Taught Masters (MSc) vs Research Masters (MRes)- How to Choose the Right Masters in UK

Students completing their under-graduation and exploring options before them for their Masters in the UK need to be aware of two variants that exit there. This is more pertinent for students studying science subjects even though the option exists for other students too. The first is the most obvious one MSc known as “Taught Masters” and the other one is MRes called “Research Masters”. What are the differences in terms of Curriculum, Eligibility, Fees, and Job Prospects you may ask? Here we are going to discuss them and also dwell on the points you must consider while choosing whether to pursue MSc or MRes.

Masters Degree in the UK

A Masters’ degree is a stage that lies between Bachelors’ (BSc) degree and Doctorate (PhD) degree. In this stage, one gets an opportunity to specialize in a chosen field and helps one to stand out in a competitive job market. A Master of Science (MSc) is usually awarded in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and social sciences. However, it can be awarded in other subjects, for example in arts or humanities programs that include lots of quantitative analysis and technical expertise.

Research Masters (MRes) vs Taught Masters (MSc)

MSc vs MRes: Curriculum

A Master of Research (MRes), is a research-based postgraduate degree. It can be awarded in any academic discipline that offers enough scope for research training. The main difference between MSc and MRes, however, is how the programs are delivered.

MSc vs MRes
Source: UCL

In MSc one has a higher content of taught modules, a rough estimate would be two-thirds of the entire content. The remaining one-third is the final research or dissertation. In the case of MRes, the ratio is reversed i.e., one third is taught module and the remaining two-third comprises the research project.

Read How to Choose a Master’s Dissertation (Thesis) Topic to Improve Job Prospects in the UK.

MSc vs MRes: Who is it for?

A taught master’s is more of an extension of an undergraduate course. Here, the focus is on multiple assessments, assignments, and modules for the students. These degrees require the student to complete a dissertation or research project before they graduate.

In the case of research masters, you don’t need to pick multiple modules and take assessments for them. Usually, you’ll have a basic introductory module to get hang of the basics, but thereafter it will be focused on your work, and there are no timetables as such. Throughout the degree, you’ll primarily focus on your research projects and carry out different studies to achieve your objectives.

MSc vs MRes: Eligibility

The academic eligibility to join either is the same i.e., successfully completed an undergraduate degree but the application process is different. In the case of MSc, it requires you to have relevant interest and some work in the particular field.

For a research master’s, you will first need to draft a research proposal. In the proposal, you should lay out the main research question that you want to be answered in the degree. In addition to this, you have to pitch for your selection to perform the research and show high knowledge and information regarding the subject. 

MSc vs MRes: Fees

In the UK the fees for undergraduate courses are subject to a cap. But the cost of UK Masters programs is set by the universities themselves. This means that degrees in the same subject can cost more or less than others. The MSc courses require more of the University’s infrastructure and faculty time and hence the fees are higher.

The average course fee for an MSc degree for an international student is GBP 20,000 and the MRes is significantly lower at an average of GBP 10,000.  Given here below is a table of fees based on the 2021-22 Reddin Survey of UK postgraduate fees, published by the Complete University Guide, as well as additional research and calculation by FindAMasters. The figures given are broad averages only and will not necessarily reflect fees for specific courses.

Sl.CourseUK Student (GBP)International Student (GBP)
1MA (Arts/Social Sciences)8,74017,109
2MSc (Science/Engineering)10,30620,167

MSc vs MRes: Career and Job Prospects

Both MSc and MRes degrees are highly regarded by potential employers, so which one you choose to do really depends on program availability in your chosen field and your career plans. If you want to go on to a Ph.D. and pursue a career in research it’s more common to complete an MRes, but that’s not to say an MSc won’t prepare you for a PhD – it’s still a strong entry route and you’ll gain the specialist skills and knowledge you need.

Where an MRes tips the scales if you’re going on to PhD study, is in the more extensive research training it offers. Because of the research experience, you’ll gain, it also might give you more of a taste of what a PhD or a research career would be like, allowing you to work out if that is the right path for you. The other point that you must be mindful of is that MSc gives you more opportunity to socialize with teachers and fellow classmates and MRes has limited scope in this regard. 

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