Entry requirements for postgraduate programs vary considerably. The previous qualifications and professional experience required typically depend on the postgraduate qualification level, course and institution you choose. Also keep the institution sector in mind — TAFE institutes and private higher education providers will usually have broader, more individualised entry criteria than universities.
Generally speaking, the minimum entry requirement for any postgraduate study is successful completion of a bachelor degree or equivalent study (an advanced diploma will be enough in some cases). For some postgraduate programs, a bachelor degree in any field will be sufficient. In others, you will need a qualification in the relevant discipline, but non-graduates with work experience in the field may also be admitted. Then there are highly competitive programs that require a bachelor degree with top marks, extensive work experience and an entrance test.
In this section we cover:
- Standard selection methods for postgraduates
- Alternative selection methods for postgraduates
Standard selection methods for postgraduates
Postgraduate qualifications range from graduate certificates through to PhDs, and the previous qualifications required differ depending on the type of postgraduate qualification you are looking to enter.
For instance, while a graduate certificate requires completion of a bachelor degree or advanced diploma, a research-based masters program may require completion of a bachelor honours degree, a masters preliminary year or research experience. See Postgraduate degrees for full details about postgraduate qualifications and their entry requirements.
Work experience is a common entry requirement for many postgraduate courses, which is perfect for those who have extensive professional work experience and want to undertake a postgraduate degree to enable career progression. Some courses use work experience as an alternative entry requirement, admitting those who do not meet the academic entry requirements on the basis of equivalent work experience in a relevant professional area. Other courses, especially those with a ‘professional’ emphasis, treat work experience as a standard entry requirement along with the academic entry requirements. Prestigious and competitive degrees such as the MBA often require students to have both strong marks in a previous degree and extensive professional work experience.
Supplementary information forms and biographical essays
At postgraduate level, a number of institutions ask candidates to complete supplementary information forms and biographical essays to ascertain their professional history and aspirations, especially in the more competitive courses. These may be used to shortlist candidates who have met the academic requirements for the next round of selection or an interview, or to determine whether a candidate’s work and life experience makes up for not meeting academic entry requirements. Use this as an opportunity to inform the institution about your personal history, work experience, life experience, ambitions and reasons for completing the course (and check it thoroughly to ensure there are no errors). You may be able to complete a supplementary information form through your local Tertiary Admissions Centre’s online system, or your higher education provider may ask you to fill in their own supplementary information form or submit a biographical essay along with your application.
Interviews are common at postgraduate level to enter into the more competitive and prestigious courses. Interviewers will be judging your communication skills, professionalism, reasons for wanting to complete the course, expression of personal goals and the passion you display for your field. This is your chance to shine and confirm the interviewer’s beliefs that you are the perfect candidate for the course.
Portfolios and auditions
These are required to gain entry into a number of courses in the creative arts field at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. You will find that auditions are usually required for performing arts courses in the areas of dance, music and drama. Portfolios may be submitted for fine arts and design courses. These entry requirements give you a chance to showcase your talents to the selection committee.
Some universities use entrance tests for their more competitive and prestigious programs, such as the master of business administration or graduate entry medicine and law degrees. Some of these include:
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
The GMAT is a test of verbal, quantitative and analytical reasoning skills. It is used as a criterion for entry into master of business administration (MBA) programs at a number of Australian business schools. In some cases it is compulsory, but usually the GMAT is used as an additional criterion to supplement your application and boost your chances of entry. The GMAT is computer administered and takes around four hours to complete. It is administered in selected cities around the year, including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. For details about the GMAT score required for entry, contact your preferred institution. A smart move would be to do a practice run and see whether you are likely to get the score required and, if not, invest in some coaching. For more information, see the GMAT website.
Graduate Australian Medical School Admission Test (GAMSAT)
The GAMSAT is used to assess candidates for graduate entry medical programs at a number of universities. The GAMSAT assesses candidates not only on their level of knowledge in relevant subjects, such as science, but also on their general skills, including problem solving, communication and critical analysis. The test is open to students with a first degree in a non-scientific field, although a certain level of scientific knowledge is usually required for a positive outcome. The test is administered independently through the Australian Council for Educational Research. A range of test preparation materials are available. Details about the GAMSAT can be found on the ACER GAMSAT website. For more information about preparing for the GAMSAT, see the METC Institute website.
Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is used by some Australian universities to evaluate candidates for graduate entry and postgraduate law programs, such as the juris doctor (JD) and master of laws (LLM). The test measures analytical and logical reasoning skills and reading comprehension through multiple-choice sections. A writing sample is also required, although this is not marked. The test is offered in capital cities around Australia and is administered by the US-based Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). A range of test preparation materials is available. For more information, visit the Law School Admission Council website.
Alternative selection methods for postgraduates
While the majority of people who enter postgraduate degrees are progressing from a degree and meet the standard entry requirements, there are alternative methods of entering into postgraduate study.
As stated above, work experience is commonly used as an alternative pathway into postgraduate study by those who have not completed a previous degree but who have worked for a number of years in the industry and gained experience that is deemed equivalent to holding an academic qualification. The degree to which work experience is used as an alternative selection method differs between courses and providers, so contact institutions for details. You will be able to state your case in supplementary information forms or interviews.
VET to university pathway
Although it is not often spoken of, it is very possible to use VET as a pathway into postgraduate degrees. For example, you could progress from a certificate to an advanced diploma at VET level and then move into a low-level postgraduate qualification such as a graduate certificate. From there you could even go on to do your masters or higher degree by research. Different institutions have different requirements for previous qualifications, so it is important to check with the institution to ensure that your pathway will grant you entry into the postgraduate course you require. See Pathways into your course for more information.
Single subject study
You can complete single subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. At postgraduate level, single subjects allow you to trial a program to find out whether postgraduate study is for you, prepare yourself for the academic challenge of further study and enhance your opportunities to enter a full postgraduate degree. This is especially helpful if you have had a long break between your undergraduate and postgraduate degree and would like to trial a single subject before committing to a lengthy degree. This option also enables you to try different courses and see which area might be of interest.