Postgraduate Queries: Can a diploma be converted? Which green course is best?

Master your diploma

Q. When I'm searching for postgraduate study options, I often see university courses leading to a diploma or a certificate, which is presumably worth less than a Masters. But I've heard that you can convert these diplomas and certificates to a Masters while you're studying. Is that true?

A. As a general rule, a full-time taught postgraduate course will begin in late September or October, with teaching until exam time around May, then research and writing of a dissertation or project to be completed by the end of September. The first part leads to the diploma; the dissertation/project takes the qualification to Masters level. Quite often, the course fees are the same, so there is no good reason not to complete the Masters, other than the extra work involved.

If the course is part-time, it may be run over two years to diploma level with the third year being dedicated to private study for the dissertation. If you look on the course as partly a social activity, the third year can be disappointing from that point of view.

Not all courses leading to a postgraduate diploma have an option to convert to a Masters, for example the PGCE teaching qualification.

The more fundamental question for you, perhaps, is why you want to do postgraduate study? If it's for purely academic reasons, then a full Masters is the obvious objective. But, if it's linked to a career, then a diploma or certificate might suffice, and asking admissions tutors where previous students have ended up should address that.

A sustainable future

Q. I keep hearing that environmental and sustainability qualifications are going to be valuable in the next decade. Can you recommend some Masters courses that would give me a good all-round grounding in environmental issues and that might stand me in good stead for the future? I finished a geography degree last year.

A. With 700 postgraduate courses covering various aspects of environmental studies, it may seem as if you are looking for a needle in a haystack. However, many of these are specific, focusing on discrete areas such as risk or disaster management, energy matters or water studies. Broader-based Masters are run in a range of universities. For example, Newcastle offers an interdisciplinary programme and the University of East Anglia has a pick-and-mix approach that enables students to construct their own Masters.

Generally speaking, it is probably best to look at universities with large geography or environmental studies departments, as there is more breadth of provision there.

You may also want to consider King's College, London, Oxford Brookes and Edinburgh among others. The Graduate Prospects site ( is a good starting point for your course search.

One point to bear in mind, though: most courses will expect you to have a Bachelors of science (not of the arts) in geography or at least be able to show that your undergraduate studies contained a substantial element of science. An idea of career direction might help you to narrow your options, see to find out more.

A lesson in research

Q. I have a sociology degree and am interested in becoming a researcher, possibly in the field of criminal justice. Are there any Masters courses that deal with generic research and analysis methods, or should I be looking for something more specific?

A. Broadly speaking, there are two types of Masters course – taught and research. The former is by far the most common, across all disciplines, and consists of a mixture of tutorials, classes and individual study. Most will also contain a module on research techniques, typically run at the very beginning of the programme.

A Masters by research (MRes) is exactly what it says on the tin: there is supervision from academic staff, but students pursue their investigations largely alone. Traditionally aimed at graduates who want to progress to a PhD or another type of higher degree, MRes is often seen as the province of those who have already become familiar with research methods as part of a first degree. An intensive introductory module may be available on some courses.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers ( Send your queries to Steve McCormack at

Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Year 6 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + D.O.E - Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone:...

NQT Supply Teachers

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: NQTs required for short and lo...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home