A master’s degree is often the key to career advancement. Master’s degree graduate school programs serve two main functions. First, they allow bachelor’s degree grads to build upon their subject knowledge from the degree earned already. Second, they’re an opportunity for students to transition into a new career field or advance their current profession.
You’re required to earn your bachelor’s degree before you can pursue a master’s degree. While master’s degree programs only take two to three years to complete, they are much more rigorous than bachelor’s degree programs, which take four years to complete.
Graduate schools also have a more competitive admissions process. To gain admission into a master’s degree program, you have to show you maintained a relatively high GPA from an accredited institution during your undergraduate studies. Some programs even require you to have work experience in a related field before you’re accepted.
Types of Master’s Degrees
Master’s degree programs require 30 or more credit hours to complete. The courses a student takes while earning a master’s degree opens up more career opportunities to them. Below is a guide on the different types of master’s degrees, including the most popular for certain fields of study.
Master of Arts (MA)
Students who study in arts and humanities, such as theater, geography, English, and communication, can earn their MA. These programs focus primarily on social science, such as sociology and psychology.
MA programs involve extensive amounts of research, lecturing, and writing as part of the coursework. These programs may require students to complete a thesis, and they typically take two years to complete.
Popular MA Programs
Master of arts programs place students in a position to find success in several fields. Among these programs, the following are the most popular in terms of career opportunities, success, and interest.
- Cultural Studies: Students interested in cultures can pursue a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies. In this program, students study a culture’s past and current development. Graduates from this program often work in international fields as program or marketing directors.
- Political Science: Students who want to pursue a career in politics should apply to a Master of Arts in Political Science program. Many people who earn this degree work within the US government.
- Teaching: Becoming an educator is no easy feat. Earning your Master of Arts in Teaching is an important step toward instructing and inspiring the next generation. This degree program offers greater career opportunities to those who want to become teachers.
- Media: A Master of Arts in Media program combines the disciplines of media and cultural studies and teaches students the skills necessary to work in public affairs offices, marketing firms, and even newsrooms.
- International Relations: A Master of Arts in International Relations is for students who wish to develop relationships with people all over the world. Students learn about global affairs, law and international policy, and diplomacy. Careers related to this program include consulting, and working with domestic and foreign governments, and finance and banking institutions.
Master of Science (MS)
An MS degree focuses on more scientific topics. Those who pursue an MS degree usually explore subjects such as computer science, engineering, and chemistry. MS degrees can take two or more years to complete.
Some professions related to an MS degree may require graduates to get other credentials to work in the field, such as licensure, certification, or just professional experience. Graduates from these programs can also pursue their doctorate.
Popular MS Programs
Master of Science programs allow students to work in incredible fields related to science, technology, and finance. Below is a list of the most popular MS programs for students looking to succeed in these fields.
- Computer Science: A Master of Science in Computer Science allows students to increase their understanding and knowledge of computer systems. Graduates from this program work in advanced fields in software development, information technology, and even entrepreneurship.
- Marketing: A Master of Science in Marketing program teaches students about marketing and business. Students develop in-depth knowledge of marketing management, analytics, Internet marketing, and product development.
- Information Technology: Information Technology is a growing field of study. Students learn about computer networking, and they gain a great deal of knowledge and expertise in computer science.
- Finance: A Master of Science in Finance program provides students in-depth knowledge of the financial industry. Students cover subjects in mathematics, statistics, computer science, engineering, ethics, portfolio management, and more.
- Economics: Master of Science in Economics programs cover the market and what affects it. The benefits of this program include learning how to interpret trends to predict the market, as well as mastering personal finance skills and time management.
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
MBA programs focus on business knowledge. Students develop skills related to business, such as management, finance, leadership, and organization. These degree programs have several concentrations that allow students to specialize their studies.
Most MBA programs take just two years to complete. Graduates work as market research analysts, human resource managers, and in many executive roles.
Master of Library Science (MLS)
With an MLS, students are prepared for a wide array of library positions. They can work in secondary schools, universities, legal offices, healthcare offices, or public libraries.
To be a full-time librarian, most employers require professionals to at least have a master’s degree in this field.
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
MPA programs teach students about policy and administration in government and non-profit organizations. Students examine and explore concepts in business, finance, psychology, and policy.
Within the two years it takes to complete these programs, students develop skills to pursue careers in program coordination, public relations, economics, and policy analysis.
Master of Public Health (MPH)
The MPH program explores health concepts related to public health and community needs. Students in the program explore topics such as community health practices, infectious diseases, and crisis prevention.
These programs take around two years to complete and prepare students for careers as dietitians, healthcare administrators, community service managers, and epidemiologists.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
An MSW focuses on the research and practice of social work. Students can specialize in mental health, family service, gerontology, and healthcare. These programs take one to two years to complete, based on the student’s bachelor’s degree.
Graduates from this program can pursue careers as a social worker, counselor, or marriage and family therapist. However, some states require people to have a license to work as a social worker.
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
An MFA program focuses on a specific art form. Some people earn their Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing while others pursue an MFA program in photography, fashion design, or another form of art. Students in these programs improve upon their artistic skills through performances, projects, and work completed in studios.
These programs typically take two years to complete. Students who graduate from these programs pursue careers in the arts or become educators themselves.
Master of Education (MEd, MSEd, MAT)
Master of education programs explore teaching strategies for those who want to be educators. These programs require students to have their teaching licensure or certification to be admitted.
Students of these programs often have the freedom to choose a specialization, allowing them to tailor their degree toward a specific goal or interest, such as special education. It takes around three years to earn a master of education.
Master of Accountancy (MAcc)
A master of accountancy program prepares students to work in careers as an accountant. These programs usually take two years to complete and prepare students to take the Certified Public Accountant Examination.
Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)
To work as a professional architecture, you need to earn your license. A master of architecture program takes students through every aspect of accreditation, which includes exams and internships. After graduating from the program, students can apply for their license.
Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)
A master of city and regional planning program teaches students to excel in solving urban planning problems. Throughout the program, students gain an understanding of regional and urban environments. They develop the skills needed to work in city and regional planning.
Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ)
An MCJ program teaches students to look at law enforcement critically. Students who graduate from the program gain advanced knowledge of criminology and the implication of law.
Students who graduate from these programs find success in various fields and work as information security officers, homicide detectives, prison wardens, and even FBI agents.
Master of Information and Cybersecurity (MICS)
A master of information and cybersecurity program provides technical skills and knowledge to students who want to take on leadership roles in government, military organizations, and the private sector. Students in these programs learn about cybersecurity in relation to law, politics, and business.
Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS)
A master of information and data science program is for students who want to enhance their data analysis skills. Students in this program learn about the importance of extensive research and explore the legal and ethical needs of data security and privacy.
Master of Divinity (MDiv)
A master of divinity program prepares students to take on ministerial leadership roles in social service agencies, the military, hospitals, and churches. These programs typically take three years to complete.
Throughout the time spent in the program, students complete courses in ministry studies, ministry experience, scriptural interpretation, and religious studies.
Master of Engineering (M.Eng., ME)
A master of engineering degree builds on the foundational information students received during their undergraduate studies. The program explores more specialized topics and students gain a stronger understanding of design and creation for machines, devices, and structures.
Master of Forensic Sciences (MFS)
A master of forensic sciences program prepares students for advanced careers in a specialized field. Students take courses, undergo laboratory training, and receive practicum experience.
Upon graduating from the program, students become professionals in the field of forensic science, where they collect, analyze, and present evidence as part of criminal investigations.
Master of Health Science (MHS)
A master of health science program is for prospective healthcare professionals who want to work in administration or as a practicing clinician. This program expands on the knowledge and skills students acquired during their undergraduate program.
Throughout the program, students take courses in environmental health, health policy, community health, and overall health and wellness.
Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)
Students who have an interest in law, but don’t want to practice law, can take part in a master of jurisprudence program. An MJ program is designed for professionals who work in areas that are closely related to the law.
These fields include juvenile and criminal justice, the court system, human relations, social work, and journalism. Courses in these programs provide context to help people in related fields understand how judges and lawyers use and interpret the law.
Master of Laws (LLM)
A master of laws program is for professionals who wish to study a specific form of law. These degree programs allow you to study in fields such as bankruptcy law, commercial law, criminal law, or environmental law, to name a few.
The degree program is not just for lawyers. Many business executives and entrepreneurs pursue their LLM to gain a stronger understanding of law systems.
Master of Music (MMus, MM)
Master of music students learn about theory, trends, history, and research methodologies used in music. Most master’s programs allow students to study in a concentration, which allows them to learn about music in a more specialized area, such as jazz, music education, music production, or composition.
Many master’s degree programs in music involve mentorship programs, where students work with people who are in the industry. These programs allow students to land jobs or fellowships after graduating.
Online Master’s Degree Programs
Pursuing your master’s degree online is a great way to advance your career while still meeting the demands of your everyday life. When going to a traditional graduate school, many students face the difficulties of commuting, creating a schedule, and finding time to complete their coursework. Online master’s degree programs allow students to study at their own pace and complete their degree as quickly or slowly as they’d prefer.
Through online master’s degree programs, it’s possible to earn your degree from the comfort of your own home through an established university. Below are some benefits that come with an online degree.
More Options: Several colleges and universities are available to you when you choose online master’s degree programs. You can choose out-of-state universities without moving or commuting long distances.
Asynchronous Learning: Most online master’s degree programs allow you to learn at your own pace. You’ll be given certain tasks to complete and told when they need to be submitted.
College Resources: Some students are afraid that online programs mean they won’t be able to take advantage of college resources. However, many universities offer online resources to students to aid them in their education.
Experienced Faculty and Professors: Throughout your degree program, you’ll be able to communicate with the faculty and your professors. In most cases, your professors will have experience in the industry or extensive knowledge to aid you.
Networking Opportunities: Participating in any graduate program, whether in-person or online, gives you opportunities to network with your peers and professionals. Some schools even have fairs or events specifically dedicated to networking.
As the job market becomes more competitive, it is becoming increasingly important to get an edge over your competition by earning a graduate degree through higher education. In many career fields, an undergraduate degree–even if it’s a bachelor’s degree–is no longer enough.
If you have a love and passion for a certain subject and want to advance your career in that field, then it is in your best interest to pursue a master’s degree. Earn your master’s degree in two to three years and set yourself up for a lifelong career.