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What is a Master’s degree?

A Master’s qualification is a postgraduate degree course that students can do once they obtain an undergraduate degree. It allows individuals to further their knowledge in a particular subject, or to enter a different academic path. A postgraduate qualification is awarded to individuals who can demonstrate a higher level of expertise in a particular field of study.

Most master’s courses lead to an MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science) qualification; however, there are also subject-specific qualifications. These qualifications include MArch (Master of Architecture), MEng (Master of Engineering), MFA (Master of Fine Arts), LLM (Master of Laws), and more. Courses leading to an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) qualification are typically research-led and often designed for students who wish to progress to a PhD.

How long does it take to complete?
Some Master’s courses take one or two years to complete full-time, or longer if students decide to complete them in a part-time manner.

What subjects can I study as a Master’s Degree?
Individuals are able to complete a postgraduate course in nearly any subject, and the only differences in the courses are whether they are a research or a taught degree. A research degree tends to take around 18 months to complete, and part-time research degrees that take 36 months isn’t entirely uncommon.

What is a research Master’s Degree?
This type of degree involves learning through research, and are viewed as valuable preparation for individuals who wish to obtain a PhD afterwards, as most funding bodies who award money to PhD students prefer their students who have completed research programmes. Students who undertake a research master’s degree will receive less tutor support and be required to spend more time working independently.

Students will spend a lot of their time collecting and analysing data and hoping to have their work accepted for publication in a research journal. Assessments on research programmes will be through a professional judgment on the research work completed as well as an oral exam. At the end of the course, students can obtain a Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Master of Research (MRes), Master of Arts (MA by Research), or Master of Science (MSc by Research). This is dependent on the subject a student chooses.

What is a taught Master’s degree?
A taught Master’s degree are similar in format to an undergraduate degree course, as they involve a series of taught modules, lectures, seminars, practical work, coursework, examinations and independent study. When students complete their modules, they will be assessed on the knowledge and skills they have learned, through coursework or an examination. Students will also be assessed through a research project, dissertation and group work.

A full-time taught Master’s degree typically takes one year to complete; however, part-time courses will be available at some universities. At the end of the degree course, students will obtain a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) qualification, this will depend on the subject that they studied.

Students will prefer a taught Master’s if they enjoy studying through lectures, coursework and assignments, and who already have an undergraduate degree.

What entry requirements do I need to study a Master’s Degree?
Most Master’s degrees will require a relevant undergraduate degree with at least a 2:2 or higher – this is dependent on the course itself – and some degrees require specific work experience, either practical or academic.

How do I apply to study a Master’s Degree?
Students can apply to study a postgraduate qualification through applying direct to their chosen university or higher education institution.

What can I do with a Master’s Degree?
Students who obtain a Master’s degree can continue onto gaining a PhD, work in a research-based career, focus on a single topic of interest and enjoy independent studying.