A master's degree is an academic degree usually awarded for completion of a postgraduate or graduate course of one to three years in duration. In the United Kingdom a master's degree is sometimes awarded for an undergraduate student whose final year consists of higher-level courses and a major research project. In the recent standardized European system of higher education diplomas, a master's degree corresponds to a two-year graduate program to be entered after three years of undergraduate studies and in preparation for either high-qualification employment or for masteral studies.
In the UK, many universities now have a four year (five years in Scotland) undergraduate programmes in science courses, with a project in the final year. The awards for these are named after the subject, so a course in mathematics would earn a mathematics master's degree or Master in Mathematics degree, (abbreviated to MMath), or have a general title such as MSci (Master in Science at most universities but Master of Natural Sciences at Cambridge).
Although these master's degrees reflect a higher level of achievement than the traditional bachelor's degree, some are generally considered less prestigious than postgraduate masters degrees such as MSc and MA. In content the first three years are generally identical to those of the equivalent bachelor's degree while the fourth year is a combination of higher-level taught courses and a research project.