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Master's degree

A Master's degree is an academic degree generally awarded for completion of a postgraduate course of one to two years in duration. Alternately in the UK it is awarded for an undergraduate course with an additional year consisting of higher level modules and a major project.

Table of contents
1 MA, MS, MSc
2 MEd
3 United Kingdom
4 Undergraduate Masters
5 Postgraduate Masters
6 MPhil and MRes
7 MA (Cantab.) and MA (Oxon.)
8 Scottish MA
9 Professional Master's degrees
10 See also:


The Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees are the basic type in most subjects and may be entirely course-based, entirely research-based or a mixture. The Master's degree is intermediate between a bachelor's degree and a doctorate. In some fields, one customarily earns a masters before a doctorate; in others, work on a doctorate begins immediately after a bachelor's degree.


Master of Education degrees are similar to MA, MS and MSc where the subject studied is education.

In the United States some states licence teachers with a bachelor's degree but require a master's within a set number of years as continuing education.

United Kingdom

Undergraduate Masters

(MSci, MChem, MEng, MMath, MPhys, etc.) In the
UK, many universities now have a four year undergrad programme in science courses, with a project in the final year. The awards for these are named after the subject, so a course in mathematics would earn a Master of Mathematics degree, abbreviated to MMath), or have a general title such as MSci (Master in Science at most universities but Master of Natural Sciences at Cambridge). Although these degrees reflect a higher level of achievement than the traditional bachelor's degree, they rank below postgraduate master's degrees such as MSc and MA.

Postgraduate Masters

(MSc, MA) These can either be "taught" degrees, involving lectures, examination and a short dissertation, or "research" degrees (though the latter have largely been replaced by MPhil and MRes programmes, see below). Taught masters' programmes involve 1 or 2 years full-time study. The programmes are often very intensive and demanding, and concentrate on one very specialised area of knowledge. Some universities also offer a Masters by Learning Contract scheme, where a candidate can specify his or her own learning objectives; these are submitted to supervising academics for approval, and are assessed by means of written reports, practical demonstrations and presentations.

MPhil and MRes

The Master of Philosophy is a research degree awarded for the completion of a thesis. It is a shorter version of the PhD and some universities routinely enter potential PhD students into the MPhil programme and allow them to upgrade to the full PhD programme a year or two into the course. The Master of Research degree is a more structured and organised version of the MPhil, usually designed to prepare a student for a career in research. For example, an MRes may combine individual research with periods of work placement in research establisments.

MA (Cantab.) and MA (Oxon.)

The universities of Cambridge and Oxford award automatic master's degrees to all BAs upon the passing of a certain number of years after matriculation (7 in the case of Oxford). The only real significance of these degrees is that they confer voting rights in University elections. For academic purposes, they are considered equivalent to BA/BSc degrees of other universities.

Scottish MA

Although the science faculties of Scottish universities award the BSc degree, the standard first degree in Arts faculties (at the four ancient universities) is the Master of Arts (MA). This is equivalent to a BA from an English university.

Professional Master's degrees

See also: