What is a Master’s Degree

This is a graduate program that serves as the university’s first study after the bachelor’s degree. Application for a master’s degree usually requires that you have a bachelor’s degree. The duration of study for the program usually lasts a year and a half or approximately two years of study.

The minimum requirement for obtaining a master’s degree is passing between 36 to 54-semester credits. Depending on the school system, it might be up to 60 to 90 for a quarter system school.

The equivalent of this credit in the college is between 12 to 18 courses. And the program is mostly awarded in public institutions. 

Here we will be discussing the essential things that you need to know about the Master’s degree.

What is the master’s degree definition? The different types of master’s degrees? What is the requirement for a master’s degree? What is the duration of the course?

Types of Master’s Degrees by Subject

Knowing the type of master’s degree is crucial as it will help speed up your decision when you want to consider going for an advanced study in your field of interest.

Master of Arts (MA)

Generally, from 2 to 4 years, a master’s degree in Art is one of the most available degrees. A master’s degree in humanities usually covers the field of social sciences, sociology, political science, psychology, and anthropology, and the degree can either be based on research or academics.

Business degrees and professional master’s programs usually suggest specific career plans, while the masters of art develop a wide range of social and professional skills.

Who’s it for?

The program is for student that has prior knowledge about courses in humanity. The student must possess a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, communication, political science, history, and other social sciences degrees. 

The course is for a student that wants to increase their skills and improve their critical thinking. The Master of Arts degree takes a more general approach to the application of theory. Students should think about the business theory from the perspective of a social sciences subject. 

So, the program is for professionals that want to sharpen their skills more and want to be able to solve problems thinking from a wider perspective.

Master of Science (MS, MSc)

The Master of Science is generally awarded in subjects classified as natural sciences, such as biology, chemistry, engineering, health, and statistics. Although fields such as psychology, economics, and social sciences, can be included in the arts and sciences, it is the responsibility of the institution to decide what the master’s program should be. 

Masters of Science have a philosophical approach to masters of Art degrees, though they usually focus more on technology in their profession. 

Who’s it for ?

The first prerequisite to taking the course is having a bachelor’s degree in science and mathematics courses. The program is focused more on research, unlike the M.A option.

So, the course is best for students interested in understanding the science behind the course they are studying. As an instance, an M.A in economics might be interested in teaching the application of the course, but M.S teaches the science behind economics.

Students that love researching and studying more will best enjoy the master of science.

Master of Research (MRes)

A master’s degree in research can be seen as an introductory course for a candidate for the doctoral degree, as the name implies, this course is focused on research. Different from other types of master’s degrees that can provide a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, masters in research focus only on in-depth studies in specific areas, so the number of studying modules can be reduced.

Who’s it for?

The Master of Research (MRes) degree is designed to lead you on the path to becoming a researcher. MRes have a larger scope of research than a master of art or master of the science degree program. If you want to obtain a doctorate or start a research career, they can provide them with advantages. 

Essentially, the course is for a student that wants to delve deeply into research. If you want to work in an academic environment or you want a career with research firms, then the program is right for you.

Please note that some educational institutions may refer to the master’s program in MRes as a master of science degree, so you should check the course content very well.

Master by Research (MPhil)

The (MPhil) is a postgraduate degree that allows candidates to focus fully and independently on specific topics to carry out major research projects. 

Who’s it for?

MPhil is generally considered as an introduction to doctoral degrees and is many times used by institutions to allow the student to have a foresight before embarking on a doctoral program. This usually takes more time than other types of masters – although the time and status given by an MPhil vary by institution.

One of the prerequisites for the program is either Master of Science or a Master of the art. If you have one of these degrees and want to pursue an advanced study, you can decide to pursue this degree. It is also suitable for students who cannot afford to endure long-term doctoral studies or cannot afford tuition fees.

So, the master’s degree program is for a student that loves to research independently.

Master of Studies (MSt)

This is a program that is not taught in all universities; only a few universities award this degree. The Master of studies is similar to MA and MS, which requires learning in the classroom and completion of a dissertation and exam. In some cases, the Master of studies may serve as a temporary enrolment for a doctoral degree.

Normally, Many Mst students will have years of professional experience before starting the program.

Who’s it for?

The program is studied part-time and designed for working professionals who want to study. It enables the student to enhance interest in academics and their professions for career advancement and personal growth. 

Master’s programs are intensive academic programs that present a significant element of teaching and research and related thesis, usually over two years. The curriculum is usually divided into single modules, and research projects can be linked, if necessary, to work.

The program is majorly designed to be flexible enough for professionals that are already working, and it is always part-time.

Specialized and Professional Master’s degrees

This is different from the normal Master’s degree, as the specialized and professional degrees focus more on technical training, the development of business, and equipping students with necessary leadership skills. Students can apply their learning directly at work when they continue their studies.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Master of Business Administration is a widely recognized program designed to improve the skills of the student to pursue a career in management and business. Although the usefulness of an MBA is not limited to business, an MBA can also be useful for those pursuing a career in management in the public, government, private and other sectors.

Who’s it for?

The Master’s degrees in Business Administration are aimed at those who are already a little advanced in their careers and want to upgrade their professional skills. 

However, some may choose to enter an MBA program without having any professional experience, usually resulting in areas such as finance, economics, or administration.

Master of Library Science (MLS, MLIS, MSLS)

The Master Library is designed to provide students with academic and professional knowledge to work in libraries. The program is always taught at schools with an accredited library; MLS involves both theoretical aspects and practical training or an internship prior to the research project.

Who’s it for?

The course is designed for people that want to be leaders in organizations like the library. You will have the practical ability to improve your career and have the confidence to make the right decisions with the current development of the library and how they have been serving the public.

MLS is often a prerequisite for professional library positions in the US. So, the degree is a better way to position yourself for more chances in the library sector.

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Master of Public Administration is a public policy program that is almost the same as the MBA but has more focus on the public sectors and not the private sectors. Students can major in the fields of environment, international management and science, and technology with an aim to apply them in public sectors. 

who’s it for?

Master of Public Administration is the combination of academic and professional elements with an emphasis on analysis and management of the policy.

The course is for a student looking to have a career or secure a high position for the governments, Non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, and advisory institutions.

Master of Public Health (MPH)

The Master of public health is a program at the postgraduate level that focuses more on the applicative side of public health. The degree is created to make the student ready for their role, communicating awareness about the prevention of violence, injury, diseases, and other safety issues that are considered a detriment to their health and safety.

The program does not primarily focus on research, unlike some other degrees.

Who’s it for?

It is suitable for students that want a career as researchers and professors focused on public health. The program is focused on practical problems so students will need to engage in activities related to public health.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW is a program that can provide more professional opportunities for direct practice and open up ways of becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Obtaining the degree will make candidates more open to opportunities in the job market, where they can get better jobs and explore more career opportunities.

Who’s it for?

The program will pave the way for more job opportunities that may not be available for the bachelor’s degree holder. The degree is suitable for students that want to work in the medical and mental health field as a therapist or a healthcare, clinical, and school social worker.

Master of Laws (LLM)

This program graduates to study law. It is typically awarded after the completion of a one-year degree, always full-time. Professionals and students in law often pursue a Master of law to get experience in professional law fields such as international and Tax law.

Who’s it for?

The degree is basically for a law student that wants to focus on a particular area of interest.

Most law firms prefer candidates with a master’s degree in law. They see it as an indication that the lawyer has received advanced professional legal training and qualifications to work in a multinational and corporate legal environment.

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MA, MALS, MLA/ALM, MLS)

The Master of Liberal Arts is a multifaceted program that provides students with extensive knowledge in philosophy, art, mathematics, social sciences, and the natural sciences. 

Who’s it for?

The degree can be useful for students who are transferring from a bachelor’s degree or an expert looking to add a postgraduate degree to their resume. The transfer student often chooses to study it on campus, while the professionals may seek distance learning options that provide more flexibility.

Liberal students often choose the course to have the opportunity to test themselves intellectually, learn ideas, and gain knowledge instead of pursuing a specific career.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The (MFA)is a graduate program school based on the application of art. This is an established qualification for a profession in art, design, and other creative professions.

Who’s it for?

MA Fine Art offers an interesting environment in which you will be guided to improve your creativity in order to gain critical and self-confidence skills that will allow you to work as a successful artist. 

The course is focused on studio practice and is based on experiments and critical expositions sustained by individual leadership, lectures, seminars, and group reviews.

It is mainly for a student that wants to level up their creative ability while also connecting with different professionals.

Master of Music (MM/MMus)

The Master of music is a graduate degree awarded by universities and music schools after a year or two. The Master of music is a combination of in-depth training of the majors selected by the students, for example, musical performances, composition, or direction with in-depth research on music theory.

Who’s it for?

This is an important degree designed specifically for students who are ready to reflect deeply and critically on music education and its evolving landscape and are ready to face the challenge associated with creating a positive musical future for younger ones, families, schools, and communities all over the world.

Master of Education (MEd, MSEd, MIT, MAEd, MAT)

The Master of Education is more focused on studies beyond the spectrum of the classroom and the academic system. The aspiring and certified teachers can get a master’s degree in education while staying in the classroom.

Who’s it for?

It is mostly suitable for people in the educational sector.

 However, a Master’s degree in education enables a wider range in the academic sphere. Many times, those who obtain a master’s degree in education seek to have the ability to influence school policies and procedures to change the lives of students. 

The degree work to ensure that degree applicants understand the systems and mechanisms that underpin the education system, also the best ways to work with colleagues in order to enforce change

Master of Engineering (MEng)

The Master of Engineering degree is a professional degree, unlike the engineering degree of the Master of Science. MEng is an exclusive course for students who wish to improve their academic background but are not interested in pursuing advanced studies.

Who’s it for?

This is a degree that caters to the needs of engineers looking to expand their knowledge in a particular discipline or move to fields with multiple disciplines when planning for careers in the corporate environment and other professional fields.

The degree is versatile, as it allows students to gain greater depth in their profession and increase their expertise. Students can even do business courses and advanced courses in engineering, which prepare them for careers in different sectors.

Master of Architecture (M. Arch)

The MS in Architecture is a graduate degree in architecture that meets the growing demand for research skills in an academic environment and the profession. The program offers in-depth research in different areas of specialization, including design and history and theory of computer architecture.

Who’s it for?

The degree is available for students and professionals with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

The candidate of Master in architecture will be able to develop proficiency with the latest technology in order to effectively solve problems, experiment, and communicate in an environment where they can connect with different professionals in architecture.

Master’s Degree Requirements and Eligibility

The basic requirement is possessing a bachelor’s degree in any field of interest; some situations might require that you only have specific professional experience. Apart from having a degree, most schools required that you have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Some specialized master’s program also requires that the candidate pass some course that is considered a prerequisite.

How Many Years is a Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree usually requires between one and a half to two years of full-time study. In order to obtain a master’s degree, you generally will need to earn 36 to 54 credits per semester depending on the system used, and quarter systems require 60 to 90 credits. Mostly a total of 12 to 18 undergraduate courses. A public institution usually awards the program.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

The recent average cost of obtaining a master’s program from an accredited public or private institution starts from $30,000 to $40,000. But it might be up to $100,000 for some graduate schools, depending on the prestige it could be more.

How to Choose a Master’s Degree Program

This can either be a simple or a difficult process depending on how informed the student is. In order to make choosing easy for you can follow this simple step.

Step1: The first thing to do is know the institution you want to study in, knowing this will solve the problem almost halfway. 

Step2: After identifying the school, the next question of what do you want to study? Is it available at the university you choose? Do you have the requirement? Answering these questions will lead you to the next step.

Step 3: Put into consideration the duration of the program. It would be best for you to know that the duration for a Master’s degree differs either according to the course or the institution. This will help you decide whether you have what it takes to study for that length of time.

Step 4: Research about the coursework and knowing the course work will help you know whether it is a program you are familiar with or want. Some masters’ curriculum focuses more on research than class works while others are vice versa. 

Step 5: The last thing is determining whether the program is in line with your goal. Is it going to improve your existing knowledge in your field? Or will it pave the way for actualizing your goals?

Difference Between Masters Vs Postgraduate Vs PhD

The postgraduate is a degree you can pursue after the bachelor’s, and it has fewer graduation requirements than the Master’s degree, but still on the same level.

The Master’s degree has more focus on career, and it is suitable for professionals looking to enhance their knowledge.

The Ph.D. is for people that want to delve into research or want to work in an academic environment.


Finally, a Master’s degree is the first step in graduate studies for students. And if you want to improve your knowledge more in your chosen field, then the program is a good choice. Students looking to specialize more in a particular subject of interest can use the Master’s degree as the first step.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is a Master’s degree a postgraduate degree?

It is a program that can be obtained at the postgraduate level and not a postgraduate degree.

How many credits is a master’s degree?

It is usually 36 to 54-semester credits of study or 60 to 90 credits for a quarterly system

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree?

A year and a half, and can be approximately two years.

What is a post-master’s degree?

A degree after master, it is pursued more specialized learning.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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