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Taught v research: Which master’s will you choose

A master's degree gives you the opportunity to further your knowledge of a particular subject or make a career break and move in a different direction.

If you’re looking to take your education to the next level by studying a master’s, you’ll need to decide between a taught or research program. Here’s how to work out whether a postgraduate taught or research master’s is best for you.

Find your perfect master's programs

Difference between a taught and research master’s

The main difference between the two is the level of independence you’ll have during your studies.

Taught programs will follow a similar format to your undergraduate degree, and will include things like lectures, seminars, and workshops. You’ll still need to do your own research and independent study, but you’ll get guidance from your professors and tutors.

Research programs, often offered as an MRes (Master of Research), usually have very few if any taught classes. Your focus will be on large projects or a dissertation based solely on your own independent research. You’ll still have a tutor who will support you throughout your studies and be on hand for help and guidance.

Should you choose a taught master's?

Almost any subject can be taken as a taught master's program, so you’ll generally have a wider choice of courses to choose from. It will also follow a similar schedule to your bachelor’s program, so you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.

Taught master’s are usually a better option if you want to improve your employability by gaining advanced knowledge of a subject. This is especially true if you have a certain career in mind that requires a specific qualification.

Pros of a taught master’s

  1. Wide variety of subjects
  2. Chance improve employability
  3. More contact time with tutors/peers

Cons of a taught master’s

  1. Might not be necessary for the career you want
  2. Can be more expensive than research master’s
  3. Less flexibility

Should you choose a research master's?

Research degrees are generally seen as a way of getting into academia. Many students that decide to study an MRes or MSc by research do so in order to progress to the doctorate level and gain a PhD.

A research master’s can give you more freedom and flexibility to manage your own workload and study the exact areas and topics you’re passionate about. It can also give you a headstart if you want to pursue a career where strong research skills are essential.

Pros of a research master’s

  1. Focus on one topic that interests you
  2. Gain an insight into what PhD study is like
  3. Useful for research-based careers

Cons of research master’s

  1. Can be a lonely experience
  2. Lack of variety in subject matter
  3. Getting a less rounded skill set

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