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Pathways to Space: Master's Degrees

  • 14th Sep 2023
  • Author: Grace Davis

Being a Master of Science sounds fun right? The sort of title that comes with a dramatic theme song and some cool explosions, but what actually is a Master’s degree, and do you need one? Well whether you need one or not depends on your career goals, industry standards and current education level. Lots of jobs in the space sector require a postgraduate qualification, such as a Master’s degree, but it’s not essential for most opportunities.

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The main reasons you would need a postgraduate qualification are:


  • if you’re interested in a research-based career, 
  • you want to join a field that requires specialist further study such as law or medicine, 
  • or your undergraduate degree, or previous career hasn’t given you exactly the right base for the next career you’d like. 

There are three types of master’s degrees to choose from: integrated master’s, taught master’s, and master’s by research.

One of the most common master’s degrees in the space sector is an integrated master’s course. This is particularly popular with students who know they’re going to need a master’s degree for their chosen career, as you sign up for it when you apply for (or during) your undergraduate degree. An integrated master’s degree does what it says on the tin: you join your bachelor’s and master’s degrees into one course of study. Usually this will take your degree from three years to four, but this can change if you study a foundation year, take a year in industry, or study part time.


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Another popular choice of master’s degree is a taught master’s course. This is usually a year long course, but it can be two or more years in some cases, that you take after you have gained a bachelor’s degree. You may choose to change university or start working between your master’s and bachelor’s degrees. For some taught master’s courses, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, instead you can work, study an apprenticeship or get a degree apprenticeship. This isn’t the cause for all courses or all universities, so do check the specifics of the course you’re interested in ahead of applying.

The last type of master’s course to look at is a master’s degree by research. This is a popular choice for some students who would like to apply for a PhD and want to give their research skills a boost. A master’s by research is very similar to a taught masters, but with a much stronger focus on research. While there is still a large research component of a taught master’s degree, you will spend roughly a third of your time on research, the main focus of a master’s by research is your independent research project.

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Funding for a master’s degree is available through the same channels as funding for a bachelor’s degree, but without a separate maintenance loan. Scholarships, bursaries, grants and Disabled Student’s Allowance are also available through a range of institutions to help you continue studying. There are also a few postgraduate study options available that aren’t a master’s degree. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) and Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) are also available and may take less time to complete than a master’s degree and come without a research project.