Types of qualifications
Certificates and diplomas are qualifications at a lower level than a degree.
A degree is the standard qualification you study towards at university. Your first degree is called a bachelor’s degree and usually takes three or four years of full-time study to complete. After your first degree, you can carry on to a postgraduate or graduate qualification (eg, master's, PhD).
To complete a postgraduate honours degree you usually need to do one year of full-time coursework after completing an undergraduate degree. Most honours programmes consist of courses in one subject, though many give you the option of including 1–2 courses from another subject.
Usually students study an honours degree in the same subject as their undergraduate degree, and you need to have good 300-level grades to be eligible. However, prerequisites vary between subjects – you need to check with the relevant School or Department.
Students who complete an honours degree to a satisfactory standard may be permitted to proceed to a master’s degree.
Master’s degrees require a minimum of 1–2 years of study and can involve either coursework or research or a combination of both. Your research is presented in the form of either a thesis, dissertation or a research project. Part-time study because of employment, family, health or other reasons may be possible but is not automatically available.
Where students have performed with excellence, and provided that certain standards have been met, including completion within a set time limit, master’s degrees can be awarded with either honours or distinction.
Students whose thesis research is progressing well and whose thesis would benefit from an extended period of research can, with the support of their department, apply for a transfer to a PhD. Students who have completed an honours degree or equivalent can study for a master’s degree by thesis only (excludes the Master of Engineering (ME)).
For more information on master’s degrees by thesis at the University of Canterbury see the Postgraduate Studies website.
Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are typically highly specialised professional qualifications that normally require previous degrees in the subject or in a related area of study.
Postgraduate certificates can typically be completed in six months of full-time study or part-time over two years and normally provide professional development in a specified area. They may lead on to further study at a higher level, eg, a postgraduate diploma.
Postgraduate diplomas can typically be completed in one year of full-time study or part-time over up to four years. Some postgraduate diplomas form the first year of a master’s degree.
Most graduate qualifications can be taken by students with an undergraduate degree with a major in an unrelated subject. They provide an opportunity to change subject areas, either within your first degree area or in a completely different area.
Graduate qualifications can enhance your employment prospects by adding breadth to your CV. They can also enable you to meet the prerequisites for further study in a new area.
Some graduate qualifications, for example the Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning, are professional qualifications which prepare you for employment in a specific field. Others are designed to provide professional development in a specific area.
Some graduate diplomas offer specific courses; others require the study of courses at undergraduate level, usually with a minimum number of courses in a single subject at 300-level.
Graduate certificates can typically be completed in six months of full-time study or part-time over two years. Credit may often be transferred to a graduate diploma.
Graduate diplomas can typically be completed in one year of full-time study or part-time over up to four years.
The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) involves extensive, sustained and original research and study in a subject of your choice, with the results being presented in a thesis which will contribute to intellectual knowledge of the field. It is normally the highest academic qualification available and is a mark of intellectual ability, self-discipline and commitment. A PhD prepares you for an academic career in your chosen subject.
The thesis must meet recognised international standards and presents the outcome of the research, placing it in the broader framework of the discipline or field of study. Carried out under qualified supervision, study towards a PhD promotes intellectual independence and the capacity to embark on further research at an advanced level.
PhDs are offered in a wide range of subjects at the University of Canterbury.
Before applying for a PhD, it is important that applicants contact potential supervisors to ensure that the University has expertise in their intended area of research.
To find out more about the research interests of staff search UC SPARK. UC SPARK provides information about individual researchers, the projects they are working on, the research groups they belong to, the specialist equipment that they use for research and their affiliations.
For more information on the PhD at the University of Canterbury see the Postgraduate Studies website.