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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Which study level is for you?

Don’t know which study level you should be applying to? Undergraduate, postgraduate or vocational... it can be a bit confusing. Let us explain which you should be applying to and what you can expect...

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Deciding which study level to apply to

You need to consider the following factors when deciding which study level you need to apply to:


‘What qualifications do I currently have?’

Your highest qualification which you’ve achieved up to now will impact what you can study at a higher education level. Universities have basic entry requirements for their courses. For some courses, it’s likely you’ll need to have gained a satisfactory grade in one or more related subjects at high school level; this is to ensure you have a basic knowledge of the area and can transition into higher education study quickly. Depending on the university, this high school grade required to study on a course will vary so check this carefully. If you do not have a strong academic record in a particular area, then any relevant work experience and additional, short courses you’ve studied can also be used as evidence.



‘What do I want to do?’ (or ‘Where do I want to get to?’)

What career do you have in mind? More competitive fields will require students to have a postgraduate qualification, so an undergraduate degree alone won’t be enough on its own. Similarly if you’ve always wanted to study at postgraduate level, you will need to have an undergraduate degree first (normally in a relevant area of study). Alternatively, you might be able to secure your dream job with a vocational qualification (this will depend on what you want to do).



And if you don't quite have the required skills for a course...

You do have options available to get you to where you need to be! You can study pathways courses (like a pre-masters course) to bridge any gaps in knowledge to study a particular course. Meanwhile EFL courses can strengthen your English skills in order to study at a higher level (usually English language requirements will be higher at postgraduate level, especially in particular subjects where a good level of English is vital).



What study levels are there?



Undergraduate education is normally the first higher education course which most students undertake. The most common degree studied at undergraduate level is an honours degree which is studied for 3-4 years depending on the country where it is studied.




Postgraduate education usually follows an honours degree taken at undergraduate education. Postgraduate education allows you to focus on a more specific area which you may have covered briefly at undergraduate level, as well as work on an original piece of research (which may be published). A master’s degree – which lasts 1 to 2 years – is followed by a doctorate (or PhD), which takes 3-4 years to complete.




Vocational education focuses on education which is more focused on providing practical experience which will lead students to careers in particular trades and careers. Whereas undergraduate and postgraduate education may be more theoretical, vocational education teaches the hands-on skills and techniques for a variety of careers, ranging from accountancy and nursing to engineering and law.



Now that you know which study level you should be searching for, start looking for a course now with our Ultimate Search.

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About Author

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Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.