Types of Programs & Lengths
Different master's degree programs last for different amounts of time. There are two-year on-campus and online programs as well as accelerated programs, part-time, and dual degree programs that vary in length. The typical master's degree program takes two years of full-time study to complete. There are also part-time programs that take longer, as well as accelerated master's degree programs that take less time. 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.
In some subjects, master's degrees are considered terminal degrees, and graduates receive the advanced training necessary to enter or advance in a chosen profession. In other subjects, graduates may advance to Ph.D. programs after finishing a master's degree.
On-Campus: 2 Years
Master's degree programs offered on campus often include extensive hands-on training or group discussion classes. On-campus programs take two years to complete. 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.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Communications and Journalism
- Computer Sciences
- Culinary Arts and Personal Services
- Liberal Arts and Humanities
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies
- Medical and Health Professions
- Physical Sciences
- Transportation and Distribution
- Visual and Performing Arts
Distance Learning: 2 Years
Many schools offer online master's programs, which allow 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 able 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 may assert that distance learning takes the same amount of time as the on-campus equivalent.
Accelerated: Less Than 2 Years
There are also online and on-campus master's degree programs that take less than two years to complete. For instance, accelerated Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs may take as little as one year to complete. These accelerated courses may provide particularly intensive studies, or they may award credit for previous educational or professional experience.
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 timeframe for students to earn the degree by as many as three years, resulting in 2-5 years of study for completion.
Dual Degree: 3-5 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.
When choosing a master's degree program, there are programs of different length that can meet the scheduling needs of a variety of different students.