When thinking about university and the work you have to do, dissertations can often come to mind. As they’re an extended piece of writing, they can often feel long, hard, and simply too much of a hassle. Due to this, it’s entirely naturally to wonder if you must do one at all. That’s exactly what you’ll find out in this article.
In short, at undergraduate level, not all degrees will require you to have a dissertation. Whether you have to do a dissertation or not will generally depend on what you study and what university you study at.
However, at master’s degree level, you will need to do a dissertation to gain the full master’s degree. It may be possible for you to start the master’s degree and then to switch to a postgraduate certificate or diploma, which would not require you to do a dissertation.
Continue reading to learn more about dissertations and when you may need to do one. This article will tell you all you need to know about whether you have to do a dissertation and what the point of one is at all.
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Does everyone at university have to do a dissertation?
While university is often associated with traditional degrees, there are many other options for what you can study at university. These will generally be forms of higher education, meaning that they will be qualifications done after completing sixth form or college at level 4 or above. For more on higher education, check out this Think Student article.
The options of what you can study at a university can range from higher national certificates (HNCs) to foundation degrees and many more. For more on these, check out this UCAS guide.
Due to the wide range of qualifications that you can get at university, the answer is no, not everyone at university will have to do a dissertation. This is primarily due to how these higher education qualifications have different structures to the traditional bachelor’s or master’s degrees and so will often not require a dissertation.
For example, a HNC is equivalent to the first year of a bachelor’s degree. As a dissertation would generally be done in the final year of the degree, a dissertation couldn’t fit into its structure at all. For more on HNC qualifications, check out this article by University Compare.
Can you get a degree without doing a dissertation?
University can be hard to navigate, and it can be even harder trying to get your head around all of the terms and trying to figure out what a degree actually involves. Dissertations are a notorious part of the degree process, and you may wonder if they’re also an essential part.
In the UK, most degrees will require you to do a dissertation. However, this doesn’t apply to all degrees and will likely depend on where you go and what you study. To learn more about this, check out this article by Unite Students.
This means that it is entirely possible for you to get a degree without doing a dissertation as long as it’s not a compulsory part of your course. If the dissertation is something you feel strongly about not doing, then it can be worth fully looking at whether the courses you are interested in will make it compulsory in the modules section of course information pages.
For more insight into which subjects at undergraduate degree level are likely to require you to do a dissertation as well as if dissertations are compulsory at master’s degree level, check out the following headings.
Which degrees require a dissertation?
As mentioned above, in the UK, the majority of degrees will require you to do a dissertation. Otherwise, a dissertation or some other kind of research project may be an optional module that you can choose whether or not to take in your third year.
To find out more specific information about whether or not a specific course will require you to do a dissertation, it is best to look at the course information provided on the university’s website.
However, as a rule of thumb, it’s safe to assume that subjects that are based in both researching and writing will likely require you to do a dissertation. For example, history degrees are very likely to require you to do one.
Especially as at some universities they are considered a key part of the degree due to enabling you to put the skills you have developed into practice. For more on this, check out this page on the University of Southampton’s website.
Whereas more practical subjects, such as engineering, may instead get you to do a research or design project instead of a dissertation. In the same way, doing this kind of project instead will enable students to best apply the skills that they have learnt and developed during the course of their degree.
Do all master’s degrees require a dissertation?
During a master’s degree, students will typically learn about their subject area in greater depth to the extent that they pretty much become a “master” of it by the end of the degree. At level 7 (or level 11 in Scotland), master’s degrees are the second highest level of qualification you can get in the UK. To learn more about master’s degrees, check out this Think Student article.
Due to this, it’s no wonder that a range of high-level academic skills are involved and that you will have increased independence in your studies. As both of these are also traits that dissertations give you, you may be wondering if the master’s dissertation is essential.
The answer is yes, it is. In the UK, a master’s degree will require you to do a dissertation in order to complete your full master’s qualification.
However, if you start a master’s degree and are unable to do the dissertation, some universities will allow you to switch to a shorter postgraduate course, where you won’t have to do the dissertation. This may be a postgraduate certificate (PG Cert) or a postgraduate diploma (PG Dip).
To learn more about all of this, check out this guide by the University of York.
What is the point of a university dissertation?
In the UK, a dissertation is a massive research project and extended piece of writing that students undertake typically at the end of their degree, whether it is an undergraduate or master’s. To learn more about dissertations, check out this article by Think Student.
A dissertation allows a student to study the specific area of their subject that they are most interested in. This enables them to get more in-depth knowledge and to specialise in this element of their subject area. This can be especially great if you want to break into a specific career, related to this subject or if you want to study further.
Also, as a dissertation is done independently, it allows students to develop a wide range of skills from problem solving to time management to organisation. This means that a dissertation can enable students to come out of their studies not only with the degree and specialist knowledge in their subject area but also transferable skills that can improve their career prospects. To learn more about how doing a dissertation can improve your employability, check out this article by LSE.
While a dissertation can leave you will some valuable, transferable skills that can greatly enhance your career prospects and make it easier for you to integrate into a working environment, the dissertation alone may not be enough to secure you the graduate job you’re looking for. However, you can look at this Think Student article, which will give you some useful tips on how to find the right job for you after you graduate.