Taught Masters Courses

There is a wide variety of masters qualifications and courses, but the most common are MA and MSc.

Common Masters Course Qualifications
An MA (Master of Arts) is usually studied in disciplines relating to the arts, humanities and some social sciences, and an MSc (Master of Science) is usually studied in disciplines relating to the sciences. MSc courses are also common in some management and social science related disciplines.

If you find a department is offering both MA and MSc courses in similar subjects, it is important to clarify where the differences lie and decide which is most appropriate for you.

Other possible masters qualifications often relate to a specific discipline or specialism, for example MBA (Masters in Business Administration), LLM (Master of Laws), MMus (Master of Music), or MOrth (Master of Orthodontics).

Masters Courses Structure, Teaching and Assessment
The structure of a taught master's programme varies from course to course, and from university to university: courses with similar titles can have very different structures, content, teaching and assessment methods.

Teaching can be delivered through seminars, classes, tutorials and supervised laboratory work. Assessment can range from examinations, vivas, assessed projects, group work or course work, and the weighting of different elements will vary between courses.

Some courses, particularly arts and social science programmes, require your active participation in seminars and discussions: if you are shy, prefer to listen, or if your spoken English is not as good as your written English, you may prefer a course which places less emphasis on this kind of group discussion.

Many taught courses include some form of research project or dissertation, and are therefore not entirely 'taught'. Some offer a choice of some modules or courses but others have a 'set menu' that all students have to follow.

Masters courses in the UK are usually studied for one year full time or two years part time, but some courses are only offered as full time or part-time options, and occasionally courses may be longer, particularly if they are offered as part time courses or by distance learning.

Is this Masters Course right for me?
All universities in the UK offering masters programmes should make clear in their promotional material (prospectuses, websites etc) who the course is aimed at, as well as the entry requirements. Often, they will tell you what students completing the course have gone on to do.

You may be looking for a specialist course, or an interdisciplinary course where the range of experience of the student body is an important factor, or a conversion course, or the first step in a research career. It is important to clarify who and what the course is intended for if you have specific plans for your future. If you are thinking about progressing to a PhD, it is important to make sure that your masters course provides suitable grounding for doctoral study.

As well as all the other factors you will need to take into account, there is also the question of cost and there is almost as much variety in the cost of masters courses as there is in style and content. Higher fees tend to be charged on specialist courses or on courses from Universities with a particularly good reputation: if you are deciding between different courses with different fees, think about what you are actually paying for and whether it is worth paying extra for a specialist course, or for the name of the University on your CV.

ThinkPostgrad: a masters course is a major investment, academically, personally, professionally and financially, so make sure you know what you want to get out of a course, decide on your priorities, research a variety of different options and ask questions before applying. Although it may be tempting to choose a course simply because it has funding available, if it's not the right course for you, you may end up saving money but wasting time.

You can start looking now for Masters opportunities with funding on PostgraduateStudentships, or for courses in your subject area on MastersCompare.