Masters official and graduate diplomas: the differences

Article written by CEMP's team

Have you already finished a university degree and now want to take the next step in your career? You feel it’s time for you to continue training, but you don’t know what master’s degree to choose? At this point, it is essential for you to know the differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate diploma. Keep reading to find out


What are the differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate diploma?

Before going into detail about the differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate diploma, let’s start from a basic definition that may clarify some of the most important points:

  • An official master’s degree is endorsed by the university that grants it, but, in addition to that, it is also recognized by the State, which in many countries creates a register of universities and higher educational degrees. This type of master’s degree usually presents several potential educational options and specializations, and can be more focused on theory or present a more practical nature.
  • A graduate diploma, on the other hand, is a title endorsed by the university or educational center that imparts it. Therefore, its significance and the recognition it gets is closely linked to the prestige of the university that designed it. Although this type of master’s degree can also present both theoretical and practical approaches, it’s easier to find more specific titles focused on the practical application of knowledge compared to official master’s degrees.

Of course, while both types of masters have many things in common, in this article we’ll focus on the differences.


The main differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate diploma

Acknowledgement by employers

First of all, it is very important to take into account what the acknowledgement of a degree may be in the labor market. As such, it’s possible to say that there are prestigious options both among the official master’s degrees and the graduate diplomas today. The most important thing is choosing the right training which fits your circumstances.

In any case, in order to apply for civil servant positions, many selective processes involve  an evaluation of educational merits that gives preference to Master’s official titles, so that a higher score is ascribed compared to graduate diplomas.

However, things are different when it comes to private corporate positions. In these cases, both the prestige associated with the university and the distinction of the master’s degree will determine your CV’s worth more than other considerations regarding the title.


Scholarships and grants open calls

In the case of open calls to obtain scholarships or grants, the situation is usually similar to the one we saw in the previous section. Official master’s degrees will typically guarantee you meet the open call requirements.Graduate diplomas on the other hand may sometimes keep you out of the application process, although it all depends on each particular scholarship opportunity.

However, the growing flexibility of the educational sector also means a progressive relaxation in terms of requirements is also taking place.


International recognition

All official master’s degrees are recognized by the different European universities. In general, this does not have to happen in the case of graduate diplomas, although this varies for each particular case.


Academic design

The official master’s degrees tend to involve between 60 and 120 ECTS credits. This is also common in the case of graduate diplomas, although it may be less. Again, the greater flexibility of these qualifications allows for greater diversity.


Access to PhD positions

If you want to go for a PhD, you must first complete an official master’s degree. When it comes to moving to a foreign university to do this, you must ensure the Master’s official or the graduate diploma is recognized by the new education institution you’re joining.


Teaching staff

In an official master’s degree, it is common for most professors to be part of the university itself. However, in the case of graduate diplomas, it is very likely professors may work at other institutions or be recognized as experts in the professional world. 

Again, this responds to the greater flexibility that typically characterizes graduate diplomas, which tend to have a greater connection with the corporate world. Therefore, if you prefer to have a wide range of professors with different curricula, to add richness to your training, it may be more interesting to enroll in a graduate diploma curriculum.



As we said, due to the greater regulation regarding official master’s degrees, institutions have less room to make changes when it comes to the training. Therefore, any proposal or suggestion may take time to be implemented.

On the other hand, in the case of the degree, the university has complete freedom to make the changes it deems appropriate in a quick manner. Therefore, the curriculum of graduate diplomas tends to be updated more quickly compared to official master’s degrees. In the same way, the graduate diploma can be created in less time, thus being able to incorporate innovations much earlier than official titles.



Therefore, in view of the differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate degree, the choice between these two options remains a very personal matter. Thus, each student must weigh the pros and cons of each option and make a conscious decision about it.

However, if you want to steer your career towards the private sector and you value innovation and flexibility, graduate diplomas can be a great option. On the contrary, if you see your career might involve joining the public sector or official academia, official master’s degrees are a better alternative.

Now that you know the differences between an official master’s degree and a graduate diploma, which option seems most interesting to you? Without a doubt, both cases mean quality training and, ultimately, a successful professional career. What are your thoughts?

Do you want to know more about any of our Masters?

Fill out this form and one of our consultants will contact you.

I want information!

The most interesting news to stay up to date with everything you need on your journey.