A typical master's degree requires students to spend an additional two years in school following the completion of a bachelor's degree. The most common master's degrees in the United States are the Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Arts (M.A.). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals with a master's degrees usually make $1,000 dollars a month more than workers with a bachelor's degree.
Master's degrees, like PhDs, are classified as graduate degrees. Those who complete master's programs can greatly enhance their job and career advancement opportunities. Since so few people earn master's degrees (only about 3% of people in the United States), it is viewed favorably by many businesses, corporation and organizations looking to hire skilled professionals.
Graduate programs are more rigorous and challenging than undergraduate programs. Therefore, students considering a master's program should be prepared to work hard. Aside from learning new skills, students enrolled in master's programs develop strong relationships with their professors and other successful industry professionals. Having a strong professional network is the key to finding a good job following graduation.
Students in master's programs participate in traditional college lectures, conduct research, analyze case studies and prepare a thesis. Some are required to complete internship programs before graduation.
Although many master's programs prepare graduates to begin their careers upon graduation, some programs may not position graduates for jobs right out of school. For example, a person with an MBA will probably find a job after graduating, but a person graduating with an M.A. in sociology desiring to teach will most likely be required to complete more schooling and training before qualifying for a teaching job within the industry. Degrees that qualify students for jobs after completing their master's programs are known as terminal degrees.
Some accelerated master's programs only require 30 credit hours and can be completed in about a year. Other programs may require students to complete 60 credit hours and can take 2-3 years to complete. For example, a Master's of Social Work (MSW) program usually takes 60 credit hours to complete, which usually takes two years (if pursued full time). Many accelerated MBA programs are offered entirely online for working professionals who can't regularly attend classes on a college campus.
About 30 percent of people pursuing a master's degrees are enrolled in non-education programs. The remainder of master's students are enrolled in the following types of programs:
- Business (MBA; M.S. in Business)
More students are enrolled in MBA programs than any other master's program--nearly 20% of all master's students. Students can opt to study general business management or develop expertise in a certain field, such as e-commerce or international finance. Individuals with research interests and those who want to eventually obtain a PhD should consider enrolling in an M.S. business program.
- Education (MEd; MAT; MSEd)
Nearly 30 percent of individuals enrolled in master's programs study education-related subjects. Those enrolled in a Master's of Education program usually take a variety of education courses. However, these programs also allow students to specialize in education subfields, such as curriculum design, special education or education administration. An online master's degree program in education is ideal for students specializing in e-learning.
Students who complete the Master's of Art in Teaching (MAT) program will be ready to teach students at various education levels upon graduation. Students in MAT programs will acquire real-life experience in addition to traditional classroom coursework.
Those interested in working in education administration should consider enrolling in a MSEd program. This is an ideal option for teachers with a desire to move into an administration position.
- Other Master's Degrees (MSW; MLS; MPH)
The other 25 percent of students enrolled in master's degree programs study library science (MLS), social work (MSW), nursing, or public health (MPH).
Benefits of an Online Master's Degree
An online master's degree program is an ideal option for students studying technology-related subjects, such as telecommunication, e-business, or computer science. Online programs are also very convenient for working professionals; they allow students to study at their own pace, without having to wait until a new semester begins to start new classes.
Master's Degrees by Subject
To learn more about specific masters degree program select a degree category below.
Online & Campus-based Master's Degree Programs