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Types of Master's Degrees: Program Overviews

There are several different types of master's degrees, each serving a specific purpose. Some of the most common types of master's degrees include a Master of Arts, a Master of Science and a Master of Business Administration.

Bachelor degree holders who may be considering attending a graduate program need to keep in mind the types of master's degrees that are available to them. Depending on their area of expertise, they can work toward a master's in arts, science, or business administration or a specialty master's.

Most Common Types of Master's Degrees

Master's degree programs are post-baccalaureate programs that usually take two years to complete. These degrees range from such specialized titles as a Master of Accountancy to a Master of Veterinary Science. However, the three most common master's degree programs found at many 4-year universities are a Master of Arts (M.A.), a Master of Science (M.S.) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Master of Arts

A Master of Arts program is a general graduate program usually associated with different specializations related to the humanities and social sciences. Master's degree programs may be either research-based, coursework-based or a combination of the two. A bachelor's degree is normally required for admission to a master's degree program. Some of the possible M.A. specializations include:

  • Philosophy
  • English
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Education
  • Classics

Master of Science

A Master of Science program is based around scientific learning. A bachelor's degree in a related field is almost always a prerequisite. Like those who have earned an M.A., graduates who have earned a Master of Science can go on to pursue a doctoral degree. Master of Science degrees can be earned in these fields, to name just a few:

  • Engineering
  • Veterinary science
  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Master of Business Administration

A Master of Business Administration program is a professional degree program focused on business-related subjects. Many schools offer executive, part-time, online and dual degree options for earning the graduate degree. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits colleges and universities that offer MBA programs. Specializations for the MBA program include the following:

  • Accounting
  • Project management
  • Human resources
  • Operations
  • Marketing

Program Requirements

Students looking to earn a master's degree usually have a bachelor's in that related field. Some institutions do accept any undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. However, in the fields of engineering or architecture, a related undergraduate degree is required. Many programs require submission of GRE and GMAT scores.

Once a student has been accepted, there are other requirements that vary by program. For instance, an MBA in Global Management may require a student study abroad for a semester or complete a capstone project. Requirements for a Master of Arts in English, as another example, means completion of certain required courses and electives, as well as a thesis and defense of the paper.

Master's degree candidates may be considering going back to school and earning their degree in two years or working straight through after earning their bachelor's. Students need to take into consideration the type of master's degrees available and the program requirements.


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