They are a popular choice among postgraduate students, but what do MSc degrees involve and what are the funding options?
Find an MSc course
MSc courses cover a range of subjects and are available to study at a variety of universities. With so many programmes to choose from, finding a course and making a decision can be overwhelming. To make sure you pick a course that's right for you, start your research by searching for a relevant MSc.
What is an MSc?
The Master of Science, more commonly known as the MSc, is the standard Masters qualification for taught courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
MSc courses give students the chance to specialise and focus on a particular area of interest in more detail, and are particularly suited to those who work well with quantitative analysis and technical methods.
Typically one to two years in length if studied full time, courses consist of individual modules, followed by an independent study (dissertation) project. Part-time programmes are available, but be aware that they're usually double the length of a full-time course.
The qualification is awarded to those studying 'hard science' subjects, but it can also be awarded to those studying a variety of technology, engineering, maths, medicine and social science courses.
For example, MSc subjects include:
- conservation studies
- cyber security
- data analysis
- food science
- forensic psychology
- global finance
- human nutrition
- international relations
- mechanical engineering
- professional accounting
- real estate
- social work
- software engineering
- sports therapy
To find out more about Masters level qualifications, see what is a Masters degree?
Difference between MA and MSc
While an MSc concerns itself primarily with STEM subjects and social sciences, the Master of Arts (MA) focuses on arts and humanities subjects. Some social science courses also fall under the MA umbrella, depending on the focus and content of the programme. There is no difference in terms of level of study or prestige.
MA subjects include:
- creative writing
- graphic design
- language studies
For entry onto the majority of MSc courses you'll generally need a 2:1 or higher at undergraduate level. You don't necessarily need to have studied a Bachelor of Science (BSc) - as opposed to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) - but you will need to have studied a relevant subject.
It may be possible for you to study an MSc with a lower class undergraduate degree but it's likely that you'll need significant work experience under your belt. Speak to you university's admissions department to find out more.
There are a number of funding options available to Masters students looking to lessen the financial load.
If you're studying a taught or research Masters degree at a UK university, or by distance learning, then you may be entitled to a postgraduate loan. For courses starting in the 2018/19 academic year you can get a loan of up to £10,609 to put towards tuition fees, study costs and living expenses.
Other funding options include:
- Research Council funding
- Employer sponsorship
- Professional and Career Development Loan
- Working while studying
Specific MSc funding may also be available from your university in the form of scholarships and bursaries. For example, Cranfield School of Management offers the Santander MSc Scholarship, Sheffield University Management School provides scholarships for students taking an MSc in Global Marketing Management, and the University of Edinburgh offers an MSc Education Scholarship.
Distance learning MSc
One of the benefits of postgraduate study is its flexibility. If full or part-time study isn't for you, there are different modes of study available to suit different circumstances.
For example, you could study for a distance learning MSc, which involves learning remotely, usually from home. Lectures, tutorials and assessments take place online, making this mode of study particularly flexible. Unsurprisingly, distance learning Masters are popular with working professionals, those juggling family commitments, mature students and those living in geographically remote areas.
Despite not physically attending university you're still supported by an assigned tutor, who will help to keep you motivated and on track.
MSc degree apprenticeship
If you'd like to achieve an MSc degree but don't think studying full time at university is the right environment for you, there are a number of MSc degree apprenticeships on offer.
Degree apprenticeships enable you to gain a university qualification while working and earning a wage. A range of institutions and employers offer MSc degree apprenticeship opportunities, including:
- Chartered Management Institute (CIM) - Senior Leader Masters Degree Apprenticeship.
- Kaplan - Accountancy and Taxation Level 7 Apprenticeship.
- Manchester Metropolitan University - Digital and Technology Solutions Masters Degree Apprenticeship.
- University of Sunderland - MSc Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship.