M.Res. vs M.Phil. Degree – Which Research Master's to Study in 2021?

In your search for an appropriate Master’s degree, you probably bumped into these two titles: M.Res. and M.Phil degree. The journey of selecting the right graduate course is challenging enough, even without the several degree names leading prospective students into a confusing frenzy. 

So, let’s find out what are the differences between a Master of Research and a Master of Philosophy, and if any of these two would be a good option for you.

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What is an M.Res. degree?

A Master of Research (M.Res.) can be considered an introductory programme to a doctoral or PhD degree that, as its name suggests, is focused on research work. Unlike other types of Master’s degrees that provide a broad view on a subject, a Master of Research is focused on in-depth learning only on specific areas, so it could involve studying fewer modules.

Ideally, candidates should present:

  • A first or upper second-class Bachelor’s of honours degree (or equivalent, in a closely related discipline)
  • An essay containing a strong research proposal, with solid arguments

Some of the most common subjects for a Master of Research are:

Most of your time will be spent collecting data, analysing results, and, if you wish to, having your research published in a magazine. You will also be assessed through a diverse range of written methods, like:

  • Building portfolios
  • Writing essays
  • Researching proposals or reports

At the end of the programme, you will be assessed through an oral exam, also known as viva. A viva is mainly an academic discussion between you and two other experts in your field of research, where you will have to clearly present and argument your research ideas.

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Why study a M.Res. degree?

An M.Res. degree is ideal for people who want to develop research skills fast, but who do not necessarily want to enrol in a PhD programme. Most M.Res. degrees take between 1-2 years to complete, while PhD courses can take anywhere between 2-4 years, some even more.

Masters of Research have a more direct approach. Your focus will be on extensive research projects, allowing you to learn skills like critical and analytical thinking, which are much appreciated on the job market.

Another advantage of studying an M.Res. degree is the focus on independent work. This is great for people who appreciate collaboration but are much more efficient when they work alone.

You’ll have a supervisor who’ll provide guidance along the way, but you won’t need to debate topics with teammates or make compromises on what should be the focus of your project.

Masters of Research are very popular. Here are some universities offering M.Res. degrees:

With an M.Res. degree you can focus on various fields. This opens the doors to numerous careers, but some of the most popular ones are:

  • Academic researcher
  • Consultant

What is an M.Phil. degree?

An M.Phil. is a research degree, similar to a PhD, but mostly dedicated to students who cannot commit to the long study period of a PhD and/or cannot afford the tuition fees of a PhD.

For a student to qualify for an M.Phil., he or she should be ready to present:

  • A first or upper second-class Bachelor’s or honours degree, or equivalent, in a closely related discipline
  • Another Master’s degree, such as Master of Arts or Master of Science (but this depends on your chosen university, so research before you take any decision)

Normally, a Master of Philosophy is an earned qualification, but sometimes, it could be the result of a failed entry to a PhD programme. Although this is a rare situation, this could be a real-case scenario if you apply for a doctoral programme in the UK.

Students will be placed on a "probation" period, after which their research work will be reviewed and will be assessed through an oral exam. The result leads to either confirming their qualification to a PhD or they are considered more suitable for an M.Phil. degree.

Still, an M.Phil. is a big deal, so there’s no shame in being enrolled in one. And if anybody makes fun of you, just tell them you don’t want pickles on your burger and walk away like the smart boss that you are.

Getting back on track, you should know that the most common field where you may find Masters of Philosophy are:

In some disciplines, particularly in the Humanities, the M.Phil. is regarded as the most advanced Master’s degree.

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Why study an M.Phil. degree?

Firstly, the skills you acquire during an M.Phil. are very similar, sometimes identical, with those that you gain during a PhD degree, and, if the research you make after one of two years during your M.Phil. is considered a sufficient progress, you can register as a PhD student.

Secondly, Masters in Philosophy are very common, so you can pick any country and go fulfil your dream of studying abroad. Based on our data, the most searched universities for M.Phil. degrees are:

An M.Phil. takes less time to complete and is more affordable than a doctoral programme, and, after you graduate a Master of Philosophy, you can instantly go and work as a:

  • Teacher
  • Research assistant
  • Lab technician
  • Project manager
Students studying a Master of Philosophy.jpg

M.Res. vs M.Phil. degrees - Which one to study?

A Master of Research and a Master of Philosophy can seem like two very similar programmes. In fact, you may wonder what is the difference and how can you decide between the two, since they are both focused on research, the assessment is done roughly the same way, and they both provide the opportunity to a smooth progression to a PhD.

Still, don’t be fooled. Although they may be subtle, there are differences:

  • A Master of Philosophy can have more demanding entry requirements, compared to a Master of Research.
  • If you wish to focus 100% on writing your thesis, without having to attend any lectures, a Master of Philosophy is a better choice.
  • A Master of Philosophy is, usually, the path followed by most students who plan to have a career in teaching.

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