Before, I thought that "degree", when associated with an academic title (e.g. bachelor, master), always meant the qualification given to a student after he/she has completed his/her studies. However, I have recently found out by reading the Cambridge dict corresponding entry that it can also refer to "a course of study at a college or university". Therefore, a "master's degree" can mean both the qualification given to a student after he finishes the master's course or the master's course itself. Is there any difference in meaning between "master's degree" and "master's course", when "master's degree" has the second meaning? Is the first expression more idiomatic?

Example sentence: I will start a master's course/degree next year.

  • Interestingly, all of the examples they are giving are about the qualification.
    – Polygnome
    Dec 5, 2020 at 14:04
  • It does normally mean the qualification, whatever Cambridge Dictionaries say. Dec 5, 2020 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


I would say that yes, the first expression is more idiomatic. Perhaps even more idiomatic is "I'm starting my Master's next year", provided there is sufficient context.

I can see no difference in meaning. However, I have rarely heard people say 'I'm starting my Master's course next year".

Speculation: I suspect that the reason might be that the word 'course' covers all types of course, including the most basic 'learn to use a computer'-type course at your local library. When people talk about Master's degrees, they imagine (sometimes wrongly, of course) that they involve difficulty, prestige and respect, and so some people might unconsciously avoid the word 'course'.

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