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Masters of Science (MSc) - The Complete Guide

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 how do you get an MSc degree? 

A Master of Science (MSc) degree is a great choice for anybody looking to explore a scientific, technology or mathematics topic in more detail, and will prepare you for a range of careers.


What is an MSc?

What is an MSC?A Masters of Science degree is a masters degree in a scientific, mathematical or technology based subject. An MSc is studied after the completion of an undergraduate degree, usually in a similar STEM-related field. 

An MSc is a postgraduate level qualification that can be completed either across a one year course following your undergraduate degree, or a four year course that integrates your BSc and MSc into one study program. Sometimes, MSc programs can be two years long depending on the university and course.

Most Master of Science degrees are taught based, rather than research based, meaning the program material will be delivered mostly via lectures, seminars and tutorials. The equivalent qualification for Arts and Humanities subjects is the Master of Arts (MA)

Which subjects are covered in Masters of Science?

Master of science programs centre around science, technology, engineering, mathematics and some social sciences subjects

This can include subjects in the areas of chemistry, physics, biology, software engineering, statistics, and many more. An MSc provides the opportunity to study a STEM subject in more detail, allowing students to choose a specific area of study that they’d like to pursue from their undergraduate degree. 

For instance, if you studied biology at undergraduate level, you may want to study microbiology as a Master of Science.

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.

Here are some of the most common MSc degrees:


How to get a Master of Science degree?

In order to get an MSc degree, you will usually need to have completed a relevant BSc undergraduate subject. Ideally, you should have an undergraduate qualification in the direct area of your intended Master of Science subject. 

Of course, there are a few crossovers, for example Biochem is open to both biologists and chemists. But in most cases when applying for an MSc course, your undergraduate degree should be in the subject you want to do postgraduate study in.

In some cases, you may be accepted onto the MSc program with a less directly relevant undergraduate degree, for instance, if you have a Bachelor of Arts degree rather than a Bachelor of Science degree. 

This can depend on the type of degrees in question, and which university you attend. Many institutions offer MSc conversion courses for students who want to study in a new discipline.

Entry requirements

Most Master of Science programs will require a qualification of 2.1 or higher at undergraduate level.

Some MSc programs will allow entry to students without an undergraduate degree or with a lower grade, although ultimately this depends on the university and the specific course requirements. 

If you don’t have an undergraduate degree, you may be able to study an MSc if you have enough years of experience in a relevant work area. For example, if you have worked in a laboratory for the past few years and now want to consolidate your knowledge.

It is always best to check the specific course requirements before you get started with a Master of Science. 

Master of Science degree format

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

How long is a Master of Science degree?

Full-time Master of Science (MSc) programs are usually a year, or two years long. Part-time MScs are usually two years, or three years long. 

The length of a Master of Science programme can vary depending on the subject, the university institution and even across countries. In the UK, a Master of Science is typically completed across a 12 month period. 

In total, this is shorter than the three years it usually takes to complete a BSc, although the academic year itself is longer - spanning 12 months rather than nine months at undergraduate.

In Europe, MScs are often longer than one year. European Master of Science programs can take one and a half to two years to fully complete, and students will often complete summer placements in between study years.

If you are interested in studying a shorter MSc, check out Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas. These are shorter equivalents of masters degrees that let you develop skills and expertise in a subject at postgraduate level, without requiring a dissertation.

MSc teaching methods

Your MSc will be a taught course involving all the things you’re familiar with from undergraduate years – lectures, tutorials and classes. Many MSc subjects will also include practical laboratory work and demonstrations.

A Master of Science will include similar teaching aspects from your undergraduate degree, although you’ll be expected to work much more independently and develop your own ideas during assignments and your dissertation.

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.

How many credits is an MSc worth? 

Over the course of a year, an MSc is worth 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.

Funding a Masters of Science course

There are several ways to fund a master of science (MSc) course. 

If you are studying a master of science degree at a UK university, you may be eligible for a government funded postgraduate loan. This provides masters students with up to £11,836 (for 2022/23 entry) towards their tuition and maintenance fees. 

Whilst most MSc students fund their studies using government funding, there are other ways to get funding. These include:


Postgrad study bursaries

Where can I study an MSc?

The Master of Science is the standard masters qualification for STEM subjects, and is widely recognised across almost all universities and countries.

Master of Science degrees are common across UK, Europe and USA universities. 

This means that there are a huge range of universities, locations and subjects to choose from when deciding which MSc to study. It will be fairly easy to find an MSc course in another country if you plan on studying abroad.

Career prospects

Completing a Master of Science degree will provide you with specialised knowledge and skills in your chosen field. This can increase your chances of being employed, since you’ll have gained valuable knowledge and experience during your studies. 

Many jobs will employ candidates specifically with MSc qualifications if they see this as being relevant to the role. For some STEM careers, an MSc is a necessary requirement. For example, many careers in science will require a masters 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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