Yale College
Center for International and Professional Experience
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New Haven, CT
06510   USA

Decoding UK Degrees

Doctoral Degrees

A DPhil is what Oxford and some other British universities call a PhD. PhDs in Britain are different from those in the US: usually just the doctoral dissertation, without coursework, comprehensive examinations, opportunities to TA, etc. You must apply with a clearly-defined research proposal and a prospective supervisor for your research. If you're offered a place, you conduct research guided by your doctoral supervisor, write it up, and usually do an oral defense. It tends to take three or four years to earn a doctorate.

Note: if you're hoping to go on to an academic career you should talk to a professor in the relevant field at home. Since doctoral programs in different countries can be very different indeed it can be difficult to get a teaching job in some fields with a degree from elsewhere. So be sure to consult experts in your field.

Master's Degrees

Any degree beginning with "M" is a master's degree: MPhil, MSc, MA, MSt, etc. Most master's degree courses in the UK and Ireland take one to two years.

The title of a master's program alone may not help you determine whether or not it is a research or a taught course: always check the fine print...

How to decide among the various options?

Last, but not least

Talk with your professors and other mentors in the relevant field. They are the best people with whom to talk about graduate study. They are experts in their fields, they know the shape of current research, who's doing the most interesting work, and where the strong degree programs are. As your teachers and mentors, they also know something about your particular interests and strengths and what might be the best next step in your education.

Faculty in the relevant academic discipline are, moreover, the best people to talk to about finding a research supervisor and putting together a strong, interesting proposal - both of which are essential for application to a research degree.

Do some homework first, and your conversations with faculty and other mentors will be more fruitful. You'll not only get invaluable advice, but these conversations will also help your mentors to write stronger, more specific letters of recommendation.