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Masters in France: Guide to Program Types

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Guest post: E-Orientations.com  

Compared to other degrees, master’s degrees in France are very varied, with program types and titles including "master", "mastère" (or Master of Science/MSc), and “specialized master” (Mastère Spécialisé). Before starting to explore all these possibilities for your master’s in France, some clarification is needed.

Introducing the master grade

A master’s in France is both a degree and a grade. It is the last of the university grades to have been established, and is studied between the bachelor (BA/BSc) and PhD levels. The grade was introduced as part of the Bologna Declaration in June 1999, designed to create a common framework of comparable courses and education levels across universities in Europe.

The master grade is granted by French universities after completion of a Diplôme National de Master (DNM), or a comparable graduate-level course, typically granted after five years’ worth of studying after A-levels/baccalaureate. Some examples of French universities granting master’s degrees include the Instituts d'études politiques (IEPs), also commonly known as Sciences Po, and the Université Paris-Dauphine.

Other higher education institutions, such as specialized schools of arts, architecture and business, can also be entitled to give the grade of master’s for some of their degrees, for programs lasting a period of two to six years. In short, a degree cannot be called a “master”, unless it meets the minimum study requirements agreed in the Bologna Declaration.

Types of master’s in France

When considering types of master’s in France, the term “master” refers above all to programs with official Diplôme National de Master (DNM) status. This status is granted by the state for a limited period of time, from three to five years, following a strict assessment procedure. Authorizations and renewals are closely regulated.

In order to obtain DNM authorization for their programs, French universities have to provide a detailed description of courses, job prospects, assessment tests, number of students enrolled, and number of teachers. A DNM can only be delivered by a public institution. A private school can only offer that degree if it is in partnership with a university.

Mastère Spécialisé (MS) and Mastère en Science (MSc)

In France the ‘grandes écoles’ were not too keen on the arrival of the new Diplôme National de Master. They were afraid this would bring confusion with the "Mastère" that already existed for the past 20 years. The Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE), facing problems of recognition of skill levels and course quality, creates its own labels.

The first, Mastère Spécialisé (MS), was created in 1985 for graduate courses, completed four to five years after A-levels. To be accredited, Mastère Spécialisé courses are evaluated based on professional needs, hourly course content and length (at least two semesters), completing an internship and presenting a thesis. 

The Mastère en Science (MSc) was created in 2002. The label is granted to courses mostly carried out in English, during a minimum of three semesters, and ends with a research dissertation. These labels are granted for each course for a length of one, three or six years.

Other types of master’s in France

“Master” is a label which does not benefit from the same protection as other degrees granted by the state. Some private institutions can choose to use the master label for their own degrees, usually for those completed with four of five years of study after A-levels. These can be called mastère (not Mastère Spécialisé, as this label is protected by the CGE) or “professional master”.

They can also take the British label, generally either Master of Science (MSc), for scientific courses, or Master of Art (MA), for arts and humanities courses. The MSc and MA courses are often taught in English, and require a research dissertation.

Finally, the Master of Business Administration (MBA), is mainly aimed at experienced professionals, but also offered by some schools to students four or five years after A-levels.

A degree without the CGE label or other state accreditation is not necessarily a “bad” degree. If the program was recently created, the institution may not have yet started the process required for accreditation.

Before deciding on which master’s in France is right for you, it is worth researching the various degree types. Most importantly, do some research into study and professional options after that degree, find out if the course is recognized by other institutions, and look into student recruitment, job prospects (carefully reading alumni stories), partnerships with companies, and the quality of the teachers.

To find out more about studying a master’s in France, get your free online copy of the QS Top Grad School Guide.

This is a guest post from E-Orientations.com, a website providing information about courses and careers in France. E-Orientations.com includes information about courses, schools and companies, a jobs directory, internship offers and advice dedicated to help young graduates find their first job. You can also follow the site on Facebook and Twitter.

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