Boost your new career with a postgraduate conversion course

Last updated: 28 Sept 2023, 18:58

Law, teaching, tech and more: discover your conversion course options and find out how changing track can enable you to pursue the career you want.

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Postgraduate conversion courses are often necessary if you are thinking of starting a career which your undergraduate degree didn't prepare you for.

Students often pick an undergraduate course for their interest in the subject – it is not always a career-motivated decision. This is especially common for arts and humanities subjects: however intellectually satisfying they may be, they do not necessarily prepare you for the job market. Conversion courses enable you to enter a profession that would otherwise require a specific undergraduate degree subject.

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What are postgraduate conversion courses?

A conversion course is a postgraduate qualification that will prepare you for a specific career or vocation that your undergraduate studies did not. Many graduate jobs are open to students from any degree subject, but some do require (or prefer) a specific subject and a conversion course allows you to enter those professions without a relevant undergraduate degree.

Postgraduate conversion degrees are usually offered as masters (typically a full academic year full time but sometimes longer), as a postgraduate diploma (typically eight or nine months part-time) or a postgraduate certificate (typically a term’s worth of study full time). However, you may also be able to undertake an accelerated degree, which enables you to study the equivalent to a three-year undergraduate course in two years.

What are the entry requirements for postgraduate conversion courses?

Entry onto postgraduate conversion courses in the UK is usually dependent on your results at undergraduate level: the bar is generally set at a second-class honours degree (or equivalent work experience). If you are an international student, you will need to check the individual requirements of the university at which you want to study.

What conversion courses are there?

Not all universities describe their conversion courses as such on their websites, so you will need to check their individual course listings carefully. Some of the most popular vocational postgraduate conversion courses include:


Aspiring barristers who have not completed an undergraduate degree in law will need to undertake a law conversion course: most commonly the graduate diploma in law (GDL) or the postgraduate diploma in law (PGDL). Then law graduates and non-law graduates alike must take the Bar course.

There is no longer an absolute requirement for aspiring solicitors without an undergraduate degree in law to do a conversion course. However, it is thought unlikely that you will be able to pass the solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) assessments without one – and, indeed, some law firms who hire you as a trainee will insist that you do one (and pay for you to do it). The most common law conversion course for aspiring solicitors is the PGDL.


A postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) is arguably the most well-known teacher training course. There is a range of funding options available, as well as paid schemes that allow you to learn while you work (such as School Direct or Teach First). Applicants come from a wide range of disciplines and the qualification often leads straight to employment.


To become a chartered surveyor – whether you choose to specialise in property, quantity surveying or building surveying – you need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). In surveying, postgraduate conversion courses are typically offered as either masters or postgraduate diplomas. You can self-fund your studies, but some employers will hire you as a graduate without the accredited conversion course and then pay for you to compete it while working for them.

Science and psychology

If you are considering a masters course in a specialist area of science, you are likely to have studied science or mathematics as an undergraduate. However, there are science conversion courses in fields of study such as psychology and information science that are open to applicants of any discipline. Psychology masters courses are extremely popular with those who have studied marketing at undergraduate level and can be helpful for a career in the marketing industry.

IT and technology

An IT conversion course can offer you practical computer skills and theory that you'll be able to transfer to a working environment. You may find that you choose an area of technology that builds on your undergraduate degree knowledge: for example, biology graduates might choose to specialise in bioinformatics. However, not all graduate jobs in tech require a computer science-related degree.


It is difficult to get into journalism without studying for an NCTJ-accredited qualification (that is, a qualification approved by the National Council for the Training of Journalists). This does not have to be at a postgraduate level (there are ways in without an undergraduate degree), but at the postgraduate level your options include masters degrees as well as fast-track diplomas.

Marketing, business and management

You don’t necessarily need a related degree subject to pursue a career in business, management or marketing. In fact, many are more interested in whether you have a commercial mindset and it’s possible to pick up technical skills, such as data analysis, through online courses. However, some employers do require, or at least strongly prefer, a relevant degree discipline and there is a variety of postgraduate courses in business- and marketing-related subjects that fill this gap.

So, what's the next step?

If you are considering a vocational course, do some research into what potential employers are looking for before you make a decision. You might also want to look into work experience opportunities to make sure you’re pursuing a career that’s right for you. See what training employers offer, too – note that some will sponsor you to complete a conversion course if it will benefit the business.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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