Here’s everything you need to know before you apply for a master’s programme.
Coming up to the end of your bachelor’s degree? Or did you graduate a while back and you’re thinking of giving a master’s degree a go? It’s an exciting time to think about one, but it can be super daunting with all the options out there too.
You need to consider what a master’s degree will actually look like, if it’s the right thing to do for your career path and whether you feel it’s worth it.
So to help you out, we’re going to discuss all things master’s degree related to help you make an informed decision.
What is a master’s degree?
A master’s degree is a step up from a bachelors degree. In the UK it’s also known as a level 7 qualification. It involves very intense study in a particular discipline and is more challenging than a master’s. Bear in mind however that the Scottish Master of Arts (MA) is a bachelors, not a master’s.
They’re a qualification that requries some serious thought before undertaking, because fees are much higher. It’s worth researching your options and even looking into part-time study.
Master’s vs Bachelor’s degree
A master’s degree typically runs for one to three years. One year of full-time study is equivalent to 180 credits. it depends on the discipline you choose. An undergraduate or bachelors degree has 360 credits in total, meaning one year is equivalent to about 180 credits.
The main differences between a master’s and bachelor’s are:
They’re focused on one particular area of a wider subject, giving students a greater amount of specialist knowledge and increase their job prospects
It’s more flexible in terms of modules and study options, as students can elect which additional modules they wish to study (one of our master’s student contributors shows you how to up your study game in your master’s degree)
A master’s degree is more intense and is studied at a faster pace
Class sizes are smaller, meaning more one-on-one time with tutors and peers
While still expensive, they’re cheaper than a bachelors degree
How long is a master’s degree in the UK?
Full-time master’s degrees usually involve one or two years of study, while part-time programmes last between two and four years.
Is a master’s degree worth it?
A master’s degree is worth doing if you need to:
Specialise in an area of study in order to work in the field
Aid in a career change
Help you gained chartered status (think psychology, medical and engineering degrees)
Help you gain industry experience if the programme offers a placement.
We get how this may be a little vague, especially if you’re at the start of your master’s research journey. You may be thinking about job prospects after a master’s, which course you should do, if it’ll actually advance your career and so much more.
Will a master’s degree help get me a job?
It can certainly help, but no amount of qualifications will automatically grant a job.
However, according th the Graduate labour market statistics 2020, 78.4% of postgraduates were placed in highly skilled employment, compared to 66% who were graduates.
Overall though, Graduates and postgraduates continue to have higher employment rates than non-graduates. However, employment rates across the board, including non-graduates were slightly lower in 2020 compared to 2019. We can only assume part of this was due to the pandemic. It’s worth noting these numbers were based on a working population (16-64 year-olds).
It’s common knowledge that practical work experience, even if it’s voluntary, will increase your job prospects. It’s safer to have a well-rounded CV with qualifications and practical experience than to purely rely on qualifications alone. Online jobs for students are a great place to start if you’re struggling to find a job in the field or need additional support when undertaking an internship.
Should I do a master’s?
A master’s degree could be what sets you apart from the rest of the crowd. It could give you the competitive edge you need, especially if you’re going for a niche or specialist job. Employees are always looking for candidates who have something else to them, so if you’ve got experience and a master’s you’re definitely going to increase your chances.
If you’re after a promotion in your current job, or your employer offers to fund a master’s degree, then it’ll vastly increase your prospects. It can show your willingness to advance in your role and be an expert in your field. Just be absolutely sure this is something you want to do, as some employers may ask you to pay if you quit the course part-way through.
Or, perhaps you don’t want to pursue the subject you studied at undergraduate level. Fortunately, a taught master’s can be a gateway to making your career change.
What is a taught master’s degree?
A taught master’s degree is usually around 12 months full-time (or 24 months part-time). They’re similar to a bachelors degree in that they are delivered and assessed through a series of taught modules. You’ll be assessed through your own independent research in the specialised subject area as well as exams and assignments.
They’re fantastic for increasing your subject knowledge in an area you’ve always been curious about but don’t have the undergrad qualification for.
I got a 2:2 can I still do a master’s?
It’s still possible. Typically though, you’ll need a minimum of a 2:1 to gain entry onto a Master’s program.
Those with a 2:2, a third, or no undergraduate degree at all may be considered provided they have appropriate professional experience. This could be done through professional employment, volunteering, internships and other qualifications relevant to the discipline.
It’s always worth contacting the admissions department if you don’t meet the criteria to ask if you could be admitted onto a course. Special circumstances are always taken into consideration.
But if you’re worried your 2:2, 3rd or lack-of degree may affect your chances of acceptance or even gaining postgraduate funding, then dear not. Needs-based funding is still available and doesn’t rely on your qualifications gained.
Can I take a master’s without speaking English?
Do you have a degree already? Are you an international student but your first language isn’t English? You’ll need to take into account your English proficiency test for most degrees in the UK. This is so you can understand the subject being taught and keep up with classes and assignments.
You can provide proof of language proficiency through an IELTS, TOEFL, PTE or Cambridge English Language assessment score.
What master’s should I do?
Finding which master’s degree to do is challenging. We can’t tell you the exact subject you should study, but we can tell you about all of the factors to consider when applying for one:
Support (study and financial)
Length of study
Flexible study options
Everything above is what you need to think about, however one of the top things people wonder is how to afford a master’s degree.
Most unis offer scholarships and bursaries for master’s students, which are awarded for academic excellence and demonstrable potential for outstanding research. Like we say, you don’t necessarily need an undergraduate degree for some of the funding options and it’s always worth speaking to the admissions team about this.
Subject matter is down to your goals, hopes and dreams. But the above will give you direction on which universities you should consider applying to. We also recommend attending the open days to get a much better idea of what the courses entail, what the tutors are like and to generally get a vibe of the place.
Think you’ll do a master’s? Are you on a master’s degree and want to give some advice? Tweet us!