What is a professional studies degree?
Find out more about professional studies fromMichelle Juchau, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader of the Learning at Work programmes at the University of Portsmouth.
Professional studies degrees are flexible qualifications for people who want to study alongside their careers and develop their workplace skills.
As a student, you’ll be learning to learn. You’ll become a lifelong learner — which means that even after you finish your degree you’ll have the skills and confidence to research, explore and combat any challenges you face in the workplace.
What is professional studies?
On a professional studies degree you’ll personalise your learning to your employer and your industry, whether you study at undergraduate or postgraduate level. You’ll pick the modules on your course with your employer, ensuring that what you learn has an immediate impact in your workplace.
Studying through a work-based learning degree helps you to develop your industry awareness in your current job. You’ll improve your workplace and research skills by completing a work based project to benefit your current employer.
You’ll develop your commercial and strategic awareness, learn from University tutors and industry professionals, be able to pass on your new knowledge to your organisation and use your developing skills in your job.
Who can study professional studies?
Professional studies is ideal if you want to continue your education but haven’t had the opportunity to study at university level. To get the most out of our degrees you’ll already have a job and be looking to upskill and build on your career so far.
If you feel that you’ve learned much through your career so far, or would like to consolidate the qualifications you already have, we can recognise this prior learning and use it to count towards your degree credits. This means you’ll need to complete fewer modules during your studies.
At undergraduate level
To study at undergraduate level (BA/BSc) you may have several years of workplace experience and either hold a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or feel like you have learning equal to a level 3 qualification, such as A-Levels.
At postgraduate level
To study at masters level (MA/MSc) you should have an existing level 6 qualification (equivalent to an undergraduate degree), or substantial learning at this level that you can evidence.
To prepare for undergraduate level
We also offer Professional Studies CertHE, a level 4 course that leads directly into BA/BSc Professional Studies. The course builds on your current workplace experience and learning, without needing to commit to a full undergraduate degree.
The CertHE is great if you didn’t follow a traditional study route through school but feel like you have suitable level 3 learning already, whether you have A levels or not.
“The professional studies degree is ideal for those who wish to gain a range of transferable knowledge and skills which allows them to be adaptable to new roles and opportunities and to gain the confidence to advance their career.”
What do you learn on a professional studies degree?
One of the biggest advantages of a professional studies degree is the flexibility of the course. As a student you’ll tailor your degree to the skills you need in your workplace and discuss with your employer what they need you to learn.
You’ll study alongside your job and complete a combination of work-based learning and academic study.
Your studies are made up of:
- Workplace projects
- Online taught modules
The modules and projects you choose will impact your degree. If you choose mostly art or business based subjects, you will work towards a BA or MA. If you choose mostly science content, you will work towards a BSc or MSc.
You can choose to study modules on topics like professional development, sustainability, health and safety management, organisational behaviour and project management.
Work based projects
You’ll study alongside your job and complete a work-based project that is relevant to you and your organisation. You’ll decide what topic to research by working with the University and your employer to ensure your project outcomes can directly benefit your company. During the project you’ll write your own learning outcomes, produce a project proposal, gather primary and secondary data in the workplace, and submit a professional report to your employer with your new learning and results.
For example you could explore current issues your organisation is facing, such as introducing new technology or processes, and then develop innovative solutions to those challenges. These projects will involve new learning for you so they will build on your experience outside of your daily role.
Throughout your degree you’ll be supported by a workplace mentor and a specialist tutor, arranged through the University, who works in the industry. You'll graduate prepared to make change happen and progress in your workplace.
Your learning contract
At the start of your degree you’ll work with us and your employer to define your learning contract and tell us what you’ll study. This guarantees your learning is specific to your discipline and the needs of your employer.
Your learning contract shows how many credits you need to achieve to earn your degree. You will earn credits through taught modules and projects, and your contract will inform your study choices.
What can you do with a professional studies degree?
As well as the impact your studies will have on your current employer, your professional studies degree can also boost your long term job prospects. During your course you’ll develop your skills in:
- Business or technical skills
- Project management
These skills are transferable so you could explore roles in new fields if you wanted to. You could go on to work in technology, the government, education, health, the military, or another industry.
How much does it cost?
Your tuition fees will depend on what level you are studying to, how many modules you study, and how much prior learning you have.
Most students on work-based courses ask their employer to fund some or all of their course, because the study is relevant to their job and will benefit the whole organisation.
Building on your previous learning
Professional studies recognises the learning that you’ve already done, so you can put your previous training and experience towards your degree.
Using your previous learning to kickstart your degree and reduce the number of credits you need to study to reach your qualification is called Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). At undergraduate level you can use RPL for up to 240 (two thirds) of the 360 credits you need to get your BA/BSc degree. At postgraduate level, you can use RPL for up to 120 (two thirds) of the 180 credits you need for your MA/MSc degree.
You can submit learning across a range of subjects and combine your knowledge topics including engineering, business, IT, and more.
“This degree enables those with a range of learning to consolidate it into a higher level qualification. It allows those who may not have taken a traditional school to University route to access Higher Education and to gain recognition for the knowledge and skills they have gained through their roles and activities at work.”
More information on studying while working
Find out more about our Learning at Work courses and our Professional Studies degrees below.