Main differences between taught and research Masters’ degreesChen Wan Lim
If you are considering enrolling for a Master’s degree, you would have come across two distinct forms of Master’s courses – Master’s degree by research and Master’s degree by taught course. Both forms of degrees have their individual merits. However, the purpose of each degree is very different. Therefore, you will have to question your needs and specific purpose of wanting to pursue a Master’s degree. Generally, a research Master’s degree prepares you for a future in academia while a taught Master’s deepens your theoretical knowledge on a subject matter. Here are the key differences and similarities between the two:
The duration for taught Master’s is typically similar with that of a research Master’s degree. However, depending on the area of research, some Master’s by research can stretch longer over eighteen months to two years. If the research course is done part time, it could usually take longer as well.
The modules for a taught programme are usually conducted in a classroom format by lecturers. There could also be lab work and seminars involved. However for a research programme, the majority of time is spent working under a supervisor developing a research proposal. This includes data collection, data analysis and writing a study for publication purposes.
The assessment methods for a taught programme are straight forward exams, course works (individual and group) and a final dissertation. For a research programme, the assessment is based almost solely on your research piece by a panel of experts. The candidate is required to present and defend the research piece in an examination called a viva.
4. End game
Candidates intending to pursue a taught Master’s programme usually have career advances outside academia in mind. These candidates intend to gain new knowledge and skill sets not formally obtained during their undergraduate degree or simply to further enhance their knowledge in a particular area of interest. However, candidates pursuing a research Master’s typically intend to pursue a PhD next and eventually making a career in academia.
As the two Master’s degree structures clearly differ from each other, candidates will have to first and foremost determine their career goals, aims and ambitions before committing to the programme. Taught Master’s programmes have a rigid timetable with classroom schedule, exam timetables and strict project datelines. Research Master’s programmes on the other hand require a great amount of self-discipline, self-motivation and strong determination to work alone, with minimal supervision from the supervisor.