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What is the difference between an MSc and an MRes degree?

What is the difference between an MSc and an MRes degree?

by Anna Brown

Coming to the end of your Bachelor’s degree and considering further study? When choosing a Master’s degree, the range of available postgraduate courses can be overwhelming.

In this blog post, we explore two types of Master's degrees; Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Research (MRes), looking at what they are, how they compare, and what you may need to consider when deciding which one to study.



  1. What is a Master’s degree?

  2. What is an MSc degree?

  3. What is an MRes degree?

  4. What are the differences between an MSc and MRes degree?

  5. When is it better to choose an MSc or an MRes?


What is a Master’s degree?

Masters’ degrees are a step up from Bachelor's level but below doctoral programmes (PhD). They provide you with an opportunity to specialise in your chosen field and can help you stand out in a competitive job market.


What is an MSc degree?

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 programmes that include lots of quantitative analysis and technical expertise.


What is an MRes degree?

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.




What are the differences between an MSc and MRes degree?

The main difference between an MSc and an MRes degree comes down to how the programmes are delivered – an MSc is a Taught programme; an MRes is a Research programme.

Taught Masters’ are normally 12 months in length if studied full-time, with flexible and part-time study options available.

They consist of subject-specific taught modules and – similar to a Bachelor’s degree – teaching methods include lectures, seminars, and workshops. You’ll still have the opportunity to explore your own ideas and work independently, but you’ll get plenty of guidance from your tutors.

A Taught Master’s culminates in a dissertation or research project of approximately 15,000–18,000 words. Depending on the subject, you could also be assessed through exams, essays, and group projects.

Research Masters’ are also usually studied full-time over 12 months and again, many courses can offer flexible and part-time study options.

You’ll complete a focused and original piece of research that’s centred around your interests and this will form the basis of your dissertation or thesis. Many courses also include some taught modules that introduce specific subjects or relevant professional and research skills.


When is it better to choose an MSc or an MRes?

Both MSc and MRes degrees are highly regarded by potential employers, so which one you choose to do really depends on programme availability in your chosen field and your career plans.

If you want to go on to a PhD 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.


Want to know how to start preparing for the next stage of your higher education? Check out our step-by-step guide on How to apply for a Master’s or browse our full list of Postgraduate courses to find one that’s suitable for you. Why not read Hannah’s story to learn how she decided that a Master of Research degree was the right choice for her.


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