Choosing a postgraduate degree
You can choose from a range of postgraduate qualifications: deciding which is the best one for you will depend on your study and career objectives.
Think carefully about your particular goals and which type of degree will best help you achieve them.
Taught or research masters?
Whilst most masters programmes contain an element of both written work and field work, we define our programmes as being taught masters or masters by research. You should think carefully about what kind of study experience you are looking for.
- Curriculum-driven experiences, culminating in a period of independent work submitted as a dissertation. These are mostly MSc awards, although specialised subjects may call the award something other than an MSc. If you choose not to complete a dissertation, you may be awarded a diploma.
- Taught masters, diplomas and certificates
Masters by research
- For students who want to take a more individual, research-driven approach to their chosen subject. The programmes are designed specifically to prepare students for advanced PhD research, although not all students ultimately progress to a PhD.
- Masters by research
Specialism or conversion?
Do you need to develop a deeper understanding of a specific area of knowledge, or do you need to acquire expertise in a brand new area of study?
Most masters are designed to develop specialised knowledge or techniques in a subject you have studied at undergraduate level. Other programmes act as conversion routes, allowing you to change or develop your area of specialisation from that undertaken at undergraduate level.
Practical experience or theory and reflection?
Do you need to gain practical experience, perhaps through industry-linked projects, or would the opportunity for more theoretical reflection be of greater benefit?
Whatever your answers to these questions, there will be a masters programme to suit you. Carefully read through all the information on programme pages. You may also want to talk to a careers advisor.
If you are working towards an academic career, you may already be thinking about doctoral study. Masters by research provide a particularly strong preparation for PhD study, though some taught programmes are also designed with PhD progression in mind, so it is worth exploring your options fully.
Talk to programme directors from courses you are interested in to discuss this further.
If your career aspirations are vocational - for example, in teaching, social work or architecture - your choice will usually be prescribed by the relevant professional requirements. These degrees will have a more practical emphasis and may include work placements.
Information on industry-prescribed programmes is available from the relevant professional body and on vocational websites.
Impartial advice about postgraduate study
The "Steps to Postgraduate Study" website provides free, impartial advice and guidance on postgraduate study in the UK.
It is designed to help you identify important questions to ask yourself and universities when deciding what and where to study.