How Long Does a Master's Program Typically Take to Complete?

In most cases, a master's degree program takes two years to complete, although there are exceptions to the rule. If you'd like to know how long it would take to earn a master's degree, you should consider how much time you could devote to school and the specific type of program you'll be enrolling in.

Typical Length of Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree should take around two years to earn, during which time you'll complete between 30 and 50 hours of coursework and finish a written thesis that is likely based on original research of some kind. At the end of your program, you'll probably have to pass written or oral examinations as well. Some programs place limitations on how long you can take to earn your master's degree, allowing around six or seven years for completion. With extenuating circumstances, you might be granted an extension.

Extended-Length Programs

Some master's-degree programs will require you to complete a practicum, which is a period of supervised, hands-on work in your chosen field. A practicum may occur simultaneously with your coursework, or it may be completed once your coursework is finished, which will add time to the total length of your degree program. Practica components are typical in fields that require practitioners to be licensed. These include education, social work, audiology and nursing. A practicum can take anywhere from a semester to a year to complete.

Part-Time Study

If you have limitations such as job or family obligations that prevent you from attending a program on a full-time basis, you may be able to participate in part-time study. Many master's-degree programs offer courses in the evenings to accommodate their students' schedules, and some offer courses online. By attending part-time, you will probably earn your master's degree in three to five years instead of two.

Accelerated Study

You may be able to earn a master's degree in less than two years by taking part in an accelerated degree program. Not all schools offer such programs, and not all types of master's degrees are available in an accelerated format; however, if you are able to attend an accelerated program, you could reduce the amount of time it will take to earn your master's degree by a up to a full year.

Combined Bachelor's and Master's Degree Programs

In a combined bachelor's and master's degree program, you will be able to use some of the credits you earn as an undergraduate student toward your graduate studies. These programs usually take a total of five years to complete, or one year longer than a normal bachelor's degree program. You will need to apply for entrance into a combined program after completing part of your bachelor's degree program, most commonly when you reach sophomore or junior status.

Master's Degree En Route

Instead of earning a master's degree before pursuing a doctoral degree, some schools will award you a master's degree en route after a year or two of doctoral studies. If you're planning to earn a doctoral degree anyway, pursuing both degrees at once by this method can reduce the entire amount of time you'll spend in school by a year.

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