Your Practical Guide to Master’s Degrees

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Master’s degrees are becoming increasingly popular amongst recent graduates because they help students transition into specialised professionals. But understanding which master’s programme to choose and what university to study at is crucial to your career success.

What Is a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is typically available to people who’ve already completed an undergraduate programme – although depending on experience sometimes exceptions are made. It allows people to specialise in a specific field and usually needs to be relevant to their Bachelor’s degree, or to their work experience – but there are often exceptions if you can prove an aptitude for the subject.

Types of Master’s Degrees

In the UK, master’s degrees can be divided into two types:


Taught programmes usually take roughly twelve months to complete. Modules are highly structured and students are usually required to attend seminars, lectures and workshops unless they are doing an online course.


Research programmes can take two years to complete full-time. Students are expected to carry their own research in areas that are usually highly specialised.

Master’s degrees can also be distinguished based on the type of course being pursued:

  • MA: A Master of Arts is typically awarded for disciplines such as social sciences and arts. Students are taught in lectures and seminars and a dissertation and/or exams are required to complete the programme.
  • MS, MSc: A Master of Science is usually awarded for disciplines that are classified as sciences, eg. biology, chemistry etc.
  • MRes: A Master of Research is for people who are interested in becoming researchers. This type of programme also gives an advantage to students who are interested in pursuing a PhD and a career in academia.
  • MPhil: A Masters of Philosophy is often seen as the precursor of a PhD and it allows student to carry independent research in a highly specialised area.
  • MSt: A Master of Studies is only awarded by a handful universities who award undergraduate students with an MA automatically.
  • MBA: A Master of Business Administration is a highly specialised course that allows students to gain skills and competencies that are useful in the business world. MBAs generally require candidates to have a minimum of three years of work experience.
  • MLS, MLIS, MSLS: A Master of Library Science offers both theoretical and practical knowledge of the subject matter and is generally required for professional librarian positions.
  • MPA: A Master of Public Administration specialises in the public sector and offers student with valuable theoretical and practical knowledge.
  • MPH: A Master of Public Health deals with areas of public health such as occupational health, epidemiology etc.
  • MSW: A Master of Social Work focuses on either a clinical approach or a counselling approach.
  • LLM: A Master of Laws combines the practical skills of being a lawyer with a specialised area of litigation.
  • MLA, MALS: A Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is an interdisciplinary type of programme that students choose as an opportunity to learn and challenge themselves, rather than following a specific career path.
  • MFA: A Master of Fine Arts is a creative degree awarded to students of fine arts, photography, creative writing etc.
  • MM, MMus: A Master of Music is awarded by both universities and conservatories and it combines advanced studies in specialised areas with music theory.
  • MEd: A Master of Education is usually suitable for professionals who already work in education and would like to specialise in specific areas of the curriculum.
  • MEng: A Master of Engineering offers two paths, a theoretical and a professional one.
  • MArch: A Master of Architecture helps students specialise in various fields related to architecture, such as design, structural engineering and architectural theory.



Master’s Degree Benefits

There are lots of things to be gained from pursuing a master’s degree. First and foremost you’ll get a chance to further explore something you are interested in and passionate about. This is important because it can prove to be crucial in your career. Some other benefits include:

  • It helps set you apart from competition
  • Commands a higher salary
  • Allows you to network
  • Helps you access highly specialised mentors

How to Choose a Master’s Programme

If you are not sure how to choose a master’s programme then you need to start by thinking about your objectives. Why are you interested in this type of degree? What are you hoping to get out of it? What career do you see yourself committing to? Understanding your wants will also help you choose a master’s programme more easily.

Step 1: Consider Your End-Goal: Start thinking about what your next will be as this will make choosing a programme much easier.

Step 2: Find a University: It’s important to find a university that is both prestigious and reputable as this will lead to better career opportunities.

Step 3: Choose a Programme: As you’ve seen above there’s a dozen of programmes to choose from, but bear in mind that if your academic research skills are not up to par, maybe you should stick to a taught programme.

Step 4: Understand if You Meet the Entry Requirements: Entry requirements vary between universities and although there’s no harm in applying to courses where you don’t meet all requirements, you might want to invest your time in universities where you have a better chance.

Online Master’s Programmes

Online master’s are becoming increasingly popular as they allow more flexibility than traditional, on-campus programmes. Improvements in technology now also make it easier for people to do online courses and as such, it’s an option that many professionals prefer.

As long as you find an accredited programme and a university that’s prestigious there’s no reason not to enrol in an online masters degree. It can help you avoid accumulating more student debt and be great for your career as you’ll continue gaining work experience and skills.

Best Master’s Programmes

As a master’s degree can help increase your employability, it’s important to look at programmes that are popular. But, note that a master’s degree requires a lot of work and unless you are dedicated and passionate about your subject you will not be able to succeed.

Below you’ll find a list of the ten best master’s programmes in the UK.

  1. Petroleum Engineering
  2. Nurse Anaesthesia
  3. Physician Assistant Studies
  4. Mathematics
  5. Political Science
  6. Marketing
  7. Healthcare Administration
  8. Computer Science
  9. Physical Therapy
  10. Information Systems

Best Universities for Master's

As Masters are more specialised than undergraduate degrees, it’s important to take great care where you attend university. A prestigious and accredited programme will open doors for you and it will aid you in finding work with a large company in the country. A not-so-prestigious programme will do nothing for you, but help you accumulate more student debt.

These are the five best universities for Masters:

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Imperial College London
  4. University College London
  5. London School of Economics and Political Science


The MBA is the most popular master degree across the world and it has a proven record of success as the majority of MBA candidates are not only employed, but they are also on the fast track route to success. An MBA can be extremely beneficial to your career so don’t hesitate to enrol if you have an affinity for business-related programmes.

Most courses include subjects like marketing, accounting and economics and as such, they provide students with a well-rounded understanding of how businesses work. Students can also choose courses that are pertinent to their own personal or professional interests. Many programmes also require students to complete an internship or a work placement at the end of the course.

It’s important to note that many courses require candidates to have some work experience so you usually will not be able to enrol to an MBA straight after your Bachelor’s degree.


Completing a master’s degree will help you become more specialised which can significantly increase your employability. However, be warned that a lot of effort and stamina are required to complete the application process, let alone the degree.

Are you interested in a master’s degree? Let me know in the comment section below.