Wat is het verschil tussen een hbo-master en een wo-master?

What is the difference between an applied master's degree and an academic master's degree?

Susan Muskee
Susan Muskee Reading time Minutes

Are you thinking about pursuing your studies after obtaining your Bachelor's at a university of applied sciences? Then you should know the difference between an academic master's degree (WO master) and an applied master's degree (HBO master). No worries, we will explain it here!

The education system in the Netherlands

The Netherlands offers two types of higher education institutions: universities of applied sciences (HBO - hoger beroepsonderwijs) and academic universities (WO - wetenschappelijk onderwijs).

University of Applied Sciences (HBO) 

Universities of applied sciences (UAS) are hands-on and prepare students for specific professions. A student may choose a UAS over an academic university because they prioritise practical training and applied learning opportunities, which are emphasised in the curriculum of these institutions. They may also value a more direct connection to other students, lecturers, the job market and a clear occupational direction. 

Academic University (WO)

Academic universities are theoretical, with a focus on analysis. A student may choose this because they want the opportunity to engage in a strong critical and analytical curriculum with no clear occupational direction. It is also important to note that Academic universities typically require a higher level of academic achievement for admission, as the education is more challenging and rigorous.

An academic master’s degree versus an applied master's degree: theory versus practice

A master’s degree programme is an extra degree programme, lasting one to two years. Anyone who completes a master's degree programme at Saxion receives an internationally recognised degree as an MA, MBA or MSc, just like they would with a university master’s degree. The difference can be seen in the entry requirements.

For an academic master’s degree, you are required to follow a pre-master degree programme; this is not necessary for an applied master's degree. A pre-master is a preparatory programme (often lasting one year) for HBO students who want to enrol in a university master’s degree programme. You will follow this programme if you cannot be directly admitted to the programme even though your bachelor’s degree is a sufficient match for your chosen master’s degree. 

The most important difference between an applied master's degree and an academic master's degree is the content: an applied master's degree is practice-oriented, whereas an academic master's degree is mainly theoretical. When you take an applied master's degree you do not just devise new techniques, you also apply them. For an academic master's degree, the emphasis lies on academic research where you analyse and critically evaluate acquired knowledge. Applied versus academic means practical versus theoretical. ‘How does something work?’ versus ‘Why does it work like that?’

What do Saxion’s master’s degree programmes look like?

During your applied master's degree studies, you will work with people in the professional field and in the research community. You will exchange ideas on the impact of innovations on your subject area or profession. You will investigate, for example, what your profession means to society or the role of human beings in a technological world. 

At Saxion, master’s degrees are taught in English, and linked to our research groups and are developed in close cooperation with the professional field.

Entry requirements for a master’s degree at Saxion

You can take a master’s programme if you have obtained a HBO bachelor’s degree or a WO bachelor’s degree. This bachelor’s degree must be a good match with the field of study of the chosen master’s degree. Some master’s degrees require you to have gained work experience before starting the degree programme.

Would you like to know about the master’s degrees you can follow at Saxion? Read more about our master’s degree programmes.

Susan Muskee

Susan Muskee

Susan is a freelance journalist, copywriter, former Saxion student and born-and-bred resident of Deventer. During the summer months she prefers to write on her roof-top terrace in the sun. During the winter she works with her back against the radiator in her living room, which may not be occupationally responsible, but it is nice and cosy.

Related articles

Mitchelle.jpg Education

Mitchelle is doing her MA at Saxion

29 February 2024
master-na-je-studie-saxion.jpg Education

Take a master’s degree after your bachelor degree? This is how you can do it!

06 November 2023
master, ICT, software engineering Education

Do your master's at Saxion