What are Masters level qualifications?

A masters degree is classified using a number of different abbreviations. This guide explains the differences between the types of masters level qualifications.

What is the difference between an MA and an MSc masters level qualification?

An MA is a Master of Arts and an MSc is a Masters of Science. Quite simply, masters degree courses that include either MA or MSc in the title. They are generally grouped in either Arts & Humanities subjects or Science subjects. Science subjects are often known as STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

There is some overlap between them. A subject such as Geography can include parts of the degree that are based around particular science disciplines. Physical geography includes the study of rock formations and erosion. Human Geography is concerned with the social impact of communities on a region.

A science subject often includes more time spent in contact hours. This is physical time spent by the student in a laboratory, or workshop, or in lectures. A typical MA Student will expect around 3 to 5 hours a week on timetabled activity. The rest of the time is spent in private study or working on assignments.

An MSc student can spend twice as much time – up to 10 contact hours working on their course in a lab or lectures. However, an MA student will be required to complete a lengthier dissertation at the end of the course to complete the programme. The amount of work between the two types of study is the same.

What is a module?

All masters level courses are made up of a series of modules. Each module is a separate subject that the student needs to study and complete – usually with an assignment or an exam.

Masters students follow the same system as undergraduate students and submit their assignments for marking. A module is marked and scored with a series of credits. Masters qualifications require a number of module credits to be completed. They are measured like this:

  • MA or MSc = 180 Credits
  • PG Dip = 120 credits
  • PG Cert = 60 credits

This means that a student can study a course at masters level but will be awarded a certificate at one of the three levels as they complete the course. A student can complete a course to 60 credits or 120 credits or 180 credits and still be successful.

PGDip vs PGCert masters level qualifications

  • A PGDip can be completed in two academic terms with modules worth 120 credits.
  • A PGCert can be completed in one term with modules worth 60 credits.

Postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) and certificates (PGCert) are often required for subjects linked to vocational careers, eg Nursing or Healthcare. Many of them are funded by employers for this reason. Individuals may find they are an excellent way to work towards a full masters degree. They are often taught via part time or distance learning styles.

Course fees are one third or two thirds of the full masters degree course. Many students finishing an undergraduate degree continue to study at university to complete a PGCert or PGDip.

A career such as Journalism often requires the completion of an NCTJ accredited course so a journalist can work in a broadcast or national media outlet. The NCTJ validates Certificate and Diploma level courses.

What is a PGCE

A PGCE is a masters level qualification qualification that requires the completion of placements in school as well as the study of theory of teaching and learning. Most PGCE qualifications offered at a university are linked to a number of schools in a region, so it is important that the student is available to attend a school placement as well as complete the academic part of the course.

Do I need a PGCE to teach in the UK?

The important component of a PGCE is that they lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) In the UK This recognised by the education providers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, making the holder eligible to teach in these countries. There are different types of PGCE qualification depending on the type of school or college the student wants to teach in. They include: -

  • Primary - prepares you to teach children up to age 11. Programmes focus on the core curriculum, although some may allow you to specialise in a certain subject. This is the most popular PGCE and demand for places is high.
  • Secondary - focuses on a particular subject and prepares you to teach children between the ages of 11 and 16.
  • Further/Adult education - if you want to teach in further education colleges or conduct adult education classes, completing one of these PGCEs means you can apply for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status rather than QTS.

What are the entry requirements for masters level qualifications

It is required that a student has achieved a 2:1 undergraduate degree plus a minimum GCSE Grade C/4 in English and Maths, and an IELTS English average score of 6.0 if the candidate does not have English as their first language.

What is an LLM?

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate qualification in law. Students who complete an LLM can be looking to build a legal career by working for a Law firm or within a legal department of a company. They can also be existing law graduates who are looking for more advanced qualifications in a specific area of the law.

An LLM is a full postgraduate degree in law and many law firms look for graduates to hire who have the degree. However, the course is not a requirement to practice law. There are specific law qualifications that are required if you want to train to become a Solicitor or a Barrister such as the LPC or GDL or CILEx qualification.

Universities that offer the LLM also include versions that focus on particular areas of the law, such as Company Law, Finance, International Business, European, Medical and Ethics, Intellectual Property, Human Rights etc.

What are the differences between an MSc and MRes degree?

A Master of Research (MRes), is a research-based postgraduate degree. It can be awarded in any academic discipline. An MRes is regarded as a steppingstone to academic research or teaching through completion of a PhD.

Research Masters’ are also usually studied full time over 12 months and many courses can offer flexible and part-time study options. Some university funded PhD’s include an MRes as part of the programme.

You’ll complete a focused and original piece of research that’s centred around your interests and this will form the basis of your dissertation or thesis. Many courses also include some taught modules that introduce specific subjects or relevant professional and research skills. An MRes in an excellent qualification if you are planning to consider a research career sometime in the future.