Postgraduate study types

Get to know the different types of postgraduate study—from certificates to doctoral degrees.

Graduate certificates

Graduate certificates are open to students with any Bachelor’s degree and can lead into a graduate diploma. They are a useful qualification if you want to do a limited amount of study in a new subject at an advanced undergraduate level.

It takes one trimester of full-time study to complete a graduate certificate or usually two trimesters if studied part time.

Graduate diplomas

Graduate diplomas allow students with a Bachelor’s degree in one discipline to get familiar with a new subject and prepare for postgraduate study in that subject. Or they can provide a refresher to learn about new developments in your industry.

It takes two trimesters of full-time study to complete a graduate diploma or usually four trimesters if studied part time.

Postgraduate certificates

Postgraduate certificates are designed to increase your knowledge and skills at postgraduate level and can be a first step to further postgraduate study. They can also provide professional development options within your subject area.

They usually take one trimester of full-time study to complete or two trimesters if studied part time.

Postgraduate diplomas

Postgraduate diplomas provide an option to develop further skills and expertise in your subject area at postgraduate level. Postgraduate diplomas are usually completed by coursework. Some may include a research project.

They can be used as a standalone qualification. Some postgraduate diplomas can lead to direct entry into a Master’s degree.

They usually take one year of full-time study or up to four years of part-time study to complete.

Honours degrees

A standalone Honours degree is generally started after finishing a Bachelor’s degree or graduate diploma in the same subject area. It takes two trimesters of full-time study to complete or usually four trimesters if studied part time. The exceptions are the Bachelor of Law with Honours and Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, which have Honours integrated into the undergraduate degree.

Honours degrees have a research component and give you the opportunity to further explore and develop areas of interest in your chosen field. It is an individual course of study, designed in consultation with staff. Admission is based on strong academic performance in your undergraduate studies.

Completing an Honours degree to a satisfactory standard can lead to entry into a Master’s by research.

Master’s degrees

A Master's takes one to two years of full-time study to complete, depending on your earlier qualifications and the particular degree. Read about our Master's by coursework and Master's by research, and discover more about our Master’s programmes.

Master's by coursework

A Master’s by coursework is taught by attending lectures and classes and completing assignments. It may include work placements or research projects.

Some Master’s degrees enable graduates from one discipline to transition into a new subject area—look for entry requirements that allow for previous undergraduate study in any subject. Or some programmes may allow entry based on your extensive professional experience.

Master's by research

A Master’s by research provides an opportunity for independent study with no timetabled lectures or classes. Students work with a supervisor to present their original research as a thesis. Your research is usually in the same discipline that you studied at undergraduate level, and it can lead to PhD study.

Doctoral degrees

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the highest degree the Victoria University of Wellington offers. It involves original, independent research under academic supervision and submitting a thesis, followed by an oral examination. The average timeframe for completing a PhD is between three and four years.

The University also offers professional doctorates—find out more about our PhD and other doctoral degrees.