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10 questions about an MSc qualification that you always wanted to ask

Roffey Park Institute offers an MSc in People and Organisational Development, awarded through the University of Sussex. Taking a Masters qualification might feel like a big step up from other programmes, so we thought we’d answer some of those bigger questions that you might not feel ready to ask out loud.

Embarking on an MSc course is an exciting prospect and is usually the start of a new stage of your life. Whether you’re straight out of University, mid-career, or looking to move into consultancy, an MSc can be the springboard for success, not only for you, but for your colleagues and organisation. We’re going to look at all aspects of gaining an MSc qualification, so you know how to pick the right course for you. 

1. What is an MSc qualification?

MSc stands for Magister Scientiae, Latin for ‘Master of Science’. It’s a professional course usually taught within a University or accredited setting. An MSc is a prestigious qualification, recognised worldwide, and is a ‘second cycle’ degree. This means you usually take an MSc course after an undergraduate degree, but before a pure research degree such as a PhD.

What’s the difference between an MSc and an MA?

MSc (Master of Science), and MA (Master of Arts) degrees have the same academic standing. An MSc tends to be awarded to a degree with quantitative analysis, whereas an MA is usually awarded to more qualitative subjects, with a basis in creative practice and / or philosophical analysis. In Engineering, four-year undergraduate programmes are the equivalent of a Bachelors, plus a Masters degree, and are known as a MEng (Master of Engineering). Some MSc programmes in Engineering are labelled as MSc (Eng) degrees to demonstrate they meet the same accreditation standard as an MEng.

Is an MSc only awarded in science subjects?

Even though an MSc tends to be awarded to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) subjects, an MSc is not necessarily a ‘hard science’ degree and is often awarded in arts and humanities subjects. A course favouring technical expertise and quantitative analysis is likely to be awarded an MSc, rather than an MA, even though it may be in a traditional arts field such as English. The University of Edinburgh offers an MSc in English Language, studying phonology, syntax and semantics, and modern and historical development, and Roffey Park Institute offers a prestigious MSc course in Organisational Development in association with the University of Sussex.

Where in the world are MSc’s awarded and recognised?

MSc qualifications are awarded and recognised around the world. In the UK, the MSc course is level 7 of the National Qualifications Framework. In Europe, many countries have replaced older ‘Magister’ programmes with MSc and MA degrees in line with the UK. And in North America, the MSc is often referred to as an ‘MS’ degree, with some graduate programmes offering the course within a longer programme, potentially leading to a PhD.

2. What are the entry requirements for an MSc?

Each MSc programme has its own requirements for entry, but here are some of the common stipulations:

  • An appropriate undergraduate degree – Many MSc courses require a 2.1 or higher, but many others recognise industry experience instead.
  • Professional experience – Some MSc programmes, such as the MSc in People and Organisational Development at Roffey Park require you to have ‘on-the-job’ experience .
  • Proficiency in English – If English is not your first language then you will usually need to hold a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or higher.
  • Financial requirements – Some courses require you to demonstrate the capacity to pay for the course, whether through your employer, personal funds, loan, grant, scholarship, or other means.
  • Interview – Some MSc programmes require you to undertake an interview.
  • Entrance exam – A small number of MSc courses require an entrance exam. These are usually the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), commonly associated with graduate entry to Business Schools, and the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations, which are sometimes required if you haven’t studied in the UK before.
  • References – These can be from past tutors or employers, and help boost your application for an MSc programme.

If your first degree was a BA in an unrelated subject to the one you want to study for an MSc, this does not necessarily preclude you from taking a particular MSc course. Providing your initial area of study, or your current career has relevance, you can study for an MSc qualification after completing a BA, or BSoc Sc.

You may also be able to undertake an MSc without an undergraduate degree or with a lower class degree result. This is more likely if you have other relevant experience.

In addition, it’s often your interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and life experience that are your strongest selling points. An MSc is a prestigious qualification, and aspiring applicants also need to have a wide skill set. These can include:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Passion for the subject
  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Attention to detail
  • Accuracy
  • Analytical skills
  • Observational skills
  • Research skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team

Here at Roffey Park Institute, to gain entry to the MSc in People and Organisational Development you need to:

  1. Hold at least a 2.2 UK bachelor’s degree or international equivalent*
  2. Demonstrate at least four years’ relevant business/industrial experience (this need not be in OD)
  3. If English is not your first language, hold a minimum IELTS 6.5

*If you do not have these qualifications, please apply and we will conduct an interview process to ensure that the programme would be right for you 

3. When is a good time to do an MSc programme? 

An MSc qualification stands for excellence, and is a professional qualification that stands you in good stead at any point on your career path. There are usually three entry points for taking an MSc: Straight after an undergraduate degree, mid career, and towards the end of career. Let’s look at these options.

  • Doing an MSc course after your first degree – If you know the area you want to specialise in, it often makes sense to complete an MSc straight after your undergraduate degree. You are already up to speed in the subject, familiar with the academic environment, and ready to start your career off on the best foot.
  • Studying for an MSc qualification after a period of employment – If you’re looking to take your career or organisation to the next level, then taking an MSc is a sure fire way to succeed. Mid career, you’ll probably be clearer about your reasons for taking the course, what you want to achieve from it, and how you want to apply it. As a result, you’ll be perfectly positioned to make the most of the course and qualification.

    Taking an MSc at this point in your career, you’ve got the opportunity to take your current work scenario and apply some high level theory to solve existing problems, and plan a strategic way forward. Also, if you’re looking to get the programme sponsored by your employer (see below), then your best chance is when you’ve already got a good track record. You have real value to your employer and they can see that with this extra qualification, you’ll be in a position to bring about even more change and improvement and therefore add more value to their business.
  • Completing an MSc programme at the end of your career. If you’ve had a successful career within an organisation, then you’ve seen how the organisation has evolved over time, and the effects of change initiatives in the past (good and bad). Your experience alone may well be enough to position you as a consultant, but an MSc qualification at this point will position yourself at the forefront of your industry. It will ensure you’re drawing on current methodologies and practice to add to your years of invaluable work and life experience.

4. Why would I want to do an MSc course?

Embarking on an MSc programme is a commitment and it’s always good to analyse what such a prestigious qualification will bring to your life. When it comes to outcomes and employability, an MSc degree provides several options and benefits.

Earn more money

Having an MSc, you’ll be part of a select and elite section of the workforce, and as such, you’re more valuable to an employer. Many employers recruit specifically for candidates with a Masters qualification, and you’ll be able to command a higher salary.

In the UK, MSc degree holders earn, on average, eighteen percent more than someone with an undergraduate degree. In addition, a 2017-2018 study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency found that those with a master’s degree are also seven percent more likely to find full-time employment, and twenty percent more likely to land a higher role within a company. And in the United States, those with a Masters degree earn twenty-five percent more than those with just an undergraduate degree.

Perform better at your current job

An MSc degree will not only help you to do your job more effectively, but it will also help your organisation and team. You’ll learn the skills to analyse data and think through problems in a more structured way. You’ll have more strategic thinking, and your own independent knowledge to apply back into your role, making you more valuable to your organisation. 

Studying for an MSc gives you permission to think outside the box and be able to apply fresh thinking to old situations. The post Covid world has shown us how tried and tested models can fail overnight. Organisations have had to show remarkable adaptability and agility, being able to respond very quickly to changing environments. An MSc qualification, such as the one in Organisational Development at Roffey Park Institute, can enable you to think at a higher level about how organisations work and communicate with each other, and how to adapt effectively in changing situations.

Advance your career

Many people hold an undergraduate degree, however far fewer hold a Masters qualification. An MSc is an important stepping stone that helps you progress in your career. This might mean taking an MBA or other management qualification, or a complete change in direction. Employers recognise the value of an MSc, and in some sectors, such as healthcare and education, they can be mandatory. You’ll gain more authority with an MSc degree under your belt.

Pursue further study

An MSc degree prepares you for further study at PhD level. On your MSc, you’ll be doing independent research in preparation of your dissertation and acquire specialist subject knowledge.

Build your network

Networking across the world

Studying a specialist subject with a group of motivated, like-minded individuals has huge potential for networking. The contacts you make during your MSc programme can make huge and lifelong differences to your career. In addition, your tutors and supervisors can provide additional connections through their roles as established industry leaders. 

Develop specialist knowledge 

An MSc qualification gives you specific and high level knowledge in a particular subject. It demonstrates your commitment to your industry and further establishes your credibility. Taking an MSc makes you an expert in your field and valuable to an organisation internally and in a consulting capacity.

In addition to developing specialist knowledge, you’ll develop your researching, writing, and analysing skills. You’ll become a more effective and inspired problem solver, and more able to easily deal with complex situations and projects. An MSc course helps you help yourself, which is in itself an invaluable skill. By mixing direct teaching with self learning and research, an MSc broadens your cognitive capacity, enabling you to think in new and exciting ways. 

When you’re considering why you should take an MSc course, also look at the challenge and personal development opportunities. You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, create new contacts, and gain new perspectives on your career and what you want out of your life and your workplace.

5. What kind of people do an MSc programme?

MSc programmes span all subjects, from arts and humanities, to social science, STEM subjects, and business. As such, these courses attract a wide variety of people, at all stages in their careers. Employers actively seek MSc graduates to bring more expertise and value to the workplace, however, in terms of management, only one in five managers has a recognised qualification.

At Roffey Park Institute, our MSc in Organisation Development attracts learning and development and talent managers looking to interpret the requirements of culture change and organisational transformation, transformation officers and change leaders looking for the maximum guarantee of project success, and independent or internal consultants in organisational development and change.

A CEO or senior Director / Partner needs the full picture of the organisational change process. They may have seen their organisation grow organically, yet may not have the wherewithal to take it past a certain point. Even within a massive organisation, where the CEO has been craned in from another big company, they may be relying on their tried and tested turnaround formula from a previous job, not what might be best practice in a changing world. An MSc will give a CEO the latest and best theory in business practice and change management, and give them the opportunity to explore new practices rather than simply relying on past actions. 

CTOs (Chief Transformational Officers) restructure organisations to provide a logical structure that works financially, however it doesn’t necessarily mean that stakeholders are motivated to adopt the changes. Often, they feel they haven’t been consulted or listened to, and are resistant to changing what they may feel worked. When a CTO takes an MSc in Organisational Development, they are motivated to make their transformations more successful, and need a higher level appreciation of all factors that make an organisation work. The MSc teaches how to have effective dialogue with all stakeholders at each stage of the transformational journey, bringing the entire organisation through the change to come out more powerful. 

HR professionals are also drawn to the Organisational Development MSc programme to add more expertise and credence to their function. Often HR is seen as a support, rather than an independent function. The ‘people’ department of a big organisation is rarely seen as important as the ‘product’ side of the company, which is inaccurate, as it’s people that mainly make the difference to the success of an organisation. Having an MSc qualification helps HR professionals be taken more seriously in their role.

6. How is an MSc course structured?

An MSc programme is a taught postgraduate programme that usually consists of a series of modules followed by a dissertation project. By the nature of the subject, some MSc courses have laboratory work and demonstrations, and others have more self-directed study and group seminars.

Every MSc includes an extended project and dissertation. This is your opportunity to apply what you’ve learnt on your MSc programme, and explore your own specialist area of interest. You will have a supervisor, but will be working independently to research your project, assemble data, and analyse your discoveries.

The length of an MSc course varies from country to country, however most courses are one to two years long. The UK MSc qualification is usually a twelve month course, and in Europe, it typically runs for one and a half to two years, with students completing internships during the summer between their first and second years. 

Most MSc course providers offer part time study options, taking the usual length of a part-time MSc in the UK to two years. The MSc in Organisational Development at Roffey Park Institute is two years long as it recognises the fact that most, if not all participants are in employment, and are completing their MSc alongside their full time job.

How you are assessed on your MSc depends on the particular course, however assessments can be based on coursework, exams, participation, presentations, and even on the completion of placements. Modules might be assessed with a mix of coursework and examination, and the dissertation is usually worth about sixty credits, which is one third of the total number of credits needed to earn a UK Master degree.

Instead of being classified the same as a Bachelor’s degree, Masters degrees are classified as Distinction, Merit (or Commendation), Pass and Fail.

7. Can I fit an MSc qualification around my current life?

Photo of studying at home

When choosing the right MSc programme for you, you need to evaluate how the course will fit around your current job and life. This will depend on each individual provider. Many Masters programmes are now designed with flexibility in mind. Questions to consider, are:

  • Is the MSc full or part time?
  • How long does the course last, and is this flexible, e.g. 1-5 years?
  • How much time per week will the course take? Is there a minimum recommended number of hours per week?
  • How much access will I get to my supervisors when I need them?
  • How much self study vs face-to-face learning is there?
  • Can the course be done remotely?

The MSc in Organisational Development at Roffey Park Institute is a prime example of a programme designed around the needs of participants. It is an international programme, open to students globally. It utilises virtually taught components, online materials and Dialogic Learning Groups and allows for global networking among experienced OD professionals and diversity of opinions and perspectives. This enables more people to take advantage of the Roffey Park Institute professionals, and for participants to learn from each other and get the most out of their time on the MSc programme.

8. Is an MSc course practical or theoretical?

All MSc courses combine a mix of theory and practical elements, but the balance will shift depending on the subject and course provider. Every MSc includes a research project and dissertation, and you should consider in advance what specialism you want to explore. If you’re taking an MSc whilst holding down your regular job, the dissertation project might be closely connected to your role and organisation, and offer you a chance to make a real difference in your company.

It’s important to be clear about your objectives before choosing an MSc programme, and know how your brain works. Do you relish getting to grips with abstract knowledge and theory, or are you more interested in fixing things in real life, and want to learn the tools of the trade? It’s not an easy question to answer whether an MSc is going to be more practical or theoretical – so focus on what your own preference is, and then check with potential course providers to find something that suits you. 

9. What learning resources will I have access to?

When considering which MSc course is right for you, it’s important to look at what learning resources are available to you. 

Photo representing concept of online learning

Here are some of the kinds of learning materials you might find on an MSc programme:

  • Access to university libraries of resources – where you request or get direct access to academic papers or whole books
  • Various types of online learning platforms – the classic one is Moodle – which takes you through an online learning pathway, which could see you watching videos, reading texts within the platform, and then answering quiz questions, comprehension questions, etc. 
  • Videos and online clips to watch
  • A recommended reading list of books to buy or borrow
  • Documents and research information from your own organisation

Most MSc programmes are University based, but if you’re doing a course remotely, you need to find out what learning materials you have access to.

This is when it’s really handy to understand your own learning style and preferences. It matters less exactly what learning resources you have access to on your MSc, and much more whether what is available to you matches your preferred style. 

Also consider what tutor support you’ll receive, and supervisor assistance during your research project and writing your dissertation.

10. How to fund an MSc? 

Each MSc will vary in cost and this may be something you need to consider when choosing your programme. There are many options for funding an MSc, and you may be able to negotiate with your employer to cover some, if not all of the costs.

If you are doing an MSc within your current role then your employer may be paying for it. Grants, scholarships, and loans are also available, and some students also use crowdfunding to pay for their MSc qualification.

Paying yourself

You may have sufficient savings to pay for your MSc, or you may ‘pay as you go’. Most MSc programmes offer payment plans to help you spread the financial load.


Student loans and other schemes are an option for funding an MSc. Make sure you seek advice before taking out a loan to make sure you have time to complete your studies before repayments are due.

Donations, grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are still available for pursuing higher education. In addition, there are many charitable trusts that welcome applications to help you in your studies. Another source of funding you may not have considered is crowdfunding; pitching to strangers for them to help pay for your studies.

Employer contributions or full sponsorship

If you are in the military, or a large company, then it may be commonplace for your employer to part or fully fund your MSc studies. If you work for a smaller organisation then it might seem unlikely that your employer would want to pay for you. However, if you reframe the situation, ask your employer how much more it would cost them to hire someone with all your knowledge, as well as the skills you’ll get from an MSc, versus just paying you to do the qualification. It could be they needed to hire a whole other person, or that they need external consultants, both of which would cost significantly more than funding your studies, and also necessitate more admin time and costs. 

Final thoughts

Taking an MSc is an incredible way to expand and stretch your cognitive horizons. You’ll boost your authority and credibility, as well as meet highly motivated people also passionate about your field of study. Not only will you make friends and business contacts for life, but you’ll get career enhancement, increased job satisfaction, and a return on your investment of time, money and effort.


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