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Master’s in the UK vs US

The USA and UK are popular destinations for international students, offering unique learning environments, exciting study experiences, and home to some of the most famous universities in the world.

Jun 9, 2023
  • Study Abroad

We share the differences in studying for a master's degree in the UK and USA as an international students to help you decide which country is better for you.

Masters programs in the UK vs. USA

In the UK, a master's degree is a specific course that can lead to qualifications relevant to a career path.

Master's in the US are likely to be part of broader graduate programs and a well-trodden path for students to progress on to PhD study. Some PhD's in the US encompass a master's degree.

Master's degrees in the UK are likely to be standalone programs, so they tend to be shorter and more specialized. For example, US universities may offer a two-year degree program in Design, and a UK university may offer various one-year courses in furniture design or lighting design.

The UK approach to master's degrees is excellent if you want to specialize early and quickly. At the same time, the US option offers a broader knowledge of your subject with the potential of moving into PhD research.

Master's degrees: UK vs. USA Universities

160 universities in the UK and 3,216 universities in the US offer master's degrees. Most universities in the UK are public institutions and receive some funding from the UK government, and charge similar tuition fees.

The USA has public and private universities. Private universities receive most of their income from student fees rather than state funding; this needs to reflect the quality of education between the two categories. However, the complex US system does mean that master's degree fees vary a lot more.

Master's fees: UK vs. USA

International postgraduate tuition fees in the UK vary from £9,000 to £30,000. The average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year. Students who are EU nationals with settled status in the UK may be eligible for tuition fees at the lower domestic rate (typically between £8,740 and £10,310).

Most master's degrees in the UK take one year of full-time study. It usually has fewer associated costs and provides a faster path to employment than a traditional two-year program.

The average cost of a master's degree in the US is $62,650. US public universities charge one rate to students from the same state and a higher rate to all other students. There is no separate charge for international students. Private universities set their fees and don't distinguish between international and US students, so although you may pay more to study for a master's degree in the US, it is not because of being an international student.

Master's funding options: UK vs. US

In most cases, international students are not eligible for public student loans in the UK or US. However, EU nationals with settled status in the UK may be able to get a postgraduate loan for their master's studies.

Funding for international students is available through universities and exchange initiatives in the US and USA. How much you receive will vary depending on what you're studying within a country and your chosen country. US universities, especially private institutions, often provide funding to students.

Master's entry requirements: UK vs. USA

You will need a bachelor's degree to progress to a master's degree in the UK. Admission to a master's degree in the US requires an excellent undergraduate degree and the completion of graduate entry tests such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination).

You will need to apply directly to UK and US universities, so it is wise to check specific requirements for your chosen institution.

Post-graduation options: UK vs. USA

The UK and US offer a post-study work option for master's students. With a graduate route visa, international students in the UK have up to 2 years to look for work after their master's degree.

In the US, post-study options depend on what you've studied and want to do. You may need an additional endorsement from your university or a prospective employer.

Students can also stay in both countries and progress on to PhD studies.

As an international student considering studying for a master's degree in the US or UK, there's very little that divides the two countries on the quality of education. Both countries boast some of the highest-ranking universities in the world and a strong history of valuing education.

In the US, you will spend longer studying for a master's degree, potentially pay more, and may have to complete admissions tests, but you will be prepared for a PhD and may even be able to progress straight into one.

A master's degree in the UK is shorter and, thus, potentially more affordable than in the US. Therefore this may be more appealing to international students prepared to specialize in their subject specialism at the master's level.

A master's degree in the US or UK will provide a high-quality and globally recognized qualification. We hope we've helped you decide which country suits you best.

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The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.

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