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Entry Requirements for Masters Degrees

Considering postgraduate study, but unsure whether you meet the entry requirements for a Masters-level degree? Postgraduate admissions guidelines vary by course and university, but can be quite flexible.

Your existing qualifications will be important, but you don't necessarily need a great Bachelors degree to apply for a Masters. Your personal circumstances and experience may also be considered during the admissions process.

This guide explains the typical entry requirements for a Masters, including undergraduate grades, language requirements, professional experience and other factors.

Remember that you can check the specific entry requirements for individual Masters degrees using FindAMasters.

Academic qualifications

As postgraduate qualifications, Masters courses are intended for students who've already completed a Bachelors degree or other undergraduate course.

These existing qualifications show prospective universities that you have the knowledge and academic ability to succeed at Masters level. As such, your previous degree results may be one of the most important entry requirements for postgraduate courses.

A Bachelors (or other undergraduate) degree

Most UK universities require applicants to have a Bachelors degree in a relevant subject. International applicants should hold an overseas qualification of a similar standard, from a recognised higher education institution.

In the UK, undergraduate grades are usually labelled as follows:


Undergraduate Degree Classifications
First Class (1st) The top degree classification. Usually requires an overall mark of 70%+.
Upper Second Class (2.1) Usually requires an overall mark of 60%+.
Lower Second Class (2.2) Usually requires an overall mark of 50%+.
Third Class (3rd) Usually requires an overall mark of 40%+.
Fail May result from an overall mark below 40%.

You'll normally need an upper second class degree (a '2.1') or its equivalent for entry to a Masters degree. Some universities and courses also accept students with lower second class degrees (2.2s).

In extenuating circumstances, it might even be possible for a student with a third class degree to continue to postgraduate study. For more information, read our advice on applying for a Masters with a lower class degree.

Note that some Masters courses do not specify the exact grade required, and instead request applicants with a 'good honours degree'. This leaves slightly more room for interpretation, but generally means either a first or a 2.1.

International grades

Masters entry requirements may differ outside the UK. You can find out more about requirements for different countries in our study abroad section

Pre-Masters courses

Some universities offer Pre-Masters courses, which provide students with the chance to improve their skills in order to meet the academic requirements for postgraduate study.

Pre-Masters courses may be offered to international students, to help improve their research skills and academic proficiency in the English language.

They may also be offered to UK students who require an academic boost before beginning postgraduate study. An example of this kind of Pre-Masters course is the Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course. The SKE is offered to students who wish to train as teachers, but do not feel confident with the subject they wish to teach.

The Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma

In some cases, a university may ask a student to complete a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) or Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) before registering on the corresponding Masters. This might be the case if a student doesn't have the necessary academic qualifications to enrol on a Masters course straightaway.

The Diploma is itself a postgraduate qualification, and is usually shorter than a full Masters course. Boosting the Diploma to a full Masters is often just a case of carrying out a postgraduate dissertation, but this varies course by course.

Relevant experience

If you do not have the undergraduate degree required by a Masters course, this isn't necessarily the end of the world.

Nor should you panic if you are a mature student, or returning to postgraduate study after a hiatus.

Some universities are willing to consider applicants who do not have the standard requirement of a good undergraduate degree, as long as they have other relevant qualifications or experience.

This is particularly true of vocational courses such as Creative Writing or Journalism, which require the applicant to demonstrate a set of practical skills.

If a candidate has, for example, already spent a period of time working in the industry, or has had work published, this may prove that they have both pre-existing experience, and a real passion for their course.

Ideally, candidates should show both academic qualifications and practical experience in their chosen field.

Language proficiency

If you're studying a Masters abroad, or studying a course that isn't delivered in your first language, you may need to demonstrate language proficiency as part of your admissions process.

This is usually done through a postgraduate language test. These assess your ability to speak, read and write in a specific language at a level sufficient for postgraduate study.

Note that simply having some proficiency in a language may not be enough. In order to gain admission to a foreign-language Masters you'll need to be able to comprehend and communicate complex concepts in this language.

Some existing language proficiencies may be accepted as evidence - such as professional experience or previous periods of study.

Language requirements (and tests) differ slightly in different countries.

English language requirements

If you're studying a Masters in English as a second language, you may be expected to take an English test as part of the admissions process for a Masters programme. (This is likely in countries like the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Canada).

Tests prove that you have an appropriate level of written and spoken English, and ensure you would not struggle to understand a Masters course taught in English.

There are several different types of English exam. The most common of these are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and Cambridge Certificates in Advanced English (CAE) or Proficiency in English (CPE).

Our guides offer more detailed information about different types of English language test.

Other language requirements

Different tests are used in countries outside the UK.

You can find out more about different tests used by specific countries in our study abroad section.

Other requirements

Wondering what else might be required to study a Masters? Here's a summary of some of the other key things that may be required by your course.

Remember you can check the entry requirements for individual courses using our course finder.

Entrance exams

A small number of courses require applicants to take subject-related tests as part of the admissions process.

Examples of these are the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) which is required by some MBAs and other management programmes, and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) which are sometimes required if an applicant hasn't studied in the UK before.

Financial requirements

You may be required to show evidence that you are aware of the cost of your Masters, and of how you plan to fund the course. For example, your funding might come from personal savings, a postgraduate loan, a scholarship, or even crowdfunding.

This information might be covered in your application, or in the contract you sign when you register for your course.

Attending an interview

Some courses require applicants to attend an interview as part of the postgraduate admissions process. This is an excellent opportunity for applicants to prove that they're passionate about their subject, and that they have what it takes to flourish on a rigorous postgraduate course.

Before attending a Masters interview, you can read about what to expect and how to prepare for this stage of your application.

References

Most universities don't have time to interview every Masters candidate. This means that they rely on academic references to back up applications, and to prove that candidates have what it takes to succeed at postgraduate level.

Admissions tutors are likely to rely on references just as much as other aspects of a Masters application, such as a personal statement.

Strong references from previous tutors will boost your postgraduate application, so it's important to choose your referees well. Include only those who will be able to make a personal, positive statement about your abilities.

Enthusiasm

Passion is absolutely invaluable when it comes to applying for postgraduate study.

Use your application and interview to show why you are keen to do a Masters, and what it is that gets you excited about your subject.

Showing plenty of enthusiasm for your course may just help to bridge any gaps in your qualifications, and help you to secure a place on a Masters course.

Admissions requirements for your Masters

Want to know the specific entry requirements for your course? You can use the FindAMasters search tool to find the specific requirements for thousands of postgraduate programmes both in the UK and the rest of the world.

Last updated - 17/07/2017

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