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Second-cycle programmes


7.Higher Education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 27 March 2024

Branches of Study

A master's degree programme is normally of 120 credits (ECTS), i.e. two years of full-time study. Master's degrees are awarded by all categories of higher education institutions (universities, specialised university institutions, university colleges, and some private higher education institutions).

There are also experience-based master's degrees of 90 or 120 credits, of professional or work-life orientation. As a rule, experience-based master's degrees do not qualify for direct admission to PhD.

In a few fields, there are integrated programmes leading directly to a second cycle degree (either a master’s degree of 300 credits, i.e. five years of full-time study, or a second-cycle degree where the title of the former degree system is retained, among them: (medicine), (veterinary science), cand.psychol. (psychology), and cand.theol. (theology)), see chapter 7.4 for details.

Admission Requirements

Admission to regular master programmes (120 credits) is based on a bachelor’s degree or similar  which includes a major of at least 80 credits (120 credits if the specialisation is a vocational programme). Holders of a bachelor’s degree without a major as required or with a major from a different field than the master’s programme they intend to apply to must hence take additional courses or examinations to fulfil the requirements.

Admission to experience-based master programmes (90–120 credits) is based on a bachelor's degree or similar and two years of relevant work experience.

Applicants from abroad are admitted based on assessment according to the criteria of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

Applications to master's programmes should be directed to the relevant higher education institution.


The Act on universities and university colleges stipulates that the institutions may not be instructed regarding the content of their teaching and their research and artistic or academic development work, and regarding individual appointments. There is hence a high degree of academic freedom in the higher education system.

However, for certain programmes, particularly those qualifying for work in education, training, and the health and welfare sectors, there are National Curriculum Regulations.

There is also a National regulation for Master's Degrees which lays down the general admission requirements to master programmes and the credit requirements regarding the mandatory 'independent work' (normally a research thesis, but in art programmes, for instance, other forms of independent work can be equally relevant).

For regular two-year and experience-based master's programmes, the thesis or other independent work must be of minimum 30 and maximum 60 credits. 60 credit master theses is the rule in discipline-oriented studies. In integrated master programmes of 300 credits, the independent work is of minimum 20 credits.

See Curriculum for bachelor programmes for more details.

Teaching methods

See Teaching Methods for bachelor programmes for more details. The writing of a research thesis or other independent work is mandatory for master’s degrees.

An increasing number of English-language programmes are offered to foreign students, mainly for masters’ degrees. An overview of study programmes taught through English is available at the Study in Norway website, which is managed by the Directorate for higher education and skills on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Research.

Progression of students

See Progression of Students for bachelor programmes. 


NIFU’s graduate survey shows that in 2021, 5.2 percent of the recently qualified master candidates in Norway were unemployed. 5.8 per cent had found a relevant job but not in a full position and 12.2 percent did not think that their current job was relevant to their formal skills.

Student assessment

Student assessment is still normally based on individual written examinations at the end of courses, but assessment is also, and increasingly, done based on project work, group examinations, home examinations, artistic performances, etc. For master students, there is a system of individual supervision of the thesis, which also functions as an evaluation of the student's work and progression.

The higher education institutions must develop specific assessment guidelines for all examination, and there must be two examiners, of whom at least one is external, for the assessment of the master theses or other independent work for the master's degree.

See also Student Assessment for bachelor programmes.


All graduates automatically receive a Diploma Supplement in English with their diploma.

The diplomas from state higher education institutions, and most of those from private higher education institutions, can be verified through an online diploma registry called Vitnemålsportalen.

Such online verification is only possible if the graduate (i.e. the owner of the qualification) decides to share this information by activating and sending a link to their results from Norwegian higher education.

See also Certification for bachelor programmes.