Postgraduate

Taught Master’s vs research Master’s: which do you choose?

Sarah Jones  · Jun 4th 2024  · 2 min

Looking to take on a Master’s degree? Great! But which route do you take? Taught Master’s or research Master’s? Let’s take a look at your options!

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When you're looking at postgraduate courses, you'll notice that Master's degrees are split into two types - taught Master's (PGT) and research Master's (PGR). While they have many similarities such as the course length and the intensity of work, how they are run varies. Which you choose will depend on your subject choice, interests and how you want your postgraduate degree to look.

Postgraduate taught vs research - what's the difference?

Ultimately, the difference between a taught Master's and a research Master's is the level of independent study involved. While taught Master's will see you spending more time in lectures, and seminars, a research Master's will include taking on independent research and training.

Taught postgraduate (PGT)

You'll take part in lectures for specific modules set by the university. You'll study independently but your timetable of lectures and seminars will be set for you. You will still need to write a dissertation at the end of your studies. This is the most common type of postgraduate course. Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), PGCert and PGDip all follow the taught structure.

Research postgraduate (PGR)

A little less common, with little to no set timetable to follow. Your studies will focus on extended projects and research. This will be overseen by your supervisor who will be there to offer expert guidance. This structure is seen for Master of Research (MRes), and Master of Philosophy (MPhil).

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Which is right for me?

Whether you choose a PGT or PGR will very much depend on what's best for you. Ask yourself, what are your goals? Which will better my career? Which plays to my academic strengths? Knowing your answers to these will help you to see which is the better option.

Taught Master's allows you to continue studying in a way you'll be used to from your undergraduate degree, with specific modules and structure. It will also improve many skills that will make you more employable after uni. On the other hand, there is less flexibility in what you study and may stop you from specialising early in your career.

With a Research Master's you can focus on a topic that interests you as well as gain insight into what a PhD is like. It's a great option if you're looking to pursue a research career. It does mean that you'll be working very independently and won't have as much time with other students. You will also be focussing on one specific area for the full year so make sure you love what you're studying!

Difference in Master's fees

While a Research Master's tends to cost less than a Taught Master's, it will depend on the type of research you're doing and in what department you as well as whether the research is taking place in a lab setting which is more expensive to run.

Funding options

In the UK, all domestic Master's students can apply for a student loan through the postgraduate student finance scheme. There are also grants, bursaries and scholarships available, depending on your personal circumstances and area of study.

If you're looking to take a Research Master's ahead of a PhD or an integrated PhD, there are other funding options available through the UK Research and Innovation Council that are worth exploring.

postgraduate Uni's

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