What Is an MSc Degree? (Different Types and How to Get One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 10, 2022

Published May 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A Master of Science (MSc) degree is a type of postgraduate degree students can pursue after obtaining a bachelor's degree. It allows students to further their education and become experts in the science, technology, engineering, or math fields. Learning more about MSc degrees and how to get one can help you determine whether it's a path you want to pursue. In this article, we explain what an MSc degree is, discuss what you can do with one, tell you about the different MSc specializations, and lay out steps you can follow to obtain an MSc degree.

Related: An Introduction to STEM Fields and Careers

What is an MSc degree?

An MSc degree, or Master of Science degree, is a postgraduate degree that individuals can pursue after completing an undergraduate program in science, technology, engineering, or math, also known by the acronym STEM. Many MSc programs take about two years to complete, while others might require additional semesters for internships or dissertations. Some programs may also include laboratory research and teaching assistant duties. You can complete an MSc program on a traditional university campus or through an accredited online program.

Related: 14 of the Best Master's Degrees to Consider (With Tips)

What can you do with a Master of Science?

A Master of Science is important because it allows you to develop expertise in a STEM field, which furthers your knowledge and advances your skills. It can give you access to new career paths, some of which may have higher earning potential.

A Master of Science can also be a prerequisite for a doctorate in the same field, which gives you access to a career path in academia. It typically involves studying a field's latest theoretical research and learning how to apply it to a real situation, like a laboratory experiment or business procedure. Earning both credentials can also help you identify new research areas and create new theories to explore.

MSc specializations

There are many MSc specializations you could pursue to get a degree, such as the following:

MSc in engineering

An MSc in engineering focuses on the practical application of math and science in electrical or mechanical systems. This degree teaches aspiring professionals how to solve problems related to construction and infrastructure, allowing them to find engineering positions in multiple industries. It also has varied specializations that allow students to focus on different aspects of the field, such as structural engineering or electrical engineering. An MSc in engineering typically takes two to five years to complete.

Related: 8 Engineering Specializations (With Salaries and Duties)

MSc in computer science

An MSc in computer science is a credential that focuses on aspects of computer programming, software engineering, and theoretical computer science. This degree often allows students to further specialize in a particular area of computer science, like artificial intelligence or data science. Getting an MSc in computer science, which typically takes two years, can give students the skills required for a technology-based career, like product management or website development.

Related: 14 Fields of Computer Science to Explore as a Career Choice

MSc in finance

An MSc in finance typically focuses on topics like statistical analysis, principles of economics, and database management. This can help students develop knowledge and skills that can help them succeed in the financial industry in roles such as investment banker or financial advisor. Getting an MSc in finance typically takes two years of full-time studying. The program may require you to complete an internship, which is a great way to get firsthand industry experience and network with finance experts.

MSc in information technology

An MSc in information technology (IT) often teaches students how to develop computer systems, manage databases, and correct digital errors. Students often develop proficiency in mathematics and gain some knowledge of computers before applying for this degree program. Many universities offer both in-person and online courses that teach critical skills for an IT career, including computer programming, troubleshooting, and project management. Graduates with a degree in IT can work in a wide range of industries, including business, education, cybersecurity, and video game development.

MSc in biology

An MSc in biology allows students to develop expertise in a field of biological science, such as the study of cells, botany, or animal physiology. Most programs include several hours of laboratory research in molecular biology, microbiology, and cell biology, and they may require students to complete a thesis. Graduates may pursue research opportunities related to their area of study. They may also work for a private company or nonprofit organization as an environmental scientist.

Related: The 3 Branches of Science and Available Career Options

MSc in mechanical engineering

An MSc in mechanical engineering focuses on specializations like robotics, fluid mechanics, structural design, materials analysis, and aerospace engineering. This degree trains aspiring professionals in how to design and create systems like transportation services or automation devices. It typically requires students to complete a certain number of courses on key concepts and electives to learn the necessary technical skills for their chosen niche. Many universities offer these programs both online and in-person, which students can typically complete in two years.

How to earn a Master of Science

If you're interested in getting a Master of Science degree, here are some steps you can take to do so:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Before you can apply for master's programs, you need a bachelor's degree. Start by assessing the types of master's programs you're interested in pursuing to check the prerequisites and the type of undergraduate degree the school prefers applicants to have. For example, if you want a Master of Science in biology, you may need a Bachelor of Science in biology first. Researching the prerequisites beforehand can help you choose the correct bachelor's program and ensure you meet all the requirements for applying for the program when you're ready.

Once you choose a program you're interested in, start applying to universities to get your bachelor's degree. Each university has a different application process, but you typically fill out an application form, include your high school grades, and write an essay or statement explaining your interest in the program. In some cases, you may complete an entrance exam to ensure you have the foundational knowledge necessary for the program. It typically takes four years to get a bachelor's degree, so it's important to factor that into your timeline.

2. Have a plan

Although you already started creating your education plan in the last step, it's important to have a plan for the future beyond getting your bachelor's and master's degrees. Determine what your career goals are once you earn your degrees. For example, you may want to become a scientist that researches potential cures for cancer. Knowing what your career goals are can help you focus on developing skills and knowledge in school that can help you achieve those goals.

Your career goals can also help you determine what type of work experience to pursue, if any, while you're in school. Certain internships or mentorships can help you gain firsthand industry experience in a controlled environment. Some programs offer these opportunities as part of the course, but you can also pursue them on your own. If you're unsure about your goals, consider talking to a career advisor or academic advisor to help you discuss potential goals.

3. Research your options

In the last year of your bachelor's degree, start researching your options for your master's degree. You can apply to any school for your master's. It doesn't have to be the one you're attending for your bachelor's degree, but you may already have a professional network at the school that can help you during your master's program. Compare different master's programs you're interested in by reading online reviews or talking to a current student in the program.

Consider looking at official rankings on university review websites as well to learn more information about the schools and programs they offer, such as the number of individuals each program accepts or the ratio of faculty to students. Consider other factors as well, such as the price of the program or the eligibility requirements you need to meet.

4. Take an admissions test

Some programs may require you to complete an admissions test before you can apply for the program. The two most common tests are the Graduate Record Examination and the Graduate Management Admissions Test. You typically need a minimum grade on these tests to be considered, so it's important to study beforehand using test preparation resources.

5. Complete the application process

Once you meet all the eligibility requirements, you can complete the application process for the schools you're interested in attending. Each university has its own unique application process, but you may complete an application form, include your undergraduate transcripts, or write an essay describing your experience and interest in the program. After you complete the application, ensure you proofread it to eliminate any errors and improve overall clarity, increasing your chances of being accepted.

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