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How long is a master’s degree in the UK?

Exploring the prospect of undertaking a master’s degree? Part-time or full-time, taught or research, we break down everything you need to know about the time investment before you commit.

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Master’s degrees can be a brilliant way to broaden your knowledge pool. Not only do they demonstrate expertise in your chosen field, but they can provide serious advantages when it comes to progressing in your career, too. On a personal level, master’s degrees offer a great sense of achievement and fulfilment, and give you the opportunity to delve deeper into a subject you’re passionate about.

If you’re considering doing a master’s degree, you might find yourself wondering: how long does it take exactly? Our step-by-step guide will give you a comprehensive overview of master’s degrees, from the courses to consider to the time commitment that study at this level requires, so you can make the most informed decision about your academic future. Read on to find out about online degree options and much more.

What is a master’s degree?

A master’s degree is a Level 7 academic qualification, which can be obtained following the completion of an undergraduate programme. Typically worth 180 academic credits, it’s designed for students who are interested in gaining specialised knowledge in specific subject areas that range all the way from English literature to electrical engineering.

Master’s degrees represent a higher level of expertise in a particular field in comparison to a bachelor’s degree, and are typically rewarded after the submission of a dissertation or thesis that showcases your expertise in your chosen discipline. They are also a great launching pad for those considering doing a PhD further down the line.

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How do I apply?

You can apply to a master’s degree programme by:

  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject
  • Writing a compelling personal statement that explains your motivation for studying your chosen programme
  • Submitting references and academic transcripts 

How much does a master’s degree cost?

Typically taking around one or two years to complete, a master’s degree has an average cost of between £9,000 and £10,500 per year for tuition and fees. It’s important to note that some programmes will require that students pay for additional costs such as textbooks, general supplies and living expenses.

How long does a master’s degree take in the UK?

But how long does it actually take? The completion time hinges on a number of factors – we’ve broken them down below so you can make the most informed decisions about what would work best for you. 

What factors affect the length of a master’s degree?

The time commitment is dependent on several different factors. Prospective students should consider the programme’s curriculum, structure and requirements, as well as personal commitments, before deciding which master’s programme is the best fit for them.

Part-time or full-time? 

The first factor to consider is whether you would like to study on a part-time or full-time programme – which one you choose may be guided by your employment or personal commitments. When studying in the UK, you can choose between two course structures: part-time and full-time.

Full-time programmes typically take between one and two years to complete – around half the time of a part-time programme. Full-time study is ideal for those who are able to commit to a more involved academic schedule.

Part-time programmes can take anywhere between two and four years to complete. They’re the perfect solution for prospective students who want to undertake a degree but may have other commitments outside of their studies. 

Taught or research?

Another important factor to consider is the teaching method of the programme you’re interested in. In the UK, master’s degrees fall into two main categories:

Taught programmes

Postgraduate taught programmes (PGT) follow a similar format to undergraduate degrees and are typically taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and assignments. These programmes are guided by an academic but still involve a lot of independent study. Taught master’s degrees are usually designed to take one year to complete when studying full-time. 

Examples of taught programmes are:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MSc)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)

Research programmes

Postgraduate research programmes (PGR) are much more independent than taught master’s degrees. These programmes have little to no timetabled study and are instead centred around one or more extended research projects, which are much more self-guided than taught programmes. 

Given the more flexible nature of research master’s degrees, the time it takes to complete is dependent on the length of research undertaken, though the majority of programmes take one to two years to complete.

Examples of research programmes are:

  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  • Master of Research (MRers)

Which subject?  

Your chosen subject can also affect the amount of time it takes to complete a master’s degree. Subjects such as humanities, law, and arts usually take around one year of full-time study, while some more involved courses like an MA in Social Work have a longer lead time to allow students to complete the required work experience.

At FutureLearn, there is a wealth of potential subjects to study at master’s degree level, including:

How long does an online master’s degree take?

Online master’s degrees are a brilliant option for prospective students who need (or want) the flexibility of off-campus study, while still gaining the same expertise as their on-campus counterparts. At FutureLearn, online study is made easy through flexible courses provided by leading universities in the UK and worldwide. 

Advances in the academic system mean that today, online courses offer just as much valuable knowledge, career development and personal fulfilment as in-person study, all while offering enhanced accessibility, flexibility and convenience.

Do master’s degrees take longer than on-campus degrees?

The short answer is: no! In fact, while traditional on-campus master’s degrees often follow a predetermined timetable, online master’s degrees allow you the flexibility to learn at a pace that works for you and organise your workload around your other commitments. The average length of an online master’s programme is one to two years. 

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Kickstart your master’s degree journey with FutureLearn

By taking the time to read about master’s degrees and how long they take, you’ve already taken the first step in investing in your future. For an even more extensive deep dive, our guide to master’s degrees covers everything you need to know about entry requirements, professional prospects and choosing the right programme for you.

Whether you want to future-proof your career, become an expert in your field or simply satisfy your thirst for knowledge, online master’s degrees with FutureLearn offer a flexible and social learning experience for students around the world.

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