Which degree?

Three students outside the university talking and carrying books

At Cardiff University, you can choose from a wide range of postgraduate programmes.

The programme suitable for you depends on a combination of your academic qualifications and/or your work experience, your career objectives, personal interests and circumstances.

There are two main branches of postgraduate study: research and taught degrees. Increasingly, research degrees that contain some structured teaching are being offered, such as our Master of Research (MRes) programmes, Professional Doctorates, and our PhD in Economics.

Postgraduate taught degrees: Master's degrees - MA; MSc; LLm; MScEcon; MBA; MTh; MPH; MScD; MClinDent. Postgraduate taught degrees also include Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip); Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) and PGCE PCET; Graduate Diploma. Postgraduate Research degrees: Doctoral degrees - PhD; EngD; MD; DClinPsy; DEdPsy; EdD; DSW; SPPD; DHS; DAHP. Research degrees also include Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Master of Research (MRes).
Welsh language 'which degree' graphics for Postgraduates
Welsh language 'which degree' graphics for Postgraduates

Taught degrees

Taught postgraduate degrees have a wide range of vocational and academic objectives and aim to provide advanced and specialist knowledge and may bring together themes from a number of disciplines.

Some taught programmes also allow you the opportunity to change career direction, such as some of the programmes we offer in Journalism and Computer Science & Informatics.

Benefits of a taught degree

Potential benefits of a postgraduate taught degree include:

  • increasing your career and promotion prospects by developing a stronger academic and/or vocational profile;
  • the chance to change career direction;
  • increasing your transferable skills for a future or current career;
  • intellectual development;
  • developing new skills and problemsolving abilities.

Further information about postgraduate taught study can be found on the Steps to Postgraduate Study website, the official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course, produced by the four UK higher education funding bodies.

Taught Master's degrees

There is a range of taught master's degree titles: The two most common degree titles are Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc). Other master's degrees are specifically named, at Cardiff University these include MScEcon, MBA, MPA, MPH, LLM, MTh.

All taught master programmes involve a period of structured teaching, normally over two semesters full-time or modules of the value of 120 credits, combining instruction through lectures, seminars, tutorials, directed reading and independent study as well as practical work. Some courses may also include industrial or work-related placements.

The taught element of a masters is directly followed by the preparation and submission of an independent dissertation, normally over the summer, which reports the outcomes of a single research or practical-based project, worth 60 credits at masters level for a total of 180 credits.

Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip)

A PgDip offers the same level of specialised knowledge and the same structured teaching as a masters but without the dissertation component. Postgraduate diplomas comprise 120 credits.

Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert)

Postgraduate Certificates offer the same standard and level of teaching as a masters and PgDip but are less extensive than postgraduate diplomas comprising modules totalling 60 credits.

Graduate Diploma

Cardiff University offers two Graduate Diplomas: the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Graduate Diploma in Psychology. Both allow a graduate of a non-subject specific degree to gain a degree in the respective area, which allows to proceed further in the chosen career path.

Degree classificationMode of studyPeriod of study
Taught MastersFull-timeOne year
 Part-time2-3 years
Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip)Full-time9 months
 Part-time18-21 months
Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert)Full-time6-9 months
 Part-time2 semesters or 2 years
Master of Dental Science (MScD taught)Full-time3 years
Graduate DiplomaFull-time9-10 months
 Part-time2 years

Taught modules can be assessed using a variety of methods, including essays, reports, written examinations, and presentations.


Master degrees also include a written dissertation comprising approximately 15,000 to 20,000 words, which reports the outcomes of a single research or practical-based project.

Research degrees

Research degrees are commonly undertaken with a view to an academic or research career but also offer exciting career prospects outside of academia and research.

Benefits of a research degree

Potential benefits of a postgraduate research degree include:

  • developing more specialised knowledge and expertise;
  • increasing your career and promotion prospects by developing a stronger research profile;
  • making a valuable contribution to new knowledge;
  • intellectual development;
  • developing new skills and problemsolving abilities.

Learn more about the reasons for a postgraduate research degree.

Your research project

Opportunities for supervised research are available in all our academic Schools and you are encouraged to explore opportunities in academic Schools outside your original degree subject.

For example, our School of Medicine has regularly PhD projects available for graduates from a vast range of subjects including Biology and other life sciences, Computer Science and Informatics, Statistics and Mathematics, Psychology and Social Sciences, Chemistry and other physical sciences.

If you are not yet sure about a specific research project, you may want to do a Master of Research (MRes) or a taught master that includes a research project (most do) first. Particular examples of taught masters with a specific focus on research are our MSc in Social Science Research Methods, the MA in Language and Communication Research or the MSc in Neuroimaging Methods & Applications.

  • Vitae, an independent charity which supports researchers realise their potential, provides further information on doctoral study.

Research degrees involve an in-depth and independent study of a specified field over a prolonged period of study.

Increasingly, research degrees that contain some structured teaching are being offered, such as our Master of Research (MRes) programmes, Professional Doctorates, and our PhD in Economics, providing advanced research training and specialist knowledge.

The type of research you are engaged in and your experience will differ depending on whether you are studying for a lab-based research degree or within the humanities and social sciences.

Degree classificationMode of study Period of study
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)Full-time 3-4 years
 Part-time 5-7 years
Doctor of Engineering (EngD)Full-time4 years
Professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)
Professional Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)
Full-time3 years
Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD)
Professional Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)
Professional Doctorate in Health Studies (DHS)
Professional Doctorate in Social and Public Policy (SPPD)
Part-time4-7 years
Advanced Healthcare Practice (DAHP)Part-time4-7 years
Doctor of Medicine (MD)Full-time2-3 years
 Part-time3-5 years
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)Full-time1-2 years
 Part-time2-3 years
Master of Dental Science (MScD) by researchFull-time1-2 years
 Part-timeMin 2 years 
Master of Research (MRes)Full-timeOne year

See also the Academic Regulations Handbook.

The results of the research are written up in the form of a thesis or dissertation that demonstrates the design and execution of an original piece of research. The length of the document depends on the chosen research degree.

Doctorates and MPhils will also be assessed by an oral examination (viva voce).

Where the research degree incorporates taught elements, these may be assessed independently.