Both a BSc (bachelor of science) and an MSc (master of science) are higher education degrees awarded in scientific subjects. Undergraduates who attend college or university and major in a scientific subject will typically be awarded a BSc degree, while MSc qualifications are reserved for those who complete additional postgraduate study. An MSc is a higher level of qualification and is often used as a stepping stone toward the acquisition of a doctorate.
Bachelor's degrees (sometimes referred to as baccalaureate degrees) are awarded to college students who complete a full 4-year undergraduate curriculum. Most students enter a bachelor's degree program immediately after graduating from high school, although mature students may begin studying for the qualification in later life. To enroll into a BSc program, students must usually possess a high school diploma or GED, SAT or ACT test results, a high school transcript, letters of recommendation and relevant application essays. BSc degrees can be completed at state universities, private colleges and via distance learning programs.
A BSc will be awarded to students majoring in a modern subject like computer sciences and a classic science subject like chemistry. Mathematics majors are also awarded a BSc. Students majoring in analytical, practical, experiment- based subjects earn a BSc, while those majoring in theoretcal, essay-based or artistic subjects such as philosophy, art or history earn bachelor of arts (BA) degrees.
Students who've completed a BSc degree may decide to continue studying for an MSc degree for a variety of reasons. Many wish to further broaden their understanding of their chosen academic field or seek to specialize in a more specific area than they could while completing their BSc. Others choose further study as a way to improve future job prospects, enable a career change or develop job-specific skills, while there are even some who opt to stay on at university to avoid having to join the workforce.
Students seeking to enroll into an MSc degree program must possess a BSc in a relevant field. An MSc can be awarded in subjects ranging from traditional theoretical scientific study to practical subjects such as engineering or agricultural science and offers a far greater depth of training than a BSc. MSc courses feature far less classroom teaching than BSc courses with the emphasis instead placed on original research and the development of personal ideas. To complete an MSc, students must usually complete a thesis focusing on their chosen area of study.
Academic or Professional?
MSc programs may be tailored toward improving a student's professional prospects, but some are designed to simply act as a bridge between the BSc and eventual doctoral study. Students must choose a program carefully with this in mind. Those who wish to eventually study for a doctorate must choose a specially designed MSc program, while those seeking to improve their career prospects should opt for a program designed to improve their practical skills.
Mark Elliott is a British, NCTJ-trained journalist with experience in print, online, television and radio. He has worked for the BBC, BSKYB and a number of national and regional newspapers. While specializing in sports, he has experience in news, politics and history. Elliott has over three years of journalism experience.