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 by Ben Taylor
, posted on 1 Feb '18

Know Your MLitt From Your LLM? A Quick Look at Postgraduate Qualifications

When you first start researching Masters programmes, you might be a little surprised by the sheer variety of options on offer – not just the range of courses and subjects, but the kinds of qualifications they award.

After all, at undergraduate level most people study either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc). And, unsurprisingly, these courses have their equivalent for postgraduates, which you’re probably already aware of: the Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Science (MSc).

An MA or an MSc could well be the perfect match for you (I’m speaking as someone who studied an MA!) but it’s worth getting clued up on the other types of postgraduate qualifications out there, each of which has its own title, giving you some cool extra letters to put after your name.

So, what are the alternatives? In this post we’ll walk through a few of the more interesting options. You never know – the best Masters for your subject might be a qualification you don’t even know about yet.

Research-based Masters

If you’re already thinking about doing a PhD further down the line, then a research-based Masters could be the best option for you. There are a few different kinds of qualification in this area, and it’s not necessarily easy to tell them apart at first glance.

The first is the Master of Research (MRes), a type of programme that will focus on your own research rather than following a taught syllabus like an MA or MSc. Importantly, an MRes can be taken in any academic branch – it’s not restricted to an Arts- or Science-based discipline.

The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is another option. An MPhil usually acts as a stepping stone to PhD study, but can also be treated as a standalone course. Unlike an MRes, the MPhil is normally taken by students who have already gained a Masters-level qualification.

There’s also the Master of Letters (MLitt). Confusingly, an MLitt can be either taught or research-based, depending on the country in which it’s studied. In Scotland, the MLitt is similar to the traditional MA, while in England it’s often a two-year research programme in the Arts and Humanities.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA is perfect for aspiring creative types looking for a practice-based degree. These programmes typically focus on a specific artistic discipline, such as Filmmaking, Design, Music or Drama, encouraging you to build up a portfolio of work over the course of your degree.

Postgraduate legal studies

There are a few options open to you if you’re a postgraduate looking to study Law, each depending on your current level of legal qualification, as well as whether you want to qualify to go into practice.

If you didn’t study Law at undergraduate level, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) acts as a conversion course, laying the groundwork for a legal career.

Meanwhile, if you did study Law for your Bachelors, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is a vital step on the way to becoming a qualified lawyer. Compared to other legal postgraduate courses, it has a vocational focus, acting as a bridge between academic study and the day-to-day work of a solicitor.

Finally, the Master of Laws (LLM) is geared towards the theory of Law, and is less to do with its practical application than the LPC. Importantly, it isn’t a professional qualification, and, on its own, an LLM doesn’t qualify you to become a lawyer (although it can make you more appealing to law firms if you’re already qualified to practice law).

Business Masters

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is perhaps the most well-known kind of Business Masters, but it won’t necessarily be suitable for all prospective Business postgraduates. MBAs are typically aimed at experienced professionals who have already enjoyed a degree of success in their career.

By contrast, the Masters in Management (MiM) is designed for recent graduates with little to no business experience, providing an intense course in the commercial skills favoured by companies worldwide.

Masters in Social Work (MSW)

A Masters in Social Work allows you to become a qualified social worker, mixing academic study with practical placements. Provided you have some social work experience, these courses are open to people who studied any discipline at undergraduate level.

Postgraduate teaching qualifications

There are lots of teacher training options for graduates who want to get into the profession. Perhaps the most popular of these in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) , a course that combines the academic theory behind teaching with practical classroom placements.

However, the PGCE is far from the only route open to you if you want to become a teacher, and we’ve written a guide to the other teacher training schemes available in the UK.

If you’re more interested in the academic study of Education – or if you’re already qualified as a teacher and want to deepen your expertise – then a Masters in Education (M.Ed) programme could be perfect for you.

Begin your search with

Whatever kind of course you’re looking for, we’re a great place to start. We’ve got thousands of Masters and postgraduate courses listed on, each with detailed information on course content, programme structure and entry requirements. Why not take a look?

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