Do you need a bachelor’s degree to get a master’s degree? Not necessarily. Let’s explore how you can turn your industry experience into a formal qualification.
Economic downturns and employment instability have left many people nervous about the labour market. If you’re aboard this uncertainty boat, it might be the right time to upskill, diversify your knowledge or formalise your years of practical experience.
But applying to uni as a mature-aged student can be intimidating. What if you’ve never studied at university before? Or what if your degree is totally different to the work you do now?
Well, the good news is you may not need to start again from scratch. With your industry experience, you could potentially earn a master’s degree without a bachelor’s degree – or with a bachelor’s degree in a different field.
This guide will help you examine your current situation and discover alternative pathways to postgraduate education.
Why is applying to uni as a mature-aged student a good idea?
There are several reasons to take on postgraduate study and multiple ways further education can set you apart from your peers. Studying at a postgrad level can:
demonstrate your commitment to professional and personal growth
equip you with specialised skills to take on new roles in your workplace
prove to your employer you’re an asset worth holding on to.
And while loyalty to your employer is a positive trait, working in the same organisation for a long period can isolate you from new ways of thinking. Postgraduate education empowers you to upgrade your current workplace with up-to-date industry practices, and you get a formal qualification at the end.
When you apply for postgraduate courses, you’re also gaining access to fresh ideas and opportunities to collaborate with students working in other industries – students who could rapidly become good friends and valuable connections.
Can you do a postgraduate degree in a different subject?
Life is rarely a straight line.
As your experience grows and you seize opportunities as they arise, you may find that sideways promotions and moving between organisations has left you in a field of expertise completely different to what’s inked on your bachelor’s degree.
Luckily, many postgraduate courses recognise the learnings gained through industry experience and view this as an ideal starting point to launch your study in a related field or formalise your existing knowledge.
If you're wondering 'can I do a master's in a different field to my bachelor's?', the answer is yes, for some programs. There are several master’s degrees that don’t require a related bachelor’s degree. For example, while the Master of International Economics and Finance is available as a 1.5-year program for those with a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline, it’s also available as a 2-year program for those with a dean-approved bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field. This is because the first 6 months provide the foundational knowledge to help you succeed in the program regardless of your previous specialisation.
Diana studied the Master of International Economics and Finance after 7+ years of working as a petroleum engineer.
Cara was a medical professional looking to alter the trajectory of her career. She wanted to hang up her scrubs and pursue her passion for economics. By studying a Graduate Certificate in Economic Studies, Cara successfully transitioned careers and became the Partnerships Manager for AMBOSS, a medical tech company based in Berlin.
Can you get a master's degree without a bachelor's?
Many professionals find themselves at a point where tertiary education can help them step into new and more senior roles. But what if you arrived at this point through years of dedication and experience without the foundation of a bachelor’s degree?
A lot of people ask if a master's comes after a bachelor's, and it does hierarchically, but there are steps in between (graduate certificate and graduate diploma), and not everyone completes an undergraduate program before progressing to postgraduate studies.
In some circumstances, you can get a master’s without a bachelor’s degree – and a graduate certificate is usually the stepping stone you’ll use to get there. Before you ask 'can you do a graduate certificate without an undergraduate degree?' - the answer is yes, in some circumstances, as well.
Starting with a graduate certificate is a great way to get into uni as a mature-aged student with no prior university education. These programs recognise the valuable experience learnt on the job and accept applications from those who have 7+ years of relevant professional experience.
If you have management aspirations or want to gain specialist knowledge in a specific industry discipline, consider a program such as the Graduate Certificate in Business. You’ll learn the most up-to-date theory and put your learnings into practice through industry-relevant projects.
Typically completed in 1 year (part time) or half a year (full time), a graduate certificate can lead you into a graduate diploma and then a full master’s program. Alternatively, you may find the certificate alone provides enough education and experience to set you up for the next stage of your career.
You don’t need to decide right away how far you’ll go on your postgrad journey. You can complete the certificate or diploma before choosing whether you’re keen to continue into the master’s program or would rather jump back into full career mode.
Graduate certificates as alternative pathways to postgrad study
Here's a helpful snapshot of the graduate certificates available at UQ in a wide variety of fields. Any of these could be the first step towards earning your master's degree.