a GDL as part of a route into legal practice.

What kinds of postgraduate conversion course are there?

There are four main types of postgraduate conversion course:

  • Graduate diploma (GDip) – Although taken by graduates, this is a level 6 qualification, comprising a selection of modules that would have been studied on a full undergraduate degree. A GDip is usually worth 120 CATS / 60 ECTS credits.
  • Postgraduate diploma (PGDip) – This is a level 7 qualification, often comprising modules that could have been studied on a Masters course. A PGDip is normally worth 120 CATS / 60 ECTS credits.
  • Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) – Usually worth 60 CATS / 30 ECTS Masters-level credits, a PGCert is a shorter alternative to a PGDip.
  • Masters conversion courses – These are Masters courses aimed at graduates with little to no prior experience of the subject in question. Usually worth 180 CATS / 90 ECTS, a Masters takes longer to complete than the other options in this list, and will normally include a dissertation.
  • Graduate entry courses – These are fast-track, Bachelor-level programmes aimed at graduates, allowing them to study a new degree in a subject like Medicine or Engineering.

Transferring between programmes

It's sometimes possible to transfer between conversion courses to 'upgrade' your qualification. For example, you might put the credits you've earned on a PGCert or PGDip towards a full Masters.

What subjects can I study?

Postgraduate conversion courses are designed to prepare you for a career unrelated to your undergraduate degree. As such, there are lots of options available that don’t require any substantial prior experience of their subject.

These are some of the most popular subjects you could choose to take a conversion course in:

  • Psychology – If you take a BPS-accredited PGDip or MSc Psychology, you can gain the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) that you need to start a career in psychology. Search for Psychology conversion courses.
  • Law – If you want to become a lawyer but didn’t study Law at undergraduate level, the first step is to study a Graduate Diploma in Law (or another programme that will prepare you for the Solicitors Qualification Exam). Search for Law conversion courses.
  • Teaching – There are lots of graduate routes into teaching, and the PGCE is one of the most common. This qualification will usually lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Find out more about postgraduate teacher training courses.
  • Computer Science– Many universities offer courses like an MSc Computer Science, designed for people who don’t have an undergraduate background in IT. Search for Computer Science conversion courses.
  • Business and Management – The Masters in Management (MiM) is an increasingly popular qualification aimed at new graduates who don’t necessarily have prior experience of Business or Finance. Search for Business conversion courses.
  • Accounting – Some universities offer Masters-level courses in Accounting for graduates without a relevant academic background. Search for Accounting conversion courses.
  • Journalism – If you want to pursue a career in journalism, most Journalism-related Masters don’t ask for an undergraduate degree in the subject. Often accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), these courses allow you to switch your career direction. Search for Journalism conversion courses.
  • Marketing – Some Marketing Masters are accredited by the Chartered Institute for Marketing, but don’t require any prior experience in the area. Search for Marketing conversion courses.
  • Nursing – You can train for a career in nursing by studying an accelerated qualification accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Specialisms are available in areas such as Mental Health Nursing and Midwifery. Search for Nursing conversion courses.
  • Engineering – Fast-track Engineering conversion courses are available for students who have a degree in a STEM-related subject. Search for Engineering conversion courses.
  • Physiotherapy – If you have an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area, you can take an MSc Physiotherapy conversion course accredited by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Search for Physiotherapy conversion courses.

What are the entry requirements?

As you’d expect, the precise entry requirements differ from course to course. In general, you’ll need at least a 2:1 degree in any subject, but some programmes will accept a 2:2.

In some cases, you’ll need to show evidence of a prior interest in the subject or profession you’re ‘converting’ to. For example, most PGCEs ask that applicants have already some classroom experience. Similarly, relevant work experience is required for a Masters in Social Work.

How does a postgraduate conversion course work?

Postgraduate conversion courses will give you a solid grounding in what you might have missed in the subject at undergraduate level.

If it’s a level 6 graduate diploma (like the Graduate Diploma in Law), the programme will most likely condense 18 months of undergraduate study into one intensive year.

Meanwhile, if you take a level 7 conversion course – i.e. a Masters or a PGDip – you’ll learn the undergraduate essentials of the subject in preparation before studying Masters-level modules.

Can I study part-time?

Many postgraduate conversion courses are offered on a part-time basis – universities recognise that students who are interested in changing their career direction often have extra commitments, and part-time study is one way of accommodating them when full-time study isn’t an option.

Sometimes there’s also the option of studying a conversion course online or via distance learning methods. This can be ideal if you’re unable to attend university on a regular basis, for whatever reason. And, as long as they’re accredited by the relevant organisation, these courses will give you the same opportunities to register as a professional in your sector.

What funding is available?

This depends on what type of postgraduate conversion course you’re taking, so it’s best to check the relevant advice page on FindAMasters.com, or to consult our funding guide. However, there are a few rules of thumb:

  • If you’re studying a PGCE and satisfy certain conditions, you could be eligible for PGCE-specific funding, including generous government-funded bursaries or scholarships.
  • Masters courses (but not PGDips/PGCerts) are eligible for the UK postgraduate loan scheme.
  • Scholarships and bursaries are offered by many universities to help outstanding students finance their studies.

Last updated - 04/11/2021

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