If you have decided to further your studies with a Master of Science degree, or an MSc degree, you are in good company. But what exactly is it?

A Master’s degree, in general, is awarded by a postgraduate university upon completion of an average one- to two-year degree programme. An MSc degree is simply one form of a Master’s degree.

► Meet top Masters programmes from around the world.

How an MSc degree differs from other Master’s degrees

There are many different Master’s degree programmes, each with its own name assigned by the university awarding it. These include a Master of Science (MSc, M.Sc., M.S., MS, M.Sci., Sc.M.), Master of Arts (M.A., MA, A.M. or AM), a Master of Philosophy (MPhil, M.Phil.), and many others. The two most common are the Master of Science (MSc) and the Master of Arts (MA).

A Master of Science degree programme focuses more on a curriculum based on hard facts, such as mathematics, engineering, medicine, or technology. This is in contrast to the other most popular Master’s degree, the Master of Arts, which typically focuses more on humanities classes, like communications or social sciences.

Check out: The Various Types of Masters Degrees


Typically, an MSc programme has a particular area of concentration, in which the course offerings will focus on a specific topic and which will result in you having a more in-depth and comprehensive knowledge base. For example, Syracuse University (US) offers MSc degrees in topics as general as Finance or Accounting, and as specialised as Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises or Supply Chain Management.

An MSc programme that covers a wider base of knowledge and skills is better for the graduate who is unsure about a narrow, specific discipline. If, instead, you know exactly what skill set you wish to acquire, you can look for a university that offers an MSc programme suited perfectly for your needs.

Depends on the university

The nature of the Master’s programme and whether it is called a Master of Science, Master of Arts, or some other name is not closely regulated by any governing authority. A university can choose to call its postgraduate programme by any name, regardless of the nature of the curriculum, as long as it meets minimum Master’s standards. The reasons for naming a particular programme a certain way are likely very well-reasoned by the faculty and administration of the university, though they may not be obvious to everyone.

Prerequisites for MSc

Though a Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for a Master’s degree, not all universities require the Bachelor’s degree to have focused on the same or a similar topic before allowing admittance to their Master’s programme. It is advisable to do so, especially if you have confirmed your particular area of study, because it will be easier for you to expand upon a previously acquired base of knowledge rather than starting your learning of a particular subject from the very beginning.

Impact on employment

There is little evidence that a Master of Science degree holder is more or less likely to find employment easier than, say, a Master of Arts degree holder, or even that any established stereotypes exist. For some employers, the fact that you have a Master’s degree in any field is enough proof that you have invested in your career and are capable of self-discipline, hard work, and advanced learning.

Read: Growing Demand for Masters in Management Studies

That having been said, there do exist certain jobs for which a very specialised degree may be precisely what is needed, like the MSc in Computer Science Data Science Strand at Trinity College in Dublin. Those jobs will require a very specific knowledge base, and because there will be fewer qualified applicants, the jobs will likely pay more. The flip side to that is there will be fewer jobs available that match such a narrow skill set, and you may need to search longer or expand your search geographically to find one.

Full-time, part-time, or online

Depending on the university offering the degree, you may have the option of pursuing the MSc degree on a full-time, part-time, or online basis. This is true for most postgraduate degree programmes. A full-time programme should take one to two years at most, while a part-time or online programme can be completed at your own pace, provided it falls within the accepted procedures of the university.

Check out: Masters Programme Formats

Regardless of the type of MSc degree you pursue, the investment of your time and money is likely to be a good decision. Your advanced degree may just mean that you are able to skip the first few rungs on the ladder to career success, and get a jumpstart on your career.