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

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Put simply, an MA (Master of Arts) is usually an arts-based course, while an MSc (Master of Sciences) degree is usually science or research based. However, MA degrees aren’t just about arts; a whole range of subject areas and courses can lead to the award of Master of Arts, including business and marketing, and social sciences.

The University of Sunderland offers a range of MA and MSc degrees across many different subjects, including:

  • MA Visual Practice is a creative arts course that enables you to develop your personal visual practice and follow a pathway in one of the following: Contemporary Fine Art; Photography; Glass; or Ceramics. If you studied an arts course at BA (Bachelor of Arts) level and want to develop as a creative professional, this is the course for you
  • MSc Cosmetic Science is a practical, multidisciplinary course that that involves the formulation, manufacture, quality control and marketing of cosmetic products within existing regulatory and international legislation frameworks. It will equip you with the skills needed to work in the cosmetics, personal care and fragrance industries in the UK and around the world. If you’ve studied Cosmetic Science at BSc level, or a related discipline such as chemical engineering or chemistry, you may be interested in applying
Two students are sitting on a sculpture of books, reading a text book together and laughing

Is it better to study an MA or an MSc degree?

The more important question here is, what do you want to get out of your postgraduate study? Are you looking to apply for a particular job, or enhance your knowledge in your current field? It’s worth having a goal in mind, such as a career path you want to follow and work backwards from there. For example, does the job you want to apply for need you to have a specific qualification to do it? Once you know the answer to these types of questions, you’ll know which degree you need to study.

Can I study an MSc postgraduate degree if I have a BA undergraduate degree (and vice versa)?

Yes, you can! It’s a misconception that you can only study a postgraduate course that is related to your undergraduate degree. It’s all about doing your research and checking the entry requirements carefully to see what is required.

In fact, many people come back to university to study a postgraduate degree in a completely new area. For example, after Joanne Comerford wasn't able to continue in her primary school teaching role, she chose to re-train and study MSc Psychology (conversion). A conversion course is an intensive postgraduate degree that enables you to change career direction. The entry requirements will often state that applicants can hold an undergraduate degree in any subject – perfect for a new start.

Are there any other postgraduate qualifications I should consider?

If you’re planning to study a postgraduate Law degree, you’ll likely study an LLM – a Latin Legum Magister. An LLM is an advanced Law degree and is usually more focused on a specific area of law. At the University of Sunderland, we offer several LLM courses, including: Legal Practice; International Human Rights; and Criminal Law and Procedure.

You might also be interested in a postgraduate research degree, such as a Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Professional Doctorate (DProf).

Find out more

Join us at our next Online Postgraduate Open Day for more information about postgraduate degrees at Sunderland.

Published: 19 May 2021

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