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What is an MSC degree? Master of Science guide

Discover the postgraduate degree that’s worth pursuing if you’re looking to gain practical and technical skills for a career in STEM.

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With a wealth of online degrees to consider, choosing the right postgraduate course to enhance your skills or to move into a new career can feel overwhelming. Studying for a master’s degree online will help you take your passion for a subject to new heights and open up a world of job opportunities.

An MSc, or Master of Science degree, opens the doors to cutting-edge scientific and technological industries, such as cyber security and machine learning. This article will help you understand what MSc degrees are, what they typically involve, and whether enrolling in one is the right choice for you. 

What is an MSc degree?

An MSc is a Master of Science degree in STEM – science, engineering, technology and mathematics. It also includes closely related science-based subjects, including medicine and healthcare. 

Many MSc degrees fall within what are sometimes referred to as ‘hard science’ subjects, including physics, chemistry, and biology. However there are also a vast range of more specific topics and programmes, for example, an MSc in Public Health and Behavioural Changes or an MSc in Global Food Security and Nutrition. 

What does MSc stand for?

MSc stands for Master of Science, and is one of several types of master’s degrees. A master’s degree is an advanced qualification designed for students who want to deepen the knowledge or skills they learnt at undergraduate level or through professional experience. It is a Level 7 postgraduate qualification within the National Qualifications Framework (above a bachelor’s degree but below a doctorate) and is taught by most universities worldwide. The USA equivalent is known as an MS degree.

Online Degree

MSc Computer Science

  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

What makes an MSc different from other master’s degrees?

A MSc degree focuses on science-based subjects and is typically studied by those who have achieved an undergraduate degree in a related field. Those who choose to study for a MSc often have a specific set of practical and technical skills they want to obtain, with a future career in mind.

What’s the difference between an MSc and an MA?

An MA is another type of master’s degree, and stands for Master of Arts, which includes studies in humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. When studying for an MA, the teaching methodology will often focus on carrying out research, taking part in discussions, and critical essay-writing, whereas an MSc is more likely to require data analysis, lab work, and scientific research. 

There can be some crossover between MScs and MAs, as universities select their programme titles themselves and sometimes provide both types of degree. Read the course information carefully to be sure you have chosen the degree title and type that best suits your interests and ambitions.

As a general rule, studying for an MSc gives you a technical skill set for a specific career, whereas an MA in linguistics, sociology, or theatre, for example, can prepare you for a wide variety of future occupations.

What other master’s degrees are there?

You can also study for other qualifications at master’s level, such as an MBA (Master of Business Administration), MPhil (Master of Philosophy), MRes (Master of Research) and many others. 

When deciding if an MSc is the right choice for you, it’s important to consider what type of study will suit you best (research, technical, professional, and so on) and what outcome you are aiming for in terms of future study or career. 

How long is an MSc degree?

It can take as little as a year if you study for an MSc degree full-time, or up to three years if you are studying part-time. A 100% online master’s degree gives you the flexibility to learn at your own pace in your own time. 

Why study for an MSc?

The demand for skills in science, technology, engineering, and maths is growing worldwide. Although the UK Government recently set out an ambition to make the UK a ‘Science Superpower’, there is an ongoing shortage of STEM skills. It’s suggested that an additional 150,000 researchers and technicians will be needed by 2030 to sustain the UK’s ambitions for research and development. 

An MSc could help you capitalise on the increase in demand and pursue exciting career opportunities in both the UK and overseas, which could open the door to international travel. 

How do I get an MSc degree? 

The entry requirements for an MSc vary from course to course. Universities are often looking for a 2:1 or higher at undergraduate level in a relevant subject. 

Am I eligible if I don’t have a bachelor’s degree?

If you have a lower-class undergraduate degree or experience of working in your desired field of study, but you don’t have a university qualification, you may still be eligible to apply for an MSc. You’ll need to show strong evidence of your knowledge, skills, and capabilities when writing your master’s personal statement.

Can I study for an MSc online?

All FutureLearn MSc degrees can be studied 100% online, either full-time or part-time. Studying online is a flexible choice if you need to tailor learning to fit around your current commitments. It also means you can achieve your learning goals at any stage in life, whether you’re at the start of your career and want to up-skill to open up more opportunities, or to help you stay at the top of your game in your current profession.

Online Degree

MSc Business Psychology

  • 1 year+
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Can I study for an MSc if English isn’t my first language? 

If you’re an EU or international non-native English speaker, you’ll probably be required to have an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of 6.5. This demonstrates that you have an effective command of the English language, meaning you can take part in all elements of the MSc course and achieve the best results.

What does an MSc degree course involve?

As an MSc student, you’ll predominantly be learning through research and analysis, although this may differ from course to course. The focus of many MSc programmes is on problem solving and creating innovative solutions to complex problems. 

Studying for an MSc will boost your efficiency and organisation, equip you with technical, design, and manufacturing competencies, as well as develop your creative and analytical skills. On many courses, you’ll also learn how to apply these skills practically in a business or industry setting.

Is an MSc degree worth the cost?

There is currently a high demand for people with knowledge of STEM subjects, especially as roles in AI and data science become more prominent in industries like technology, engineering, and medicine. An MSc is a great way to prepare yourself for a future career in these fast-moving sectors. 

If you are yet to jump into the world of work, an MSc also gives you a good understanding of what a career in your chosen field will involve. Through research projects, lab work, and technical training, you’ll gain a greater insight into day-to-day responsibilities than you would as an undergraduate.

An online degree course will also give you the opportunity to learn from world-leading academics and sector experts, while getting to know your peers and learning from each other along the way. 

Here are some more reasons to study for an MSc:

  • Benefit from flexible online study that fits around your lifestyle
  • Experience a new university with access to world-leading experts and specialists
  • Make valuable connections with prospective employers through placements during your course
  • Increase your salary and access more senior-level opportunities 
  • Help you prepare for a role in management or for work in a more complex team
  • Change your career pathway and open up future possibilities in the UK and abroad

How much does an MSc cost?

Most MSc degrees have a UK and International fee, with the latter typically being higher. The admissions team of the university you are applying to may carry out a fee assessment to determine which fee is applicable. According to UCAS, the average postgraduate fee is £11,000. Another benefit of online degrees is that online options tend to be cheaper than traditional MSc degrees.

You could be eligible for a loan of up to £10,000 from the UK government to use towards your tuition fees, living costs, or other costs associated with your studies. There are other sources of funding you may be able to access too, such as scholarships, UK Research Councils, and charitable trusts.

Online Degree

MSc Data Science and Analytics

  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Final Thoughts

If you like research and statistical work and have a specific interest in a STEM subject that you’ve previously studied or worked in, then an online MSc degree is definitely a path worth pursuing. Take the first step towards transforming your career and check out our flexible online degrees today.

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