Briefly about the Master’s degrees in France

  • Master’s degree in France offers both research programs and applied courses with a focus on practical skills and work experience. The country is known for strong higher education that trains valuable professionals in the fields of business, management, engineering and commerce. Three French universities are included in the QS ranking of the 100 best universities in the world[1].
  • Price. Education in public universities is fixed at 265 USD/year for EU students and 4,106 USD/year for non-EU residents. Grandes écoles are more expensive — on average, a year costs 2,178-7,623 USD.
  • Requirements. You can apply with a Bachelor's degree in the same scientific field. Admission to grandes écoles is competitive, so you will need to pass specialized exams (GRE / GMAT).
  • Language. The country’s official language is French, and most of the programs are taught in it. There are programs in English, mainly in the fields of business, management and natural sciences. Before admission, applicants need to confirm command of the relevant language on at least B2-C1 level.
  • Visa. Non-EU students apply for a long-stay visa. The cost for those registered in the Campus France system is 54 USD. For others, the visa's price is 108 USD.
  • Work after school. During the studies, students can undergo an internship, and after receiving a degree — get a job and be issued a temporary residence permit for employees.
Advantages of a Master's degree in France
  • Low cost. A year of study in a Master's degree program at a state university costs 265 USD for EU students and 4,106 USD for non-EU students. Also, in some universities there is a system of “partial benefits”: with it, the fee for non-EU residents comes down to a mere 265 USD. Grandes écoles are more expensive, but even they are rather affordable compared to other universities in Europe. For example, the average cost of a Master's degree for non-EU citizens in Italy is 7,623 USD/year, in Germany — 9,409 USD/year, and in the Netherlands — 15,246 USD/year.
  • Study in English. This is a good opportunity to get a degree from a French university without having to learn the state language. There are especially many English-language programs in the fields of business, management, engineering and technology.
  • Mandatory internships. Gaining hands-on experience is included in the schedule. Moreover, the rights of students during work are protected by law, and the right to take a day off or get a sick leave is strictly regulated.
  • French culture. It doesn't matter which region of the country you live in — each has a unique and rich history, natural and cultural attractions, and specialties from the local cuisine.
Disadvantages of a Master's Degree in France
  • The need to learn French. Most programs are taught in this language. But even if choosing an English-language program, without knowing the state language there is a risk of encountering everyday difficulties and prejudice from the locals.
  • Admission to grandes écoles. There are no admission tests to state universities. But in grandes écoles, applicants pass specialized exams. There is usually no minimal bar set, but in reality, very high scores will be required for admission. Although even that doesn’t guarantee enrollment — a motivation letter, recommendations and, in some cases, work experience in the field also play an important role for the commission.

Cost of a Master's degree in France

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Additional costs
ExpenseAverage cost
Exams71 USD
Campus France processing feeDepends on the country
Rent762 USD/month
Food65 USD/month
Transport69 USD/month
Visa54 USD
Study materials54 USD/month[2]

Application process for Master's degree in France

The admission procedure depends on the type of educational institution — public / private university or grande école. Documents in the public university can only be submitted through the organization Campus France. It deals with the processing of all applications of foreign students. According to the rules of the French Foreign Ministry, foreign candidates can choose no more than 7 universities in one or more related specialties[3]. Usually the change of specialty is impossible. A candidate has to continue the studies in the same scientific field as during the Bachelor's degree.

Students from 45 countries participating in the program Etudes en France go through several stages:

  • Creation of an electronic dossier according to instructions;
  • Payment of the registration fee;
  • Interview with representatives of Campus France of a particular region. Candidates have to explain their desire to study in France, justify the choice of university and specialty, and talk about their career plans.

Important: not all universities accept applications through the online dossier. Some universities are not connected to the system and require sending documents by mail. But even if an applicant fills out the application themselves, it is still necessary to go through all the stages of the Etudes en France procedure before contacting the consulate — without registering for Campus France, it’s not possible to apply for a visa.

Also note that some universities establish additional entrance tests — an interview, an exam or presentation of a future research project.

Once a student successfully enrolls, they must immediately apply for a visa. Master's students receive a long-stay visa, which is equivalent to a residence permit. Read more about the process of obtaining it here.

Admission to the Master's degree program (Mastère spécialisé) at the grandes écoles is not standardized. The procedure and the specific list of documents depend on the specific educational institution, and applications, as a rule, are submitted in the applicant's personal account on the university website. To enter higher education, a candidate needs to pass a specialized exam — for example, GRE or GMAT.

List of documents required to apply for Master’s degree in France

Approximate list of documents:

In addition to the standard set of documents for admission to French public universities, it is also possible to attach a copy of the employment record book. This is necessary to demonstrate professional experience, especially if the applicant had worked in the same specialty for which they are applying. Also, sometimes a letter from the future academic advisor in France needs to be provided.

Grandes écoles often require specialized exams and organize additional entrance tests (interviews, portfolio assessment, presentation and/or defense of a research project).

The minimum level of French for admission is B2. Some specialties, such as Law, require C1 level for enrollment.

Important: All documents must be notarized and translated into the language of the chosen program (French or English). The exact list must be checked on the website of the selected university.

Validation of foreign studies and degrees in France

Unless there is an agreement between France and the applicant’s country on the mutual recognition of education, qualifications and academic degrees, students from other countries must go through the procedure of legalization. This is necessary for the educational document to have legal power abroad. Since France is included in the list of 120 member countries of the 1961 Hague Convention, the process is simplified: it is enough to add a special sign — an apostille.

Deadline for submission of documents in France

Each academic year, the deadline for submission changes. As a rule, the acceptance of applications through Campus France opens at the beginning of December. Before the beginning of March, applicants must create, fill out and send for verification an electronic dossier; by the end of April — pay the registration fee and pass an interview. If the application is sent through the Campus France system, the response will come in the dossier Etudes en France approximately until mid-May or early June. If documents are submitted to a university or a grande école that is not connected to the system, the answer will come directly to the personal account on the university website. After receiving the invitation, the student must confirm the decision to study at the selected university until July[3].

Applying for a master's?

Master’s taught in English in France

Universite Paris-Saclay

France strives to attract as many international students as possible. Therefore, out of 1600+ Master's programs, about 1200 are available in English. Mostly offered by grandes écoles, especially business and engineering schools. You can view the full list in the catalog of Campus France.

When choosing a specialty in English, it is important to consider several features:

  • Often only Master 2 programs are available. English courses are offered by both public universities and grandes écoles. However, in the second case, it is often possible to enroll only in the second year of a Master's program. This means that the applicant must already have 60 credits in the first two semesters of Master 1.
  • Mainly technical and business specialization. While liberal arts programs can be found, the country's top universities offer mostly courses in business, management, engineering, and technology.
UniversityCityProgramDurationAvg. cost per year for non EU-citizens
École Polytechnique de l'Université de NantesNantes
  • Computer Sciences;
  • Automatic Electronics & Electrical Energy;
  • Mechanics;
  • Process and Bioprocess Engineering.
1 year8,167 USD
Institut Polytechnique de ParisParis
  • Nanosciences;
  • Quantum, Light, Materials, and Nano Sciences;
  • Sciences and Technology for Energy.
1 year4,106 USD
Institut d'études politiques de Paris — Sciences PoParis
  • Economic Law;
  • European Affairs;
  • International Management and Sustainability;
  • Governing the Large Metropolis.
2 years19,602 USD
Université de ParisParis
  • Biomedical Engineering;
  • Frontiers in Chemistry;
  • Earth and Planet Sciences, Environment: Fundamentals of Remote Sensing (FRS).
2 years4,106 USD
Université Paris-SaclayParis
  • Biological and Chemical Engineering for a Sustainable Bioeconomy;
  • Algebra, Geometry and Number Theory (ALGANT);
  • Nuclear Energy.
2 years8,712 USD

Popular Master's programs in France

Master's degrees usually continue in the same direction as the Licence. The most developed areas in France are management, finance, commerce and business administration, which are studied in public universities and grandes écoles. The MBA originated in the USA, but France was the first European country to introduce that type of degree[4].

Here are some of the best programs according to the French rating of L'Etudiant[5].

UniversityCityProgramsDurationAvg. cost per year for non-EU citizens
Aix Marseille UniversitéMarseille
  • Internal Organization Audit;
  • Management Control;
  • Enterprise Communication Management.
2 years4,106 USD
Université de Bourgogne, IAE DijonDijon
  • Sector Management;
  • Human Resources Management;
  • Finance.
2 years4,106 USD
Université de Caen Normandie, École Universitaire de ManagementCaen
  • Heritage Management;
  • International Management and Commerce;
  • Marketing, Sales.
2 years4,106 USD
Aix Marseille UniversitéMarseille
  • Instrumentation, Mesure, Metrology and Telecommunication Networks;
  • Health Engineering;
2 years4,106 USD
Université Grenoble AlpesGrenoble
  • Health Engineering;
  • Nuclear Engineering;
  • Informatic Methods Applied to Enterprise Management.
2 years4,106 USD
Université de Franche-ComtéFranche-Comté
  • Information, Communication;
  • Applied Foreign Languages.
2 years4,106 USD
La Rochelle UniversitéLa Rochelle
  • Biotechnologies;
  • Sciences and Engineering Materials;
  • Environmental Sciences.
2 years4,106 USD
Faculty of Law and Political Science, Aix-Marseille University

Affordable Master's programs in France

Most programs of public universities for non-EU students cost 4,106 USD per year, but there are universities in which there are partial benefits — exonérations partielles[6]. The current cost of training is to be clarified on the website of the selected university.

Here’s a list of some universities with partial benefits for international applicants:

State universities
University Groups (Communautés d'universités et établissements)
Higher normal schools (Écoles normales supérieures)
  • École normale supérieure (ENS);
  • École normale supérieure de Cachan (ENS Paris-Saclay);
  • École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS Lyon);
  • École normale supérieure de Rennes (ENS Rennes).
Universities of a special type (Grands établissements)

Education in grandes écoles, as a rule, is much more expensive than in public universities. For example, at HEC Paris one year of Master's degree costs 2,400-17350 EUR[7]. But even there, relatively affordable programs can be found in different specialties.

UniversityCityTuition cost per year
Institut Mines-Télécom, Business SchoolEvry8,440 USD
École de management de Strasbourg, Université de StrasbourgStrasbourg9,529 USD
South Champagne Business SchoolTroyes9,583 USD
EDC Paris Business SchoolParis9840[8] EUR
École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de ParisParis762 USD
École des Mines — ParisTechParis3,811 USD
École des Ponts — ParisTechParis3,365 USD
École nationale supérieure de techniques avancées — ParisTechParis2,886 USD
École nationale supérieure des télécommunications — Télécom ParisTechParis2,886 USD
École Centrale de NantesNantes2,722 USD[9]

MBA in France

Types of Master's degree in France

State Master's Degree (Diplôme national de master, or DNM) can be awarded by educational institutions like EPCSP (établissements publics à caractère scientifique, culturel et professionnel). Those can be both universities and some grandes écoles. Since France has European credit system, the main condition for obtaining a degree is to have a total of 300 credits (120 for Master's studies and 180 for undergraduate studies[17]).

The type of degree awarded depends on the particular institution of higher education. In public universities, as a rule, you can get:

  • Master 1 — after the first year of study. DNM is not yet available, but 60 credits can be accumulated. Upon completion of the first year of a Master's program, students choose a specialization, which will be reflected in the future diploma.
  • Master 2 recherche, or research degree (after the second year of study). This specialization is suitable for those who intend to continue into doctoral studies. The program focuses on theory and basic research.
  • Master 2 professionnel, or professional (after the second year of study). Its goal is to provide highly specialized knowledge and prepare for work in a specific field. The course is focused primarily on practice. Theoretical and seminar classes, as well as long-term internships, provide a quick immersion in the industry.

Important: after two years of Master professionnel, you cannot enter doctoral studies directly. However, after the first course, you can change the specialization to Master recherche.

In some universities, there is no longer a division of the Master’s studies into two levels. Instead, students choose a professional or scientific direction before entering, study for two years and immediately receive a Master 2.

Grandes écoles, which are part of the CGE (Conférence des Grandes Écoles), also award Master 1 and Master 2, but in addition to this they issue special degrees, for example:

  • Master of Science (MSc) — a non-state diploma and its value depends on the reputation of the particular school. As a rule, foreign students tend to choose this specialization.
  • Mastère spécialisé (MS) is received after completing a Master's degree as an additional stage of education. It provides purely practical skills and is especially appreciated by recruiters. Those who have completed the Bachelor's degree can only enroll in the Mastère spécialisé with three years of work experience[18].
  • Master in Business Administration (MBA) is awarded by business schools. Despite the fact that the diploma is non-state, it is highly valued in the labor market. Educational institutions themselves build the educational process and create unique programs[19].
Get a master's degree

Studying in France

Les épreuves écrites du concours de l'Ecole polytechnique

The academic year lasts from September to June. The application process depends on the program and the university. A Master's degree at a public university lasts four semesters and includes theoretical, methodological and practical classes, as well as one or more internships. In total, students study 25-30 hours per week[20]. A lot of time is devoted to self-study, especially when writing a scientific work (la rédaction d'un mémoire). Grades for current assignments and exams are given on a 20-point scale. To get a sufficient number of study credits, students need to have an average of at least 10 points during the semester.

Writing a mémoire (graduate work or dissertation) is a mandatory final stage of studies. Some universities offer research methods courses, but the organization of the process is up to students and requires self-discipline. Regardless of the university, the general steps for creating a mémoire are:

  • Choosing the topic and the formulation of the research problem (problématique de mémoire);
  • Selection of the academic advisor (directeur de mémoire);
  • Preparation of a work plan and analysis of literature;
  • Basic research and collection of results;
  • Editing, together with the advisor;
  • Defense in front of the jury: presentation, answers to questions.

The total number of pages for a research paper is 60-90 pages[21].

Studying at grandes écoles is different from studying at public universities. Students have more freedom, often there is not even compulsory attendance. However, missing classes is rare. It is much more difficult to enroll in these institutions, and education is expensive, so students understand the value of their studies. Much attention is paid to the development of professional skills and internships; practice in one of the partner companies is an obligatory element of the program.

Working while studying in France

A long-stay student visa entitles you to part-time work — no more than 18-20 hours per week. In France, the minimum wage is guaranteed (salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance — SMIC). Today it is 11 USD per hour[22]. When calculating the final salary, you need to deduct the mandatory social security contributions — about 20%[23]. So, working 20 hours a week, a student can earn at least 714 USD monthly.

There are three main employment options available to students:

  • At the university. Students can work on campus for no longer than a year. They welcome freshmen, work as tutors, help organize cultural and sporting events, and accompany students with disabilities. Working hours depend on the schedule, in this regard, there are restrictions: students cannot work more than 670 hours from September to June and more than 300 hours from July to August[23].
  • Outside the university. As a rule, this is part-time work in restaurants, bookstores, cultural and exhibition centers, libraries, tutoring or babysitting.
  • Internship. Depending on the program, an internship may be required for obtaining a degree. A contract must be signed between the university and the host organization[23].

Graduate Internships in France

Internships are most commonly a compulsory part of the program at public universities, however, their importance is lower than that of the main course. Duration is one to six months. Students can take an internship both in a private and in a public organization. Is it compulsory to pay interns only if the internship lasts more than two months. Shorter employment can be either paid or unpaid, depending on the conditions of the employer. Minimum payment — 4 USD per hour[24].

As a rule, internships go like this:

  • Choosing a suitable vacancy. All positions that are related to a specialty or scientific research are suitable. The best resources to search can be found on the website of Campus France.
  • Hiring. Employers usually ask for a resume (CV), sometimes a motivation letter. Then the student undergoes an interview, according to the results of which he is offered employment.
  • Registration of documents at the university. Depending on the institution, candidates need to provide proof of successful recruitment and an application for an internship, approved by an official representative of the university.
  • Internship. Students' rights are strictly regulated by French law. You can find out more about the conditions, including time off and vacations, on the administration website.
  • The final stage. The employer provides a document indicating the total number of hours and wages issued. Some universities, such as the Sorbonne[25], ask to perform in front of a jury with a report on the results of the internship.

Scholarships and grants for a Master's degree in France

Education in public universities is not free. But students have the opportunity to receive a scholarship or research grant.

  • French government scholarship. This is the most popular option for funding a Master's degree program for foreign applicants. The scholarship covers education fees in the range of 4,900 USD and guarantees a monthly payment of 762 USD. One can also get help with accommodation, as well as other benefits. You can find out the exact eligibility criteria and apply on the website of the French government.
  • Erasmus scholarship. This is a set of programs within the European Union. The common scholarship fund is distributed among universities, research centers, faculty and students. The selection criteria and the amount of payment depend on the specific country and university. Generally, it can cover tuition, visas, accommodation and transportation costs.
Applying for a master's?

Work in France after graduation

If a graduate student wants to start working in the country, they need to obtain a temporary residence permit (autorisation provisoire de séjour — APS). It allows you to stay in France for a year after graduation. Before signing an official contract, it is possible to work under the same conditions as while studying at the university — no more than 964 hours per year[26]. The validity period of the APS can be extended for one more year. To do this, a graduate has to find a job in the field relevant to their degree with a salary of at least 2,538 USD[27] and apply for a residence permit for employees and temporary workers (carte de séjour salarié ou travailleur temporaire).

According to the Times Higher Education international rating, the best career prospects are available to graduates from three Parisian educational institutions[28]:

  • Graduate School of Engineering Centrale Supélec. It is a union of the country's two leading engineering universities — École Centrale Paris and École Supérieure d'Electricité. It has an excellent reputation among employers.
  • Graduate School of Commerce — HEC. One of its strongest programs is Management.
  • Polytechnic school. Its best areas of study are Natural Sciences and Engineering.
Enseignement à l'Ecole polytechnique

The fastest to find work after a Master's degree are specialists in the fields of law, economics, management, science, technology and healthcare. For them, it takes, on average, 18 months, while a liberal arts Master’s requires 30. A degree in law, economics or management also increases the chances of an open-ended employment contract (contrat à durée indéterminée — CDI). The highest employment rate after graduation is for Masters in education: 95% are employed in government institutions[29].

Masters are highly valued in the labor market not only in France and other European countries, but all over the world. A European degree is an indicator of quality education for employers.

PhD in France

Masters can continue their studies and pursue a PhD. PhD programs, on average, last three to four years. The learning process is similar to other European universities, but there are also some peculiarities:

  • Labwork. A student can sign a three-year contract (contrat doctoral) and thus finance their own doctoral research — the minimum monthly salary is 1,926 USD[30].
  • Tuition fees are the same as for Europeans. Unlike undergraduate and graduate programs, which are more expensive for non-EU residents, doctoral studies will cost 414 USD for all.
  • Possibility to receive a degree from two different universities. There are partner programs between universities. In this case, education, as a rule, takes place in two universities one after the other, and the student receives two diplomas[31].

After completing doctoral studies, you can start a scientific career. A special feature of the French academic path is the division of teaching positions not only on the basis of the type of contract, but also by responsibilities. The path to the highest position of Professor may be different in each institution, but, typically, each subsequent promotion requires passing the agrégation du supérieur — a series of tests of the higher education committee[32].

PositionType of contractAverage salary per month
Maître de conférences (MCF)Permanent4,209 USD[33]
Chargé de recherche (CR)Permanent4,235 USD[34]
Professeur agrégé (PRAG)Permanent3,871 USD[35]
Maître de conférences associéPermanent500-1000 EUR[36]
Professeur des universités (PR)Permanent5,419 USD[37]
Directeur de recherche (DR)Permanent5,521 USD[38]
Professeur des universités associéPermanent2000 EUR[39]
Attaché temporaire d'enseignement et de recherche (ATER)Temporary2,396 USD[40]
Post-doctorant Temporary3,189 USD[41]
Doctorant contractuelTemporary1400-1600 EUR[42]
Chargé d'enseignementTemporary2,960 USD[43]
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