To begin a postgraduate degree, an undergraduate qualification is usually required. In rare circumstances where this is not the case, like an MBA or business course, a great deal of work experience relevant to the program is needed as an alternative.
Postgraduate degrees in the UK last just one year compared to two-year courses offered in other countries. You can therefore save money and time, returning to work within one year.
A study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency carried out in 2013 showed that 85 per cent of those who completed postgraduate degrees were in full-time employment following graduation, compared to 73 per cent of first degree graduates.
Types of Postgraduate degree
Taught courses generally last for just one year. Students will be assigned a tutor, and then weekly seminars and lectures will take place, divided into modules. Assessment will be via exam and/or dissertation.
Research degrees are completely different to taught degrees in that students will take much more responsibility for their work and schedule. The study is based around a substantial research project – often reaching up to 80,000 words – written as a thesis which then must be defended in an oral examination. A PhD is the most well known Research Degree.
A Master of Research (MRes) degree is designed to provide training in how to become a researcher. Containing a significantly larger research element than MA or MSc programs, an MRes may give candidates an advantage if they wish to pursue a PhD or enter a career in research. Note that some institutions may refer to MRes-style degree programs as an MSc, so it’s worth checking the course content carefully before applying.
A Master by Research (MPhil) is an advanced research-based degree which allows the candidate to focus on a particular topic in-depth and independently, to complete a single large research project. An MPhil is often seen as a precursor to a PhD, and is often used by institutions to allow students to ‘test the water’ before commencing a PhD degree program. This often takes longer to complete than other types of master’s degrees – though the length of time and the status awarded to an MPhil varies significantly depending on the country and institution.
Specialised and Professional Master’s Degrees
There are also more specialized types of master’s degrees, often focusing on a specific professional area. These are sometimes known as “tagged master’s degrees”, because they are ‘tagged’ to a certain field, or professional master’s degrees, because they focus on career development in a particular profession. Some professional master’s degrees start with the word Professional in the title, such as the Professional Science Master’s Degree (PSM), a hands-on degree with a heavy practical component giving students the skills and knowledge needed to work professionally in their chosen field.
As ever, classifications and course details will differ depending on the country and institution. Here are some of the most common examples of specialized and professional master’s degrees:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Mast of Science (MA, MSc)
- Master of Studies (MSt)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Laws (LLM)
- Master of Engineering (MEng)
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
A Master of Arts (MA) is usually awarded in disciplines categorised as arts or social sciences, such as communications, education, languages, linguistics, literature, geography, history and music. Candidates are taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, and assessed through an examination and/or a dissertation based on an independent research project.
A Master of Science (MS, MSc) is usually awarded in disciplines categorised as the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, engineering, health and statistics. Certain fields such as economics and the social sciences can fall under both arts and sciences, with the individual institution deciding on what to call their master’s degree program. In such subjects, it may be the case that the MS has a stronger research component and can be perceived to hold more weight than an MA in some industries.
Taught in only a few places (including Oxford, Cambridge, Canberra and Dublin), a Master of Studies (MSt) degree is comparable to the MA or MSc, requiring both classroom learning and the completion of a thesis and an examination. An MSt can serve as a provisional enrolment for a PhD in some cases. The need for this category of master’s degree partly stems from the fact that at the ‘Oxbridge’ universities and in Dublin, students who have completed a Bachelor of Arts are automatically awarded an MA after a defined time-period has passed. In contrast, those with an would MSt have completed postgraduate coursework to gain the title.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is designed to give students the skills and knowledge required for career progression in business and management roles. Candidates are given broad training in all aspects of business, allowing them to apply their learning to a variety of careers.
The Master of Laws degree is usually taken after having graduated from a professional law degree and gives candidates the chance to combine their knowledge of the basic skills needed to become a lawyer with specialist knowledge gained through research in a particular area of law.
The Master of Engineering degree can be either academic (with a focus on engineering theories and practice) or professional (with a focus on preparing students for work in the engineering field). While some MEng programs require students to become published in an industry journal, others involve training periods in industry or laboratories, or a combination of the two in order to graduate.
The Master of Public Health has academic and professional elements, taking an interdisciplinary approach to areas related to public health. Students are taught how to monitor, diagnose and regulate the health concerns of communities through public policies. Many MPH degree programs are specialized in areas such as epidemiology, global health, occupational health, and nutritional sciences. While some countries accept students with accredited bachelor’s degrees for the MPH, others only accept medical graduates.
Postgraduate Courses with Work Placements
The industry placement is undertaken between the taught part of the course and the individual project. Its aim is to allow students to acquire industrial experience and, especially, develop an appreciation of how the skills acquired in the taught part relate to problems in industry. If for some reason students cannot or decide not to go on a placement, they revert to the normal variant of the course and proceed immediately to the individual project.
Normally work placements are offered for a period of 6 months to a maximum of 10 months depending on the course structure.
Why study a Postgraduate degree?
- Ability to build a strong network of contacts
- Internationally recognised qualifications of the highest standard
- The majority of postgraduates earn more over the course of their career
- Improve your career prospects – certain careers require a postgraduate qualification
- Studying in the UK will improve your English, the most important language in international business
- Strong vocational foundation and good links with businesses/professional organisations
- A part-time postgraduate course means study can be shaped around your calendar
How much does a Postgraduate Degree Cost?
- Business & Management course: £7,000 – £11,000
- Accounting & Finance: £7,000 – £12,500
- Arts & Humanities courses: £9,000 – £13,000 per year
- Science courses: £9,500 – £15,000 per year
- Clinical courses: £20,000 – £24,000 per year
- MBA: £6,000 – £60,000 per year
English Language Requirements
All applicants are required to demonstrate that they have sufficient ability to understand and express themselves in both spoken and written English in order to benefit fully from their degree programme. Your chosen programme will specify one of six language ‘profiles’. You may give evidence of your ability to meet the language requirement through a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as IELTS, or you may hold other qualifications in English which also meet our requirements.
- International English Language Testing Service (IELTS)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
- Overall score of 6.0 or above, with at least 5.5 in each
- Score of 90 or higher on the TOEFL iBT or 577 or higher on the paper-based exam
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