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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Postgraduate degree choices

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You might have already put some thought into studying at postgraduate level, but you may not know which course you want to do and where this may lead you in the future. To help with this decision, we’ve outlined the types of master’s qualifications you can pursue. We’ve also taken a look at the most popular courses at postgraduate level to provide you with some inspiration.


Master of Arts (MA)

This degree is awarded in disciplines such as art and social sciences including languages, linguistics, communications, history, geography and many more. During this master’s degree you may be required to write a dissertation and attend lectures and seminars.


Master of Science (MSc)

This qualification can be applied to courses in. With this type of postgraduate course, you’ll be able to focus on specific topics in more detail than at undergraduate level. With a duration of one to two years of study, students focus mainly on using quantitative research methodology to inform their work.


Research Masters (MRes)

A research-taught master’s degree can be applied to all subjects and refers to research-led learning. If you want to gain a masters but work best when conducting your own independent research, this might be the right choice for you.


Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

Want to start your own business or have an entrepreneurial spirit? Completing an MBA qualification should stand you in good stead. This accreditation is widely respected, training students in leadership, marketing, finance and other skills related to business administration. As these courses are highly desirable, they can also be very competitive. When applying for an MBA, you will also be expected to have relevant experience which is why classes tend to be predominantly comprised of mature students.  


Master’s in Management (MIM)

Studying this course will provide you with essential skills in economics, accounting and general business acumen. Unlike an MBA, an MIM is just a year-long course and is generally much cheaper, which tends to be a deciding factor for many students. You also don’t need to have industry experience, unlike when applying for an MBA course. MIM’s also have a more theoretical approach to the subject matter than MBA’s.


Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

An advanced form of a postgraduate degree which involves just independent research and a thesis project. This type of qualification is often likened to a PhD due to the course structure and lack of taught modules. To be accepted onto an MPhil programme, you will need a bachelor’s degree and potentially another master’s degree. In most cases, you will also be required to hand in a research proposal as part of your application.


If you’re unsure about any of the above requirements you can contact universities and ask directly about specific questions you may have.


We’ve done some extensive research and were able to find out what the most popular subjects to study at this level were. We naturally can’t cover all bases in this article, but we’ve explored some of the courses that you can study under each of the top fields to help you in your quest of finding a master’s course.


1. Health and Medicine

As the most popular subject area among postgraduate students, we’ll first take a look at why health and medicine courses are so desirable. Many students pursue a career in this industry for the employment prospects, which sits at 97 per cent of graduates finding work after graduation. Additionally, professions in this field offer some of the highest average starting salaries at GBP 31,000 per year in the UK (HESA 2016/17) within three years of graduating. Of course, this differs depending on the country you work in, but employees in this profession consistently remain in high demand around the world.



Food Science and Nutrition (MSc)

After completing this course, you will be eligible to apply for a certificate to become a nutritionist. You will cover topics such as human nutrition, healthy eating and essential topics relating to food and health. To be accepted onto a course such as this, you will need to have studied a science degree at undergraduate level with an emphasis on biology. Entry requirements will vary according to each university, so make sure you check the necessary grades and language scores needed before applying. You can browse the entry requirements per institution using our search tool.


Psychology (MA)

You can study psychology as either an MA or MSc depending on your study preference. Using the guidelines above, you can see that an MA is more theoretical whereas an MSc focuses on research and science. The average cost of tuition for this course will vary depending on the institution and country you have chosen. Browse psychology courses and find out more about fees and requirements.


Cancer Biology (MRes)

This course is research-focused, indicated by the accreditation MRes. Many students choose to continue their interest in this subject to PhD level after completing this master’s programme. With a heavy emphasis on research, graduates may enter research-specific roles within the field of science.



2. Applied and Pure Sciences

Encompassing a range of disciplines, applied and pure sciences is the umbrella term referring to subjects such as biology, physics and chemistry. Typical professions include environmental scientists, forensic specialists and geneticists. The following courses are examples of areas to specialise in when choosing a masters.


Environmental Engineering (MSc)

To be eligible for an environmental engineering postgraduate degree, you will, in most cases, need to have previously studied some form of engineering at undergraduate level. However, speak to the university as they may allow you to enroll having studied a different undergraduate course. Typical professions following this course include becoming an environmental engineering consultant, engineering project manager or green building engineer.


Chemistry (MPhil)

Students should choose this course if they want to enter a career in the chemical science industry. As you will need to have a keen interest in this subject, you may also consider following the route of a PhD afterwards to further specialise or work within academia. As you will earn an MPhil qualification, the course will typically take 15 months to two years full-time to complete due to the heavy research element. 


Wildlife Conservation (MSc)

Interested in improving sustainability for humans and wildlife? Study a wildlife conservation master’s degree and work towards a career in marine conservation, environmental disaster reporting and water conservation. As a wildlife conservationist you can expect to earn a salary of USD 59,680 per year (EnvironmentalScience.org).                    


3. Business and Management

This subject area is another of the most popular choices for postgraduate students. One reason for this may be that having an MBA can lead to increased earnings and a promotion.



Master of Business Administration (MBA)

On average, MBA graduates earn USD 84,023 (PayScale survey 2019) which is comparably higher than earnings of other graduates in different disciplines. This demonstrates the value placed on MBA graduates and why this is such an attractive course.   


International Banking and Finance (MSc)

As a prerequisite to this master’s qualification, you will need to have studied a business and/or finance related undergraduate degree. You can expect to study this postgraduate course for one year on a full-time basis. This type of course typically leads to professions in marketing, business consultancy, finance investment and accountancy to name a few.


Marketing (MSc)

A postgraduate course in marketing typically takes one year to complete and may not necessarily require a previous qualification in marketing, depending on the institution. Marketing master’s graduates tend to find work in marketing roles across a range of industries including advertising, law, education and finance.


You should now have a clearer idea of the types of postgraduate courses you can study, and which careers these may lead to.


We recommend you start by browsing courses and contacting universities to get the ball rolling.

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