MSc Degree

Uni Compare  · Nov 18th 2021

The MSc is a somewhat paradoxical qualification in that it is well-known, but not very much is known about what it actually is.


Looking at the qualifications that many students study at a postgraduate level, you’ll see that more often than most, the MSc is the qualification that most students look into at one point or another.

It’s growing popularity, has seen more and more universities rush to include it in their postgraduate repertoire and entice more postgrad students.


What is an MSc degree?

An MSc degree is a Master for Science postgraduate degree awarded to those who pass science and technology subjects at this level. They have been known to be part of our educational system for hundreds of years and was originally known as the Master’s degree with the highest level of academic qualification achievable - they really were the top of the game.

The degree would entitle graduates to teach as a university ‘Master’, whereas now PhD students or lecturers take up that role.

It still proves a considerable amount of expertise and knowledge in a certain area, but it is now recognised as a postgraduate degree. This translates to a student beginning an MSc level qualification after completing a Bachelor’s degree. It’ll also usually take place before a higher research degree, like a PhD.

MSc degree definition

For those looking to find out the MSc degree meaning it actually translates from Latin, where it stands for Magister Scientiae, meaning ‘Master of Science’.

It is typically a degree with extensive research by the student in a particular field, alongside seminars, lectures and modules.

What is the difference between MS and MSc degree?

There are a few main differences between the MS degree and the MSc degree which are that the MSc is primarily intended to be in Science, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Statistics among others, however, the MS is a professional degree, which prepares students for entering into high-level careers or for those that are looking to get onto a doctorate degree.

The MS is not traditionally taught in the UK, as it is primarily an American degree, however, it is still recognised in the UK and is recognised by employers whenever students are applying for jobs as well.

Most MSc degrees are between one and two years, depending on whether it is full time or part-time.

What are the entry requirements for an MSc level qualification?

Students embarking on an MSc degree will need to have an appropriate or relevant undergraduate degree. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Bachelor of Science (BSc) but it would certainly help. Most degrees expect candidates to have achieved a 2.1 or higher, although specific universities or courses may allow for 2.2.

Try not to think of MSc degrees only being a ‘hard science’ as universities are free to organise their own degrees.

Where can you study an MSc degree?

It is a widely recognised degree awarded by universities around the world. For MSc degree courses it is a postgraduate degree found at level 7 of the National Qualifications Framework.

In Europe, the MSc degree is a second-cycle degree, which again follows undergraduate programmes, and replaces older ‘magister’ courses.

For America, the MSc is also a postgraduate - or graduate-level qualification and is often called an MS degree. Some programmes also offer a longer course of study to lead to a PhD afterwards.

There may be countries that offer MSc degrees in varying subjects with the exact definition between an MA and MSc not reflecting the UK’s.

University MSc

What subjects can you study as an MSc level qualification?

Most of the time MSc degrees are awarded for science and technology, and as a general rule follow the STEM subjects. But even those subjects can have their own specialised degrees, like the four-year integrated Master’s course known as the MEng (Master of Engineering), which is equivalent of a Bachelor’s and Master’s in one.

Try not to think of MSc degrees only being a ‘hard science’ as universities are free to organise their own degrees. If an Arts or Humanities programme involved a large amount of quantitative analysis and expertise it may award an MSc instead of a Master of Arts (MA). Linguistics is a great example of this, where it focuses on the science of language systems.

Some courses may be available in both MA or MSc level qualification, like Archaeology, where it depends on the focus of the programme. A degree studying carbon data and excavation techniques may end with an MSc, compared to a historical and cultural analysis which would result in an MA.

MSc vs MA

The difference between MA and MSc degrees is a recent conversation, as scientific subjects were always known to be a staple of university curriculum. Programmes with a basis of creative space or philosophical analysis were called MAs, compared to MSc degrees which were based on mathematical logic and analysis.

The differences aren’t set in stone, with institutions able to label their degrees as they wish.

Both degrees are equal and hold the same academic standing. An MSc degree is not higher or better than an MA they are just typically either sciences or arts. They also won’t stop you from changing between the two, a student can complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and then go onto an MSc Visual Communication qualification.

Most MSc degrees are between one and two years, depending on whether it is full time or part-time.

Should I study an MSc level qualification?

An MSc is a great choice for anyone wanting to commit to further study in a subject which is focussed on technical methods or quantitative analysis. It offers the opportunity to conduct independent research along with a taught cause.

Also, an MSc degree offers a chance to specialise, more so than a BSc which is less specific.

What job can I get with an MSc degree?

Students completing an MSc will be prepared for doctorate degree where they can deepen their knowledge and skill set. Another option includes professional jobs that recognise postgraduate science degrees, like graduate schemes.

MSc degree vs postgraduate diplomas and certificates

A postgraduate diploma is the same as a Master of Science but just without the dissertation at the end. It’ll be around two terms long, instead of three, and include most of the taught modules and assessments.

A postgraduate MSc degree certificate is similar and is around one term in regards to length. Both depend on the number of modules you complete but all are at postgraduate level of study.

Uni MSc

How long is an MSc degree?

This can vary on university and the country you are studying in. Most are between one and two years, depending on whether it is full time or part-time.

MSc is typically a one-year full-time course in the UK, which is a full 12 months and not a 9-month academic year, this is the same for a distance learning MSc degree or an MSc online degree.

Across Europe the MSc is longer, lasting from one-and-a-half to two years, with students completing placements or internships during the summer holidays between the first and second years.

However, institutions can offer part-time options too, which can increase the length to two or three years. This is perfect for anyone who wants to study alongside work or life commitments. It means students can still go to their day job and earn a postgraduate qualification at the same time.

How many credits does an MSc degree have?

A Master’s of Science is typically worth 180 credits, with 120 during modules and assessments throughout the first two terms - if you’re on a one year course - and then the final dissertation is worth 60 credits.

The dissertation is either an extended project, a research project or a written dissertation. Students are paired with a supervisor who will help guide you throughout the work, as well as provide feedback.

An MSc degree is a Master for Science postgraduate degree awarded to those who pass science and technology subjects at this level.

Is MSc a professional qualification?

An MSc is very much of a professional standard as it proves your MSc degree study level is at 7 - in comparison to undergraduates which is at level 4, 5, and 6.

Most degrees of this level will include seminars, assignments and a dissertation - all showcasing your ability to work at a postgraduate standard. Whether a qualification is MSc or a postgraduate diploma in the same subject, it shows the hard work you achieved.

Funding for an MSc degree?

The UK government offers a postgraduate student loan for candidates wanting to start an MSc degree. The financial support can be up to £10,000 to help towards tuition fees and living costs for eligible students. For example, someone studying an MSc Psychology qualification could apply for the postgraduate loan.

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