What Are Masters Degrees?

Master's degrees are the next level of academic accomplishment after bachelor's degrees. Master's degree programs typically take two years of full-time study. If a profession has come to expect a master's degree but not a doctorate, the degree may be called a terminal master's, because it's sufficient as the final degree a professional earns. Read on for more information on these advanced degrees.

Types of Master's Degrees

Graduate schools often award master's degrees to doctoral students after their first or second year. Sometimes universities offer 5-year bachelor's-plus-master's degree programs. Master's degrees may also be earned independently. Some types of master's degrees are listed below.

Important Facts About Master's Degrees

Continuing Education Doctorate Programs, such as MD, PhD, DBA, DSW
Online Availability Various programs are available
Concentrations School Administration, Social Work, Physician Assistance, Career Counseling
Prerequisites Acceptable GPA, possible examinations (such as the GRE), Bachelor's degree

Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS)

MA or MS degrees are offered in several subjects. The differences between the two degree programs may be as little as one course, or as large as a thesis requirement versus a final exam. Sometimes the MA is aimed more at teaching or entry into a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program. MS degrees are common in career fields like accounting or nursing. These distinctions vary across fields and universities, however.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

MFA programs are offered in creative and artistic fields, such as the visual arts, theatre, fiction and poetry, film and dance. One distinction of these programs is that, rather than completing a research-based thesis or project, students produce a creative body of work as the capstone to the program. This may be a performance, collection of writing, art show or portfolio, for example.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Traditional MBA students spend two years in full-time study, while experienced executives may enter a part-time, year-long Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program. Among other business subjects, MBA students may study the following topics:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Marketing

Master of Education (EdM)

The EdM degree is becoming standard for teachers and administrators in public school systems. In this type of degree program, you may take courses on these subjects:

  • Foundations of learning
  • Child development and psychology
  • Student assessment
  • Teaching strategies
  • Adult learners
  • Technology in the classroom

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Social workers earn a terminal master's degree, the highest degree awarded in the profession. Some MSW degree programs have a community and management track that offers courses on community organizing, program planning and evaluation, supervision and leadership. MSW students usually learn about these areas of importance within the field:

  • Human behavior in the social environment
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Counseling techniques with individuals and groups
  • Cross-cultural counseling
  • Substance abuse, eating disorders, child welfare or other special topics

Master of Library Science (MLS)

Master's degrees in library science are considered terminal degrees. Coursework includes the history of libraries, special archives and document repositories. Degree candidates in this field learn a lot about searching out information manually and electronically.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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