Master of Science - What is a MSc?

So you’ve heard of a Master of Science degree (or an MSc, as you may have seen it abbreviated to), but what exactly is one? And, more importantly – how do you go about getting one of them enabling you to put those three letters after your name?


A Masters of Science degree is a masters degree in a scientific subject. It’s worth researching which subjects the universities you want to apply to consider scientific – whilst physics will almost certainly always be an MSc, other subjects like psychology will vary from place to place. An MSc is a postgraduate level qualification, and you can either get it for doing a four year course (the BSc and MSc in one go) or a single year course after completing your undergraduate course.

How to Get a Masters of Science Degree

But now we have to ask the important question – how do you get a Master of Science degree? Firstly, you need a relevant undergraduate subject. Unlike MAs, you should probably have one in the direct area – of course there are a few crossovers for example Biochem being open to both biologists and chemists, but more often your undergraduate degree should be in the subject you want to do postgraduate study in. Let’s say you don’t have a degree – is there any way you can do a masters degree? Well, if you have enough years of experience in a relevant work area, then yes. Let’s say you’ve worked in a lab for the past few years and now want to consolidate your knowledge. It may be possible to get on a Master of Science degree program, although you’ll have to check with individual universities.

Master of Science Degree Format

The next bit of advice apply to anyone studying a Master of Science degree course, regardless of whether it’s integrated or not.

To become a Master of Science (MSc) you’ll have to study for a year full time (or two years part time). It’ll be a taught course involving all the things you’re familiar with from undergraduate years - lectures, tutorials, classes, and so on. Over the course of this year you’ll need to get 180 points of credit, 60 of which will come from your thesis. You’ll therefore have to choose your other modules (not forgetting the core ones!) with this in mind. These modules will usually be assessed by examination, though depending on which subject there may also be essay work involved too. You may want to research the requirements in advance, just to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Now you just need to keep on working, attend regular classes and lectures, and make sure you get the work done! You’ll find there are things that differ from your undergraduate course – the potential to attend conferences, for one – but these won’t necessarily affect you gaining your degree.

And that’s how you get a Master of Science degree. Breaking it down here makes it sound easy but it’s a lot of work that you need to be well prepared for. And it’s not just the degree that’s a lot of work – the application stage can be too, so make sure you leave enough time. If you want more advice, check out our guide on masters degrees.

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