The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Guide to a Master of Arts - what you need to know

We tell you everything you need to know about studying a Master of Arts as a European student


A master of Arts (MA) is a postgraduate degree awarded by a university. Those admitted to this degree are normally taught Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and sometimes Business and Law. Though it depends on the course, a master of science will typically require a written thesis. If you are interested in applying for a Master of Arts, we have created a little guide to help you on the way. Good luck!


What can I study?


There is a wide-range of subject you can choose to study when you embark on your Master of Arts. . Here are just some examples: philosophy, theology, education, human resources, history, geography, philology, social and political sciences or fine arts. Finding the perfect master's programme for you can be a time-consuming task, but you should view it as an investment in your future. You can search for different Maters of Science courses here to get you started. The most popular countries for studying a MA are the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France and Switzerland.


Who can study a master of science?


A bachelor's degree is normally required for admission to a master's degree programme. You do not have to have overly similar bachelor programmes and master programmes, and many uses their master to specialise in a certain field. Master's lessons often enhance the teachings of undergraduate programs. The average time to complete a master's degree programme is one or two years after the completion of a bachelor's degree (read article on master's degrees).


How is it taught?


As with most Master's programmes, students are expected to do a lot of self-studying and research. A big project, sometime preferred to as a thesis will take up a lot of time in the programme and may last for a few months to a year. Once the data is assembled, students will be analyse their findings and present them in a written thesis (dissertation). Master's degree programmes may be either coursework-based, research-based, or a combination of the two. You will be assessed on examinations, research and occasionally group tasks. 


Variations across the world

Master of Arts degrees in certain disciplines might be offered as Master of Philosophy or Master of Science degrees in other countries. For instance, Philosophy graduate students will typically receive an MA upon graduation. However, in countries such as  UK, Canada, Norway, Hong Kong, Spain, Malaysia and Australia, they will be offered a Master of Philosophy degree. Another example is the Master of Arts in Law that is offered in some countries, sometime as an alternative to the more conventional Master of Laws.


What happens next?

A MA degree can allow students to advance in a career of their choice, giving them more depth and gravitas. A Master of Arts degree provides professional entry level competence, and usually a higher salary than a plain bachelor's degree. Many also see their master's degree as a passage way to a Ph.D. programme. It is also quite normal to do both -  spend a few years working and then go on to do a Ph.D. A Master of Science (see other article) graduate are however more likely to go on and do a PhD, than Master of Arts graduates.

Search for a course

Choose a country
About Author


Anette Lien is a recent journalism graduate and an avid traveller. Hailing from a small town in Norway, she went on to study in India before settling down in London, UK. She has previously worked for a local newspaper, at various music websites and as an Expedia blogger. When she is not travelling, or writing about travelling, she enjoys going to small gigs with quirky, underground bands.