Professional qualifications

Further study can include working towards professional qualifications. These qualifications provide sector-specific training and knowledge, and are sometimes a requirement for pursuing certain careers, such as:

  • teaching
  • law
  • engineering
  • journalism
  • business.

For information on the professional qualifications required for specific careers, see the career sector pages.


Types of professional qualifications

Professional qualifications are usually Masters degrees, such as the MBA (business), LLM (law), and MEng (engineering), or postgraduate diplomas, such as the PGDE (teaching) and GDL (law).

Professional qualifications may involve elements of both teaching and research. They can be assessed in a very wide variety of ways, including essays, practical assessments, on-the-job experience, or work placements.

They usually last one to two years, though some can be significantly shorter or longer.

You can often find further information on the types of professional qualifications available in your subject of interest on the websites of professional bodies, societies and associations. For example:

Conversion courses

Some professional qualifications are conversion courses, where you study for a professional qualification in a subject unrelated to your first degree. For example, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is a law conversion course that, in a year, allows you to convert your undergraduate degree into a full LLB (Hons) law degree.

Conversion courses allow you to change career direction or embark on a career outside your first degree. There are many conversion courses available. To see what’s on offer, see Prospects’ conversion courses page.

Benefits of professional qualifications

There are many benefits of pursuing professional qualifications. They can help you to:

  • get the training you need to pursue the career you want
  • give you a recognised, or ‘chartered’, status within your sector
  • emphasise to employers that you are interested in continuous professional development
  • increase your ability to make connections with others.

Though there are many benefits to pursuing professional qualifications, it’s important to consider whether it’s the right option for you. Studying for professional qualifications is a significant commitment of your time and effort. It could be more academically challenging than undergraduate study or involve a different kind of study to what you are used to.

If you are considering pursuing professional qualifications, you should think about:

  • the cost of the qualification, and your ability to meet it
  • whether gaining the qualification will improve your career prospects
  • the quality of the organisation that provides the training
  • how you might balance study while working if you cannot secure comprehensive funding.

Entry requirements for professional qualifications

Entry requirements for professional qualifications will vary by sector, subject and institution. You should always familiarise yourself with the specific entry requirements for your preferred course.

If a course requires an undergraduate degree, you will typically need at least a 2.2, and preferably a 2.1.

For other courses, a degree may not be a requirement. Instead, you may need secondary qualifications, like GCSEs or Nationals, or certain kinds of work experience.

Funding for professional qualifications

There are many ways of funding professional qualifications. Funding may be scholarships, grants and bursaries (which are yours to keep), or loans (which you must repay). The process for applying for funding can vary depending on the type and source of funding.

Sources of funding include:

  • government loans
  • sponsorship by employers
  • university scholarships.

Not every funding source will cover all costs associated with your course (for example, they may only cover your tuition fees). Some sources of funding can also be extremely competitive, particularly where the funding is comprehensive.

A common source of funding, especially for conversion courses, is by sponsorship from an existing or prospective employer. To be successful when applying for this funding, a prior connection with employers is especially important. Find out more about making a connection.

See further advice on funding for professional qualifications (Prospects).