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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Postgrad Course
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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Postgrad Course

ACER news 7 minute read

Contemplating studying a postgraduate course? With so many institutions, and even more courses, choosing a postgraduate program can be daunting.

How do you know you’re selecting the right course for your career goals? Does the institution have a good calibre of subject expertise? Is the course flexible enough to let you fit study around your work and personal life?

ACER’s Course Coordinator Dr Anne-Marie Chase says there’s no ‘right way’ to choose a postgrad course, but there are some questions you can ask that will make the process easier.

"You need to have a clear goal and an idea of what you want to get out of it,” Dr Chase says. “If you want to move your career forward, then think strategically – make sure that your course gives you the specific expertise that you and your employer need.”

Use this checklist to determine which course best matches your needs.

What do you want to get out of your postgraduate course?

Know what you want from the qualification. Are you doing it because you want to top up your skills? Do you want to accelerate your career progression? Will it allow you to deepen your knowledge of a chosen field?

Once you’ve got a clearer idea of your goals, you’ll be able to narrow down the postgraduate courses and institutions to match.

Some postgraduate courses are designed to help you specialise and build on your expertise ready for the next step in your career. For example, the Graduate Certificate of Education – Assessment of Student Learning provides in-depth investigation into the subject of assessment.

Is the course valued by your employer?

Having a postgraduate qualification could give you the edge over the competition, but only if it’s something your employer values. If you’re a teacher, consider how the additional qualification will benefit your students and the school as a whole. Look very carefully at how the specific content of the course will do this, apart from any general skills that you might gain too. If in doubt, talk to your principal and see what they think of your course before you enrol. (For the Graduate Certificate of Education – Assessment of Student Learning, download the Course Guide and use the talking points on Page 5.)

Can you use the course towards further study?

Do pathways exist from the postgraduate program to further studies – ­a masters, for example? One thing that’s often overlooked about a graduate certificate is that they are typically embedded qualifications, so they will count towards a higher qualification. This means you are getting a better return on investment of your time and money. In the case of the Graduate Certificate of Education – Assessment of Student Learning, you will be eligible to apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) towards a masters degree.

What’s the reputation of the institution?

Do some research into the institution. Does it have a good reputation for the chosen discipline? Does it have national/international profile? Are the subject experts renowned and active in their research areas?

ACER is the world-renowned expert in assessment. By studying with us, you get access to the latest global research driving educational change in Australia and worldwide. The Graduate Certificate of Education – Assessment of Student Learning program is developed by, among others, Professor Geoff Masters, a leading international authority on the assessment of student learning.

Can you fit the course around your life?

Is the course part-time? Will you be required to visit a campus, or can you complete the course online? If you have a teaching career, you need a course with flexibility. Look for an online, part-time course that gives you the flexibility you need, while letting you apply your new knowledge, ideas and strategies, every day of your course. (Learn more tips on how to find time for postgraduate study in this article.)

Does the teaching and learning suit you?

Find out about teaching methods and consider whether or not they would suit you. Postgraduate courses can require you to be more self-driven, motivated and focused on individual learning. What kind of support will you get? Look for an institution, like ACER, that provides a ‘high touch’ learning experience with an online facilitator, personalised guidance, access to useful resources to keep you motivated throughout your study journey.

Don’t underestimate the value of growing a professional network while you study, too. Holly Rose, Assistant Director of Studies at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth, studied the Graduate Certificate of Education – Assessment of Student Learning, and said: “The opportunity to discuss the ideas presented with other practitioners was especially useful. As we all came from different areas of education, there were many different points of view to consider”.

Have past students been successful?

Check success stories of program alumni. Talk to past students for an honest view of the courses you’re considering. If you are doing a course to accelerate your career, get frank advice on how they found the course and whether it got them where they wanted to be career-wise. If you’re unable to speak with past students, ask the enrolment advisors for information.

Ask for help

Postgraduate study is not a decision to be taken lightly, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speak to the enrolment team at the institution you’re considering. Ask them all your niggling questions, outline your challenges and share your goals. It’s their role to provide all the information you need to make the right decision for you.

Applications are now open for the January 2020 intake of ACER’s Graduate Certificate of Education –  Assessment of Student Learning.

Find out how you can become a leader in education with this 100% online, 12-month course.

Get in touch with our student support team at or call +61 3 9277 5202. Or visit our website to download a free course guide and apply online.

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