Master of Science (MS, MSc) Degree

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A Master of Science (commonly abbreviated MS, MSc, MSHS, ScM, or SM) is a postgraduate master’s degree offered by colleges, universities and higher education institutions in the United States and many other countries. In contrast to the Master of Arts that typically focuses on the liberal arts and humanities, the coursework and curriculum in Master of Science programs will focus more on science and social sciences.

United States

The Master of Science and Master of Arts the two most popular master’s degrees (and graduate level degrees) offered in the United States. The Master of Science Degree can focus almost exclusively on learning, almost exclusively on research, or a combination of the two. More often than not, a Master of Science program will include equal portions of coursework and research. Research-based Master of Science programs typically requires the completion of a research project. Course-work based Master of Science programs typically require writing and defending a thesis. Many Master of Science programs require both.

In the United States it’s not uncommon for a master’s program to require applicants to have already completed a bachelor’s degree program before admittance. Likewise, most doctoral programs in the U.S. require a master’s degree as a prerequisite. However, there are a few doctoral programs that only require a bachelor’s degree, and there are now several joint programs that will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at the same time. Such programs typically take about five years to complete.

While the most common abbreviations for a Master of Science and Master of Arts are M.S. and M.A. respectively, several prominent colleges and universities still use the Latin degree names including Scientiæ Magister (S.M.) and Artium Magister (A.M.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, and Harvard University all still use the Latin abbreviations S.M. and A.M. to designate their master’s degrees.

United Kingdom and Ireland

The Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland are typically course-based, graduate programs where students participate in regular classroom lectures, complete relevant coursework and projects, and are required to pass examinations designed to test their knowledge and competency. The M.Sc. typically requires one to two years of full-time study.

Historically, undergraduate and graduate degrees in the UK were awarded on a pass/fail basis only. However, over the last decade, colleges and universities throughout the UK have moved toward a grade-based system. Today most universities classify master’s degrees as either Pass, Distinction or an Intermediate Merit category.

The Master of Science (M.Sci.) is a relatively new degree that has been adopted almost universally by academia throughout the United Kingdom. Employers within the UK and abroad also acknowledge the value of the new M.Sci. degree as it relates to students’ enhanced knowledge and job qualifications. Many research universities throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland are now requiring the M.Sci. degree as a prerequisite for entry into Ph.D. research programs.

Many of the education trends that have occurred, and are occurring, in the United Kingdom are also taking place in other Commonwealth nations throughout the world including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Malta.


The Master of Science (MSc) degree in Canada can be completed in one to three years of full-time study. Program duration is typically a function of the field of study and the institution sponsoring the degree program. All other aspects of the MSc degree are similar to the M.S. in the United States. Master of Science degrees can be course-based, research-based, or a combination of the two. Earning a four-year bachelor’s degree is a standard prerequisite to admittance to an MSc program in Canada. In turn, the Master of Science fulfills the application requirements for most Ph.d./Doctoral programs.


The requirements for earning a Master of Science degree in Quebec are the same as the rest of Canada with one exception. Students in Quebec are required to complete two to three years of college before they’re able to attend a university. Consequently, they’re able to earn a bachelor’s degree in just three years instead of the traditional four years required of students elsewhere. Upon completion of their bachelor’s degree, students then qualify for entry into a master’s degree program.

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay

In several South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay the Master of Science (in come countries “Magister”) is a postgraduate degree that requires anywhere from two to four years of full-time study to complete. To qualify for a master’s degree in Brazil, Uruguay or Argentina, an applicant must first complete a Licentiate degree (a certificate of competency to practice in a particular profession), as well as an undergraduate, academic degree. Before qualifying to enter a master’s program, a student may have already completed seven years of postsecondary education. In years of formal education, earning a master’s degree in some South American countries is the equivalent of earning a doctoral degree in the United States or Europe.


In 2001, Germany adopted the Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree as its standard postgraduate degree and began phasing out the Artium Magister and Diplom, the once traditional degrees for German students seeking a postgraduate education. The Magister and Diplom were usually five-year programs. Today, in order to earn a Master of Science, students must first complete a three-year bachelor’s degree, and then the two-year master’s program. Master’s programs in Germany require a scientific thesis and are a prerequisite to doctoral degree programs.


All recognized colleges and universities in Bangladesh offer the Master of Science as a postgraduate degree. Any student who successfully completes an undergraduate Bachelor of Science Degree will then qualify for entry into a Master of Science program.

Czech Republic and Slovakia

Unlike their European counterparts in the region that have adopted just one format for offering master’s degrees, the Czech Republic and Slovakia use two systems for offering and administering master’s degrees. The older and more traditional system comprises a five-year program where students graduate after five years of full-time study. The new system, adopted as the single format in most European countries, is a two-year master’s degree program preceded by a three-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree (a Bc. title) program. All students are required to prepare a thesis and pass a comprehensive final examination in order to graduate.


Israeli universities offer both research-based and course-based Master of Science (MSc) Degree programs. It typically requires two years of full-time study to earn an MSc degree. All research-based Msc degrees require students to write a thesis.


Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree programs offered at India universities are usually 100% course-based, focused on educating students and preparing them for career opportunities. Very few universities in India offer a research-based M.Sc., let alone perform any research.


The Master of Science (M.Sc.) was introduced to Netherland universities in 2002, just over a decade ago. Up until that point the postgraduate level degree offered to students was the doctorandus degree, as well as a modified version, the ingenieur, for those pursuing a technical or agricultural education. Even though the M.Sc. has replaced the doctorandus, a student awarded the title of Master of Science can still use their previously awarded title of ingenieur.


Historically, there have been two postgraduate degrees offered by Norwegian universities: “Hovedfag” (an academic master’s degree) and “Sivilingeniør” (an engineering master’s degree). Both degree programs are five years in length and require students to prepare a thesis. The Master of Science (M.Sc.) was adopted around 2003 to replace both of these traditional, postgraduate degrees.

The title awarded to engineering students earning a Sivilingeniør, is “”. The newer Master of Science program was designed to replace this title with “M.Sc.” However, Norwegians have not been quick to give up their academic traditions, and for the time being “M.Sc.” is used as a complementary title to “”, not a replacement. Notwithstanding, the “” title is slowly being phased out.

The newer Master of Science degree is designed to be completed in just five years. The program incorporates a three-year bachelor’s degree component and a two-year master’s program. The Master of Science is designed to prepare students for career advancement opportunities and eligibility for a doctoral program.

Universities in Norway offer a Master of Science in Business program, which is the equivalent of the “Siviløkonom”, a higher education degree. Norway also offers many traditional Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs for those seeking an advanced business education.

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