When thinking about their options after leaving school, nearly all students will consider the option of going to university. However, there are lots of things to think about before making this decision. Going to university is a big investment of both money and time. Exactly how much money and time it takes can vary a lot between students, so it can be hard to find an answer to the question: how long are you in university for?
The most common length of a university degree is three years. This is the standard length for most undergraduate courses, and after three years, you are awarded a degree. However, this is not a strict rule. For example, some three-year courses have the option to add an extra placement year, making the total four years.
If you are not studying an undergraduate degree, the length is more varied. A master’s degree can take as little as one year. On the other hand, a part-time student working towards a PhD may take as long as seven years.
As you can see, there are lots of different factors which affect the number of years you may spend in university. Keep reading for plenty more information.
Table of Contents
How many years is university in the UK?
How many years you spend in university will depend on two main things: the type of degree that you are doing, and whether you are studying full-time or part-time.
If you have not studied for a degree before (for example, going straight into university from sixth form), you will be studying an undergraduate degree. If you already have a degree, you can study a graduate course, such as a master’s degree.
Additionally, some courses offer the option to study them part-time. As you are spending less time in university each year, these degrees will take more years to complete than if you were a full-time student. Check out this Think Student article for more information about what counts as full-time education.
How many years is an undergraduate degree?
As mentioned, the most common length for an undergraduate degree is three years of full-time study. This is not usually subject specific – undergraduate degrees in anything from accounting to theology are typically three years. To learn more about undergraduate degrees and how long they are, check out this Think Student article.
However, there are lots of things that can change this length! More practical courses such as engineering may offer a placement year, where you spend a year in industry, gaining experience of what it will be like working in that field.
This is an additional year, taking the total length of the degree to four years. To learn more about placements years at university, check out this Think Student article.
Some degrees also include a year abroad, making them four-year degrees. The most common degree that does this is language courses.
For example, if you are studying French, you may have a year abroad in France to immerse yourself in the language and culture. To learn more about the year abroad of modern languages degrees, check out this Think Student article.
Also, check out this page from the University of Manchester’s website about going abroad as part of your degree. It also includes information about going abroad for a few weeks or months instead of a year, which may be useful if you want to keep your degree to a maximum of three years.
The other common exception to a three-year undergraduate course is for students who want to study medicine or dentistry. These courses are notoriously hard work, and you will be in university for a minimum of five years before getting your medicine degree.
Some universities even include a compulsory intercalation year, making the total degree six years long. For more information on how long it takes to complete a medical degree, check out this Think Student article.
How many years is a master’s degree?
A master’s degree involves further study at a higher level after completing an undergraduate degree. It is usually shorter than your first degree, taking one or two years to complete full-time.
When applying for an undergraduate degree, there is often an option to extend your three-year degree to include a master’s degree in the same subject. In this case, the masters will usually only take one additional year to complete.
For instance, for most science courses, a three-year course will allow you to complete a BSc degree (Bachelor of Science). An extra year of study to complete your master’s will get you an MSc degree (Master of Science).
To learn more about master’s degrees and how long they take to complete, check out this Think Student article.
How many years is a PhD?
Like a master’s, a PhD is only completed once you have achieved an undergraduate degree in a related subject. However, these typically take longer than a master’s to complete, as they involve a large amount of independent research and work. For more information about what a PhD actually involves, check out this article from Prospects.
Generally speaking, a PhD will take three or four years to complete. However, there is a lot of independence in this degree, so if you are only studying towards it part-time to fit around other commitments, it can take considerably longer.
Another thing to consider is that, at PhD level, you have much more expertise in your field than when you are studying for an undergraduate degree. Rather than regularly attending lectures and seminars, you may be more likely to spend time researching and writing yourself.
This means it can feel like you spend a lot less time physically at university, even if the PhD takes three years. To learn more about PhDs and how long they take, check out this Think Student article.
How long is a university year?
University years follow the same pattern as schools, starting in September. However, terms at university (also called semesters) are usually shorter than they would be in school, and they do not have half-term breaks.
The length of each term varies depending on the university but will usually be between 10 and 12 weeks. The academic year is made up of three of these terms, as well as holidays for Christmas, Easter, and summer. At the end of the first and third term, exams are often held, before students go home for a well-deserved break!
For more information about university terms, have a look at this article from Think Student.