All Estonian universities have implemented the two-tier (bachelor–master) structure in their study programmes.
The bakalaureusekraad, the first qualification in this structure, is awarded after 3 years of study (for a few programmes the nominal duration of study is 4 years), and it is a bachelor’s level qualification. At this level, the basic knowledge and skills related to a speciality are obtained.
After graduation from bachelor’s level programmes, students can continue in the second cycle leading to the magistrikraad. Master’s level studies are devoted to in-depth preparation for the speciality. The duration of master’s level studies is usually 2 years but it may also be just 1 year if the nominal length of the bachelor’s level programme is 4 years. The magistrikraad is a master’s level qualification and is the required level for professional posts where a higher qualification is needed, such as teaching, engineering, economics, law etc.
The two-tier structure applies to most disciplines, with the exception of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, architecture and civil engineering. These long one-cycle programmes are called integrated study programmes with a nominal duration of 5 or 6 years. These studies normally lead to a master’s level diploma.
The postgraduate research degree (doktorikraad) is awarded after the completion of 3–4 years of study and research.
Professional Higher Education Diploma
Professional higher education is a first cycle degree that has the purpose of providing the necessary competence for work in the relevant profession or for continuing studies at the master’s level. The nominal length of studies is 3–4,5 years. Persons who have completed professional higher education studies are awarded a diploma called a rakenduskõrgharidusõppe diplom. A diploma of professional higher education corresponds to a bakalaureusekraad awarded by universities, and graduates are entitled to continue studies towards the master`s degree on conditions laid down by the university council.
It is important to note that qualifications awarded to students admitted to higher education institutions before 2002 do not correspond to the qualifications described here, even though the names may sometimes be same. In order to better understand the former qualifications or obtain more information on qualifications and recognition in general, please consult the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre.