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Graduate Certificate vs Graduate Diploma - what's the difference?

And which degree is right for you?
Father sits with son at table with laptop, book, pens and paper.

Within the world of university study you may hear ‘lingo’ that sometimes doesn’t make a lot of sense. Words like ‘doctorate’, ‘undergraduate’, ‘postgraduate’, ‘certificates’, ‘diplomas’ etc. are just some of the words that you may have heard or read but continue to ask yourself what they actually mean.

Well, we’re here to help talk through the words ‘graduate certificate’ and ‘graduate diploma’. Not only will we explain what these words mean, but we’ll also uncover the impact they could have on your career, your salary expectations, and the personal fulfilment and satisfaction you get out of your new-found knowledge! 

Let's talk through what is a graduate certificate first.

A graduate certificate is often the first step into postgraduate study. It’s a perfect way to get started in further study, add to your resume to gain the competitive edge in your workplace, or enjoy stretching your brain into something new.

A lot of our students enter into a graduate certificate with an undergraduate degree, such as bachelor degree, and they are wanting to learn something new or they have never studied but have a wealth of professional work-experience and perhaps want to excel in their position at work, or are aiming for a career change. 

So, how long does a graduate certificate take to complete? It typically takes one academic semester or around four-five months of full-time study to complete the four units required. 

What are the graduate certificate entry requirements?

Often we’re asked ‘can you do a graduate certificate without an undergraduate degree?’ and the answer is, yes, but you do have to have relevant professional work experience. Generally speaking, the entry requirements for a graduate certificate is either a bachelor degree or relevant professional work experience.

For an example, let’s look at the Graduate Certificate of Business. To start this degree, it is a requirement to have completed:

  • an Australian-university bachelor degree in any area, or equivalent,
    or
  • have a minimum of five years’ professional work experience, or equivalent.

If you’re not entirely sure if your credentials fit these entry requirement, there is no cause for concern, we’ve got a wonderful team ready to talk, email or live chat to look at your particular circumstances and understand how soon you can start in your graduate certificate. 

Ok, so what is a graduate diploma?

The main difference between a graduate certificate vs graduate diploma is the time it takes to complete each. Compared to the four-five months it takes to finish a graduate certificate, it takes up to 12 months of full-time study to complete the eight units required in a graduate diploma. In both the certificate and diploma, you can opt to study part-time which does increase the time in which it takes to complete the degree. 

A graduate diploma usually incorporates the same course options as a graduate certificate in the same discipline area, but builds on your knowledge from the certificate and advances your skills further. It also has similar coursework subjects as a masters degree in the same study field, but the flexibility of not having to commit to a full masters degree. So in answer to the question that people often ask ‘is a graduate diploma worth it?’, we definitely think they are!

What do I need to get started in a graduate diploma?

To learn about the specifics of the entry requirements for your preferred graduate diploma, it’s best to look at degree details on the USQ website, but generally speaking you will need the following to start in a graduate diploma: 

  • an Australian-university bachelor degree in a relevant discipline, or equivalent 
    or 
  • an Australian-university bachelor degree in a non-relevant discipline and/or X years of relevant work experience
    or 
  • a USQ graduate certificate in the relevant discipline.

It's best to continuously check the USQ website, or reach out so we can talk you through it.

Why study a graduate certificate or graduate diploma?

There are many great reasons as to why you should get started in a graduate certificate or graduate diploma. Let's talk through a few of them.

Increase in your pay packet

When you add postgraduate study to your resume, on average it’s also likely that you could add some numbers to your salary! According to the Good Universities Guide (2022), the differences between USQ undergraduate and USQ postgraduate graduate salary looks like this: 

  • USQ undergraduate median graduate salary in Engineering - $85,400
  • USQ postgraduate median graduate salary in Engineering - $102,500
  • USQ undergraduate median graduate salary in Science - $65,900
  • USQ postgraduate median graduate salary in Science - $85,000
  • USQ undergraduate median graduate salary in Education - $68,000
  • USQ postgraduate median graduate salary in Education - $80,500

Expand your knowledge

Unlike the days back at school where we all had to study a range of subjects that may or may not have appealed to us personally, university opens up a world of unique degrees, designed to appeal to your interests and talents. It allows you to select your path of knowledge, where you’d like to gain qualifications and perhaps build a career. You expand your knowledge, improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, develop independent thought, and learn to work in a team. 

Choose a specialisation that suits 

Within graduate certificate and graduate diplomas you can get really specific and choose a degree that focuses on your interest or career. The best place to start would be to head to the USQ study website and browse the area that interests you most. We have compiled a list of the graduate certificate and graduate diploma options within each of our study areas, from Education and Teaching to Nursing and Allied Health and everything in between, you will be able to find a graduate certificate or graduate diploma qualification that suits. 

At USQ we’ve got the following study areas all of which have graduate certificate and/or graduate diploma options for you:

The list is always growing and changing, so be sure to visit the our degree website regularly to stay up to date with the latest. 

It's good for the brain 

Now, we don’t want to dive too much into the science, but study (including graduate certificate and graduate diplomas), offers us far more than a bigger salary (on average) and career growth and prospects. Researchers at the University of Zurich have carried out a 7-year study published in NeurolImage that draws conclusions between higher education and the health of the brain. In a nutshell, studying and embarking on higher education helps to strengthen neural and cognitive function of the brain which in turn strengthens the brain and places it in a better position to manage the impacts of old age. 

A steppingstone to further study

A graduate certificate and graduate diploma are the perfect steppingstones to further study. You can choose to finish at the end of your chosen degree with a certificate or diploma qualification, or continue on to a masters degree. You may receive credit for successfully completed graduate certificate or graduate diploma courses. 
Below is an example of a study progression pathway: 

  1. Graduate Certificate of Science (Agricultural Science)
  2. Graduate Diploma of Science (Agricultural Science)
  3. Master of Science (Agricultural Science) 
  4. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

There are many steppingstones and pathways to get exactly to where you want to be. The best thing to do is head to our website and if you know the area of study you’re interested in, in this example – Agricultural Science – browse the related degrees USQ has on offer. 

Where to from here?

If you’ve been contemplating a career change, want to give yourself the competitive edge in your current role, or just simply wanting to feed your curiosity and your thirst for learning new things, today is the day to get started! If you’re feeling a little nervous about taking the step into postgraduate study, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone, but often it's just about having the knowledge to give you the power to make the change. Browse our website, call our friendly team or live chat with USQ degree experts – we'd love to help you get started!