Masters Degree Entry Requirements – A Guide |

Masters Degree Entry Requirements

Written by Lydia Chantler-Hicks

One of the most common questions we see is "can you do a Masters without a degree?". The simple answer is you will usually need an upper-second class Bachelors in a relevant subject to study a Masters in the UK.

However, postgraduate admissions guidelines vary by course and university, and 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 applications process.

This guide explains the typical Masters degree requirements, which include:

  • An undergraduate degree in a relevant subject – Depending on the programme and institution, you may need a 2.1 in your Bachelors, but this isn’t always the case
  • Language proficiency – If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to display a certain ability level, usually through a language test
  • Professional experience – Some postgraduate programmes may require you to have some professional experience (this is usually the case for PGCEs and Masters in Social Work)
  • Entrance exams – These are only required in certain subject areas and qualifications, including some MBAs

Remember that you can check the specific entry requirements to apply for a Masters degree using FindAMasters.

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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 earned 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.

Can you do a Masters without a degree?

In some cases, you may be able to apply for a Masters without a Bachelors degree. This is usually only an option if you have extensive relevant work experience, however. For example, some MBAs accept applicants without an undergraduate degree if they have plenty of employment experience. Similarly, it’s possible to apply for some Masters programmes if you have a relevant professional or artistic portfolio.

International grades

Masters degree requirements may differ outside the UK. You can find out more about entry requirements for different countries in our study abroad section. You can also find out more about how international grading methods compare in our guide to GPA and other grading systems

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.

Do A-levels matter for a Masters application?

A-levels aren’t usually included in the entry requirements for Masters and other postgraduate programmes. Your performance at undergraduate level and the quality of the rest of your application are much more important than A-levels when determining whether you’re accepted onto a Masters course.

So, can you get a Masters without a Bachelors? Potentially if you have an extensive work experience portfolio or want to do pre-courses or a certificate. It's always best to check entry requirements!

Relevant work 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 Education, 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:

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 Masters entry requirements

Wondering what else might be required to earn 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 postgraduate degrees 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, a charity, 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.


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.


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.

Find your perfect Masters!

Search from over 24,000 Masters degrees on our website to check specific entry requirements and find one that is right for you

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Last updated: 10 July 2023