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How Long Does IT Take to Get a Masters Degree?

Many professionals seek a master's degree to further or change their career. Read about several master's degree options for students, such as traditional programs, evening and weekend classes, distance learning, part-time attendance and flexible scheduling.

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The Length of a Master's Degree Program

The typical on-site master's degree program takes two years of full-time study to complete. These are often considered terminal degrees, and graduates usually receive the advanced training necessary to enter or advance in a chosen profession. In the instance of dual degree programs, the length of time to receive a master's degree depends on the additional degree program, and may take as few as four years or as many as ten.

Types of Programs and Estimated Lengths

On-Campus: 2 Years

Master's degree programs offered on campus often include extensive hands-on training or group discussion classes. Many programs allow students to access high-end equipment, such as drafting materials, laboratory provisions or broadcasting equipment. Classroom-based programs may also appeal to students lacking discipline to complete studies on their own or who prefer face-to-face interaction with peers and instructors.

Distance Learning: 2 Years

Many schools offer online master's programs, allowing students to work at their own pace without having to travel to campus. Other schools may provide a mixture of distance learning with classroom lab work and/or on-site classes. This type of program is called a hybrid or blended program. Students are generally required to complete distance learning and blended programs in two years.

Students use e-mail, chat and online forms to complete assignments. Professors of online master's programs strictly monitor student communications and offer feedback and instruction daily. Online students may be required to take Internet-based, on-campus or proctored exams. Graduate programs that require on-site internships may provide coursework online with a specified semester or time period allotted for hands-on experience. Depending on the program, schools often assert that distance learning takes the same amount of time as the on-campus equivalent.

Part-Time: 2-5 Years

Students enrolled in a master's degree program often hold full-time jobs. Since many schools offer a part-time option as well as distance learning, working students or students with families may prefer part-time evening or weekend programs. The class load for part-time studies often includes one or two courses per semester. This reduced regimen can extend the time frame for students to earn the degree by as many as three years, resulting in 2-5 years of study for completion.

Dual Degree: 4-10 Years

Several master's degrees also accompany a secondary degree similar or relevant to the program of study. For example, law students seeking a Juris Doctor degree in order to become a lawyer may also seek a specialized master's program in business, political science or accounting. Additionally, many doctorate degrees include a joint master's program providing concentrated studies outside of the Ph.D. curriculum.

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