Choosing your masters course - creating a shortlist

Written By

Think Postgrad

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to find the right masters course?

How to choose masters degree courses in the UK

If you are looking to find a postgraduate masters course it may well be in a subject area you know. This could be related to your first degree, or your current job. Perhaps the job you want to move into? That is likely to give you quite a few different options and a range of courses to choose from. So it’s important to look at the content of individual courses carefully before you make your decision. Choosing your masters course should not be left to chance.

You may go through a few stages when you start your search. An initial look at the courses locally available in your subject area and is a good place to start. At some point you need to narrow down your selection and create a shortlist of courses.

Masters degree modules – how much choice is there really?

Some masters courses in the UK offer a specific set of modules which all students follow. Others have a wide range you can choose from. Most have a set of core modules with at least some choice of additional modules. If there are modules you are particularly interested in. Check to make sure the course content is relevant to you. However, be prepared to compromise when you are choosing your masters course.

Courses reviewed annually reflect the current research and relevance of the subject. If they are closely related to a specific industry sector Universities will be mindful of resource issues. If a programme is expensive to deliver or the demand is falling it could be pulled. The most academically gifted professors may not available to teach or supervise the course. These are all factors that could effect the content of a course.

Specialist masters courses

Some specialist courses can be specific about entry requirements, looking for students who have focussed on this in some way in their first degree, or in some cases, their job. Two courses with the same name at different Universities may cover different areas of specialisation, depending on the expertise and interest of the academics. Do you want a specialist masters courses or do you need one that covers more of the discipline you are interested in?

Interdisciplinary masters course

These type of courses are great if you have a background in one area and want to expand to take in additional academic areas, for example Global Health which includes modules relating to health, sciences, and social sciences. These exist in most subjects, Arts and Humanities, Engineering through the Sciences and Social Sciences. Occasionally, when choosing a masters course is described as interdisciplinary this can refer to the range of students the course is applicable to, rather than the content offered.

Conversion courses

Despite their name, these aren’t always available to everyone. Business courses specifically aimed at engineers or scientists, or Humanities courses aimed at students who a first degree in another area of Humanities or Social Sciences. We recommend looking at the entry qualifications and the audience.

Masters courses related to the stage of your career

If you are looking at a specifically job-related masters course, it’s useful to know what career stage the course is suitable for. Check this out carefully as some may appear to be for everyone when they actually have a focus at a specific level or where most students actually attending the course are from a particular career stage. The admissions tutor or recruitment advisors will be able to clarify this point for you.


All masters course descriptions include the assessment methods applied. If you have decided that you can’t face any more exams, keep an eye out for any courses that state ‘continuous assessment’. Many masters courses include a project or a dissertation, so if you like the course but that’s not your strong point, take a look to see if you could do the course up to Postgraduate Diploma level.

Some courses use all taught elements and leave out the dissertation. You need to check the end assessment award in case you don’t get the full masters. Its very important to complete the course with all work fully assessed. This is case you are unable to see it through to the end- having recognition of your completion (rather than just proof of attendance) matters when it comes to your future career.

Internships and Placements

Some courses include some time in a company or organisation related to the course content. This often relates to a project that is part of the masters course. Some courses will expect you to find your own placement; others will have established contacts within the industry. Check out how many course alumni have been offered jobs by the companies where they did placements. It’s also a good idea to talk to course alumni about their placements via their social media.

Accreditations and required courses for career advancement

If you need a certain professional accreditation, always check the course description wording very carefully to make sure the level accreditation is correct for what you need. If in doubt, check with the University and/or the accrediting body to make sure.

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