Anyone who has searched for academic courses of any level outside Brazil must have already come across a veritable barrage of acronyms, from the better known as “PhD” to less obvious ones such as “MRes”, MSc or BA.
Not to mention the various tests and certificates whose names are also acronyms, such as SAT, GRE, GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL… The list is practically endless. And a sentence like “You will need TOEFL and GRE or GMAT for this MPP program” can be quite confusing for those who are not used to them.
Therefore, we present below a basic glossary of acronyms related to studying abroad. They can refer either to tests and certificates that you need to at least meet in order to be accepted into a program abroad, or to the degrees that are awarded when you complete those programs.
Bear in mind, however, that the acronyms we cite here are those that are used more generally. Depending on your field of study there may be other common acronyms as well. As a rule, however: acronyms that start with “B” refer to the undergraduate level, and those that start with “M” to the master's level. Check out:
“BA” stands for “Bachelor of the Arts”, something like “bachelor of the arts” in free translation. It refers to the title awarded to students who complete their graduation in subjects that we here call human sciences: History, Social Communication, Sociology, etc. And, of course, people graduating from courses such as Fine Arts also earn this title.
“B.Sc.” is “Bachelor of Science”, or “Bachelor of Science” in the free translation. The acronym is used for students who complete their degree in areas that we would call Exact or Biological, such as Chemistry, Physics, Molecular Sciences, etc.
This acronym stands for “Master of the Arts”. It is awarded to those who complete a master's degree in the areas we call Humanities. In general, those who graduate, receive a “BA” degree and continue studying in their field, then receive an “MA” degree.
“M.Sc” means “Master of Sciences”, or “master of sciences”. It is the degree awarded to those who complete a master's degree in the Exact or Biological areas. If you earned a B.Sc at the end of your undergraduate degree, you will likely earn an M.Sc at the end of your master's degree.
In addition, programs designated as M.Sc. or M.Res abroad are usually more similar to strictu sensu postgraduate courses in Brazil. On the other hand, MA are closer to lato sensu postgraduate courses.
As with the MA and M.Sc., the title of MRes is also awarded to those who complete the master's degree. But “M.Res” stands for “Master of Research” (or “master in research”), and this title is awarded to anyone who completes a master's program with a focus on research, whatever the area. It is interesting for students who want to pursue a career in academic research at the end of the program.
The famous MBA courses are “Master in Business Administration” courses. These are academic courses that aim to give students important knowledge and skills in business management, both in the technical aspect and in “soft skills”, such as resilience, leadership and adaptability.
MPA stands for “Master in Public Administration”: a master's degree in public administration. Like the MBA, it has a focus on management. However, it is aimed at the management of companies, organizations and public resources. Therefore, it covers aspects such as governance and public policies, which are sometimes not even addressed in MBA courses.
In the same vein as the MPA, MPP stands for “Master in Public Policy”. Even more than the MPA, it is aimed at people who want to work in the public sector, whether in state organizations or in technical positions guiding the development and implementation of public policies with as much resources and useful information as possible.
This is the title given to those who complete a master's degree in Law. The acronym comes from the Latin “Legum Magister”, or “master of the laws”, and has two L because, in Latin, when you abbreviate something that is in the plural (in the case of the word “Legum”), the letter is repeated.
The most famous of all, Ph.D. means "Philosophy Doctor", or "Doctor of Philosophy". Despite this significance, it is awarded as a title to anyone who completes a doctoral program in any field. This is because the word "philosophy" in the expression is used in its original sense, from the Greek "love of knowledge". There are subtle differences between what we call a “Ph.D” and what we call a “Ph.D” in the US and Europe, but despite them, if you have a Ph.D., you have a Ph.D.