What is master's study?

A master’s course is usually a one-year postgraduate course that is a step up from undergraduate study.

Why do people study a master’s?

There are many different reasons for studying a master’s. You might have really loved studying your subject at undergraduate level, and not be ready to give it up just yet. You might have a set career in mind that requires a master’s, or where you are more likely to be able to advance with a master’s. You might be set on applying for PhD (doctoral) study, and a master’s is required (or expected). You might be an undergraduate without a clear idea of what to do after you graduate, and be considering a master’s as a productive next step.

It's important you spend some timing thinking about exactly what you want to get out of studying for a master’s. While it is a rewarding way to spend a year, it is an investment in both time and money. If you know a master’s is required for your next step, spend some time deciding on the right course for you. If you’re not sure about whether to do a master’s, it might be worth taking some time to consider whether it is a required next step. Many people return to master’s study several years after graduating from their undergraduate degree.

How long does it last?

Most master’s courses in England last one year full-time, and some have the option for you to study it part-time over two years. Some more specialist master’s last slightly longer so it's always worth checking the details for your chosen subject before making a firm decision.

Is it much harder than undergraduate study?

Master’s level study is a step up from undergraduate, and more intense. To give you an idea, a one-year master’s course is usually 180 credits, compared to 120 credits for a full-time year of undergraduate study. Many people who go on to PhD study after a master’s consider the master’s to have been more challenging – simply due to the step up and intensity. But most students find the difficulty to be manageable with a little forward planning.

What is the difference between taught and research master’s?

Some subjects offer both taught and research options. The most common reason for studying a research master’s is as preparation for PhD study.

These are the types of master’s study in the UK:

  • MRes – one-year taught course, which may include significant lecture content and one or several research projects;
  • MPhil – one to two years, and is commonly one long research project;
  • MBA – 12–15 months full-time (usually undertaken early to mid-career once you have management experience);
  • LLM – taught master’s course in Law;
  • MLitt or MSt – another name for MA or MPhil (some universities offer this type of degree);
  • PGCE – Postgrad Certificate in Education, the qualification needed to become a teacher in the UK;
  • PGDip, PG Cert – master’s level study, without studying the full course or doing a dissertation, meaning the full master’s degree is not awarded;
  • MEng, MSci, MMath etc – integrated four year undergraduate degree offered in some sciences.

Want to find out more?

We're running a postgraduate virtual open week for prospective students interested in studying at Manchester. The event will take place from Monday, 2 to Friday, 6 November 2020 and will include live subject sessions, Q&As with current students and campus tours.

Register for your free place

If you're a current Manchester student you can:

If you’re a recent Manchester graduate, you can still access the full range of support from the Careers Service for two years after you graduate.

If you’re studying at another university, talk to your own careers service or tutor.

Hear from our staff and students

Ahsan Chaudrhy, MRes student, talks to Felicity Wicks, Sophie Coller, Dr David Allison and Eve Foster about what a master's actually is and what it might mean for you.