What Is an MSc Degree, and Who Should Have One?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn what an MSc degree is, how it compares to other master's degrees, the disciplines available, and how long it takes to earn one.

[Featured Image] An MSc degree student stands in hallway with folders of academic papers.

An MSc, or Master of Science, is the European equivalent of the American MS degree, also called Master of Science. Both are considered STEM degrees, focusing on science, engineering, technology, mathematics, and medicine. In addition, some MSc programs focus on social sciences. Those seeking a career in one of these fields could benefit from an MSc or MS degree.

What is an MSc degree?

An MSc is the standard master’s qualification for courses in STEM and some social science subjects. As you take MSc courses, you’ll focus on a specific area of interest in detail. The coursework consists of individual modules in your chosen discipline, such as engineering, natural sciences, or economics. You’ll also work on an independent dissertation project to graduate, which typically takes two years to complete. 

MSc degree programs 

Opportunities for an MSc degree are plentiful in any of the STEM or social science fields. Among some of the programs you can study are:

  • Astrophysics

  • Cybersecurity

  • Data science

  • Finance

  • Forensic psychology

  • Nutrition

  • International relations

  • IT security

  • Management

  • Marine biology

How does an MSc degree compare to other master's level degrees?

The MSc is a master's level course whereas the MSci combines bachelor's and master's level courses. The MSc degree focuses on STEM or other non-humanities subjects, while the Master of Arts (MA) is geared towards creative and analytical subjects. The term 'MSc' is more commonly used in Europe and India and varies slightly from the US version of the MS.

MSc vs. MSci

The MSci is an undergraduate course that will typically take you four years to complete and allows you to graduate with a master’s level degree. The MSci is less common than the MSc and is generally associated with professional coursework. 

As an alternative to choosing the MSci course track, you could earn a three-year undergraduate bachelor's of science (BSc) and then your master's level MSc. However, you’ll generally earn master's level credentials in less time with the MSci. It consists of three years of bachelor's level classes and a final year of more intense courses and seminars at the master's level.

Both of these degrees are more common in the UK than in the United States.

MSc vs. MA

An MSc encompasses science, technology, engineering, social sciences, and math, while an MA degree program usually focuses on the humanities and liberal arts subjects.

Another difference is how the programs are structured. If you want to learn through research, class discussion, and essay writing, choose an MA. Become an MSc student to learn through analysis, lab work, and scientific research.

MSc vs. MS

The MSc is the abbreviation generally used in the UK, Europe, and India, and the MS is the US version of the same degree. 

How long does it take to earn an MSc degree?

You can take one to two years to earn an MSc degree, depending on several factors, including whether you attend full or part-time. It's possible to complete an MSc degree program in two years when you attend full-time. It may take a year or two longer if you're studying part-time.

Program requirements will also factor into the time it’ll take you to complete an MSc degree. If you need to complete a thesis or capstone project, it can take more time. 

What careers can you pursue with an MSc degree?

With an MSc degree, you can prepare yourself for a variety of career opportunities where you’ll apply your knowledge and skills. Just a few of the opportunities that may be available upon your completion of an MSc degree are:

  • Cybersecurity analyst

  • Data scientist

  • Economist

  • Human resources manager

  • Financial analyst

  • Electrical engineer

  • Machine learning engineer 

Next steps

Experience for yourself what it's like to earn your Master of Science degree online when you take an open course from a top university on Coursera. Here are some courses to try:

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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