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Professional and Career Development Loans for Masters Degrees

Please note that the Professional and Career Development Loan Scheme is closing. The deadline for final applications is 25 January 2019.

Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) are government-supported bank loans to pay for postgraduate courses and training that help advance your career or get you into work.

A PCDL can provide up to £10,000, contributing toward tuition fees, living expenses and postgraduate study-related costs.

Our guide makes sense of PCDLs for Masters students, explaining how they work and some of the key differences between PCDLs and other forms of postgraduate funding (like the UK Government’s postgraduate loans).

What is a Professional and Career Development Loan?

Career Development Loans were introduced in 1988 to help students and professionals advance their career or get into work.

The PCDL can be used for a course provided by an organisation on the UK Register of Learning Providers.

The course must develop skills to improve your employability or advance your current role. This could be a Masters, a PGDip or a PGCert, along with many other kinds of qualification.

If accepted, you’ll be able to borrow between £300 and £10,000 in the form of a bank loan. As of 2018, these loans are only offered by the Co-operative Bank.

Career Development Loans – At a Glance
Overview: A bank loan for students and professionals to study career-advancing courses. Available for full-time, part-time and distance learning programmes.
Value: From £300 to £10,000.
Eligibility: UK nationals that have been resident in the UK for more than three years, planning to work in the EEA after graduation.
Location: Any UK institution on the Learning Providers list. Courses up to two years in duration, or three years with one year of work experience.
Repayment Repayments start one month after the course finishes. 12 to 60 monthly instalments. Representative APR of 9.9%.
Application: Via the UK Government.

How does it work?

Your bank will pay course fees through the loan directly to your learning provider. If your course costs £2,000 or more and is over three months long, payments will be made in up to four equal instalments.

The bank pays funds for other learning-related or living costs straight into your account. You should discuss your financial situation with the bank, making sure that you fully understand how this part of the loan will work.

The Government pays your interest while you study, but once the course has ended you will have to start repaying the loan. Interest will start accumulating on the balance one month after you finish your studies.

Student eligibility and course requirements

PCDLs are subject to various eligibility requirements. In particular, the postgraduate course you wish to study must improve your employability and job prospects.

Student eligibility

To be eligible to apply for a Professional and Career Development Loan, you must:

  • Be a UK national
  • Be 18 years old or more
  • Have been living in the UK for at least three years before your course starts
  • Plan to work in the European Economic Area (EEA) after the course
  • Satisfy certain credit checks

Course eligibility

For your chosen course to be eligible for the loan, the course must:

  • Only last up to two years, or three years if it includes one year of work experience
  • Be provided by an organisation on the PCDL UK Register of Learning Providers
  • Help with your career – it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a qualification

Other restrictions and requirements

You are ineligible for a PCDL if any of the following is applicable:

  • You have savings over £16,000
  • If it’s for your first full-time degree, i.e. an undergraduate course

Anyone taking out a loan has to sign a legally binding agreement with the bank stating that they need the loan for course fees or living expenses.

Interest fees and repayments

Professional and Career Development Loans need to be paid back in full. You start repaying the loan (plus interest) one month after leaving your course.

Note: You have to repay your loan even if you don’t complete the course or your course provider goes out of business.

While enrolled on your course, the Government pays the interest on the loan for you, so you won’t be charged any interest until one month after you finish.

From then on, the bank will charge you interest at a rate of 9.9% per annum on your outstanding balance. The interest charges will be added to your loan balance quarterly until the loan is repaid in full.

Note that banks will set a representative APR for Career Development Loans and it may not be clear what the actual interest rate is before you apply. It’s important to call the bank and get a quote for your loan based on your personal circumstances so that there aren’t any surprises later.


Bank jargon – key terms explained
APR Annual percentage rate – the interest rate calculated across the lifetime of your agreement, including any fees (total cost of credit).
Per annum / pa Per year
Representative Lending decisions are based on personal circumstances, so the rates offered can vary between customers. When advertising products, banks use representative rates to show what they will offer most customers.

Repayment period

Your first monthly repayment will be due in the second month after your course has ended. These monthly repayments will need to be made by standing order.

You may be able to refer repayment for up to 17 months, but only in exceptional circumstances. You will need to discuss this with the bank before you’re due to start repayments.

Remember that you will continue to accrue interest on the loan all the time that you defer repayments.

Loans can be repaid over one to five years, using 12 to 60 monthly repayments. By spreading your loan over a longer term, your monthly repayments may be lower, but bear in mind that the overall cost of borrowing may be higher.

Early repayment

Early repayment of a PCDL is possible. However, the Co-operative Bank may charge you one or two months of additional interest, depending on the length of your loan agreement.

Applying for a Professional and Career Development Loan

You should apply online for a PCDL through the Government website (not the Co-operative Bank).

If your application is successful, you will then need to send two documents to the bank:

  • A credit agreement, signed by you
  • A course start notification form, to be signed by you and the course provider

The bank will not release any funds until the learning provider has confirmed your actual start date and returned the form.

You should apply two months before your course starts to give the bank enough time to process your application. It may take up to four weeks for your application to be processed.

If your application is successful, the bank will release the funds when the learning provider has confirmed you’ve started your course.

For further information on Professional and Career Development Loans and how to apply, you can visit or contact the following:

Remember that the Career Development Loans scheme is closing. The final date for applications is January 25 2019.

PCDL or UK Government postgraduate loan?

At this point you might be wondering whether which loan is best for you – a PCDL or one of the UK Government’s postgraduate loans.

The short answer is that in most cases, a postgraduate loan will be more suitable than a PCDL. After all, the Government developed postgraduate loans as a way of providing financial support that PCDLs couldn’t offer by themselves.

The repayment terms for postgraduate loans are more lenient than those for PCDLs, as you won’t have to start paying anything back until you’re earning above a certain threshold (rather than one month after your course has finished).

However, you could apply for a PCDL if you’re studying a course that isn’t eligible for a postgraduate loan.

In England and Wales, this means anything that isn’t a full Masters (i.e. a PGDip or PGCert). By contrast, postgraduate loans are available in Scotland and Northern Ireland for courses up to and including full Masters.

You might also want to apply for a PCDL in addition to a postgraduate loan if the government support won’t cover all of your costs. In this case, you should apply for a postgraduate loan first and then send the bank proof of the shortfall that can be covered by a PCDL.

Looking for more UK funding information?

Professional and Career Development Loans are great for certain students and courses, but don't worry if this funding isn't appropriate or attractive to you. There are plenty of other options covered in our UK funding guides.

Last updated - 22/06/2018

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