How Long Does IT Take to Get a Masters Degree?

Sep 23, 2019

Students wondering 'how long does it take to get a master's degree?' need to consider several different factors, including program subject and format. Here we discuss these factors in more detail and the different length options for master's programs. View article »

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  • 0:04 Types of Programs & Lengths
  • 0:59 On-Campus: 2 Years
  • 1:30 Distance Learning: 2 Years
  • 2:32 Accelerated: Less Than 2 Years
  • 2:56 Part-Time: 2-5 Years
  • 3:27 Dual Degree: 3-5 Years

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Video Transcript

How Long Does it Take to Get a Master's Degree?

Traditionally, a master's degree program can be completed in 2 years. However, some programs can be completed faster than 2 years and some may take more than 2 years to complete, depending on a number of factors. The average master's program involves 8-10 courses and 32 to 36 credit hours.

One huge factor that determines length is the subject of the degree. There are many different kinds of master's degrees within a particular subject. For example, there are different types of master's degree programs in psychology, some of which have clinical components and may take longer than 2 years to complete, while various types of master's degrees in business commonly take 2 years or less to complete because they mostly consist of coursework.

Master's Degree Formats

Another main factor to consider is the program's format. Today, master's degree programs in a wide range of subject areas offer students several formats to fit their schedule, lifestyle, and/or career goals. Some of these formats may allow students to finish their master's degree faster than a traditional, 2-year program, while others may allow students to take their time and work around a career, family, or other obligations. Many programs, no matter the format, set the maximum time limit of a master's to 5 years. Explore some of the different format options here.

On-campus: 2 Years

On-campus master's degree programs probably offer the widest range of subject areas. The majority of these programs are traditional, 2-year programs. Many on-campus programs also include hands-on learning experiences that can be conducted on or near campus. There are still some on-campus programs that may be accelerated and completed in 12 to less than 24 months.

Online: Less than 2 Years

Online master's degree programs are becoming more common and many of these online programs can be completed in 2 years or less because of self-paced and/or accelerated options. Online master's degree programs are commonly offered in subject areas that do not require a lot of hands-on experience, but there are some hybrid programs that offer coursework completely or primarily online and may allow students to complete hands-on learning experiences on-campus or locally in their place of study. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), one-third of graduate students were getting their degree through distance education.

Part-time: 3 to 5 Years

Part-time master's degree programs are also becoming more common as people pursue their master's while already working a job, starting a family, and more. These degree programs are available on-campus and online, but may be more common online. Some part-time programs may even offer courses in the evenings or on weekends for flexibility. According to the NCES, 43% of students are getting their master's degree part-time.

Accelerated: 1 Year

There are 2 main categories of accelerated master's degree programs. One is a master's program that can usually be completed in less than 2 years (typically in 1 year) and the other is 4+1 bachelor's and master's accelerated programs. Accelerated, 1-year master's degree programs are most commonly offered in areas like business, education, and other liberal arts areas that do not require as much hands-on or clinical work as other subjects, such as the physical sciences. Combined undergraduate and graduate degree programs that can be completed in 5 years may offer a bachelor's and master's in the same subject area or in a related subject area.

Dual Degrees: 3-4 Years

Dual degrees typically allow students to earn 2 degrees at the same time faster than pursuing each degree separately. There are many different dual master's degree programs available, as well as dual master's and professional degrees, such as a Juris Doctor (JD). Dual master's degree programs can commonly be completed in 3 to 4 years.

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