How to study a masters degree abroad

International students in Sheffield city

Studying a masters degree abroad will help you expand your horizons, discover a new country and culture, learn a new language and enhance your personal development. Employers, too, are increasingly on the lookout for graduates who share their international outlook, whose global study experience sets them apart from other candidates.

But enough about the benefits of studying for a masters degree abroad – what you want to know is: how do I get there?

There are several routes towards studying a masters degree in the UK including studying for a pre-masters degree. Whichever route you take, here are some ideas to help you steer your post-graduate career and studies in the right direction.

Choose your field of study

Your first step needs to be having a think about what exactly you want to study. When you open yourself up to the idea of studying abroad, you also open up even more choice when it comes to master’s degree subjects. There are thousands to choose from, globally, and this level of choice can definitely be a little daunting.

At this stage it’s useful to think about what your career aspirations are, what you want to get out of your masters degree in the longer term and which subject areas really fuel your passions. Consider your goals and ask yourself which specific skills, specialist knowledge and experience will help you achieve these.

Then it’s time to look for universities and colleges that offer master’s degrees that match up with your aims.

Taught master’s or research-based masters?

With your subject chosen, it’s now time to think about the type of masters degree study you want to undertake. There are two main types of masters study – research-based and course-based.

Course-based – course-based, or taught masters, as they’re also known, are based around structured course modules that are taught in much the same way as your undergraduate degree. That means lectures, tutorials, seminars, lab work or distance learning.

Research-based – this type of masters requires you to carry out your own research project or projects in a specialised field of study. These degree types usually take longer to complete. This type of degree often allows you to specialise on an extremely focused area that really interests you – you could have the chance to research areas that haven’t been researched before and to contribute something really special and worthwhile in the process.

Choose your postgraduate school

Next it’s time to see which universities and colleges appeal to you and to find out more about them. How much are their fees? What are their entry requirements? What does their particular masters degree entail? What kind of student support is available?

Finding answers to all of these questions will help you feel more secure in your masters degree choice. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with the university or college directly and utilise social media to find out more about the school and the student experience there.

Join a pre-masters programme

It could be that you don’t meet the minimum academic entry requirements for your chosen course, or it may be that your English language level isn’t up to the standard required by your chosen school. If either of these is the case, you might want to consider taking a pre-masters first.

A pre-masters is designed to help prepare students for postgraduate study in the UK. Some universities run their own pre-masters programmes, while others may work in partnership with specialist colleges, such as the University of Sheffield International College.

These programmes are specifically tailored to the needs of international students, not only trying to adapt to a new language, culture and way of life, but also to attain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed on a British masters degree programme. The pre-masters works in much the same way as a foundation course works to help international students get the qualifications they need to gain entry to an undergraduate degree in the UK.


Whether you think you would benefit from pre-masters study, or wish to go straight into a masters degree abroad, in most cases you need to apply to the University or College directly. You might also choose to do this through an agent, who can help guide you through the process, aid you in choosing the right course and ensure you have all of the right paperwork in place.

Most universities and colleges will now allow you to apply directly using an online application form, which helps to speed up the whole process.

If you’re coming to the UK to study you may also need a visa in order to do so. You can check the UK government website here to see if you need to apply for one once you’ve applied for your master’s.