What Is A Master’s Degree: The Ultimate Guide

Many students consider pursuing a Master’s degree after earning their Bachelor’s degree. Some choose this path to gain specialized knowledge in their field, others choose it to increase their employment and earning potential. But what is a Masters degree? And how would it benefit you?

Understanding what a Master’s degree is and how it may benefit you can help you decide whether this is the right path for you.


What Is A Master’s Degree?

Getting an online masters degree is a huge commitment.

Source: Flickr user nazareth_college.

A Master’s degree is an advanced academic program that students who have earned a Bachelor’s degree can enroll in. The Master’s program allows students with a Bachelor’s degree to specialize in their chosen subject area. Courses in these programs expand on the knowledge gained during the 4-year undergrad programs. They are typically experienced based and structured around applying principles and theories to real-world scenarios.

Earning a Master’s degree certification indicates that you have mastered the knowledge and practical applications within a specific area. Accredited universities award these certifications.

Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree And a Master’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree are two different academic degree levels. You’re eligible to pursue a master’s degree only after you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree.

Most bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete while most master’s degree programs are completed within two years. Some programs may be completed in less than two years, others may take longer.

Bachelor’s degree programs typically cover foundational classes and general education courses related to a specific field. Master’s degree programs dive deeper into a selected discipline, building upon the knowledge gained during a bachelor’s program.

Critical thinking is a crucial requirement to earning a Master’s degree. When you enroll in a Master’s program, be prepared to do far more than just memorize what you read and answer exams. Instead, you’ll be expected to research, analyze and theorize on related topics. As a master’s student, you’ll need to explore multiple references to obtain different perspectives on any one topic. You’ll then need to provide cohesive, thought-provoking insight based on what you’ve learnt. This is what you’ll be graded on.

Types of Master’s Degrees

Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Arts (MA) are two of the most popular types of master’s degrees but they are not the only ones. There’s a Master’s degree for almost every discipline you can think of. No one program is better than the other. The best program for you will depend on your area of study and your career goals. Each program helps students specialize in a specific field.

Here’s a look at the more common types of Masters degree programs and what they focus on.

Master of Arts (MA)

Master of Arts (MA) is a humanities-based degree. It is an umbrella term that covers several disciplines related to art and humanities, social sciences, management, and consulting. You can earn an MA in fields such as Languages, Fine Arts, Philosophy, History, and Geography among others.

Master of Science (MSc)

Master of Science (MSc) is a science-based degree that covers all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics. It is designed to enhance students’ scientific, professional, or technical proficiency. You can earn an MSc degree in fields such as Computer Science, Data Science, Biology, Engineering, Economics, and Mathematics.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Master of Business Administration (MBA) prepares students for a career in business. You can either pursue a general business education or choose from one of many MBA specialties. MBA specializations include fields such as Finance, Marketing, Operational Management, Strategy, and Management Consulting.

A Master of Public Health (MPH)

A Master of Public Health (MPH) prepares you for a career in public health. An MPH program focuses on more than just medicine. It covers a wide range of health issues related to different communities. The curriculum is designed to expand students’ knowledge of health science, statistics, research, economics, policy, and more.

A Master of Education (MEd)

A Master of Education (MEd) is a mandatory degree for anyone who wishes to teach at any level. It covers a wide range of topics related to learning environments and leadership.

No one Master’s degree is right for everyone. It’s important to take time and explore the curriculum and the employment potential of each type of degree. This is the best way to identify one that aligns with your skills, aptitude, and personal and professional goals.

Benefits of a Master’s Degree

Wondering whether it’s paying thousands of dollars more to earn a Masters degree? Take a look at the benefits so you can decide if this is the right option for you.

1. You gain specialized knowledge in your area of study

When you have Masters degree, employers know you have specialized knowledge in your area of study. This increases your credibility and gives you the competitive edge over other professionals in the same field. As the workforce evolves, preference is increasingly being given to professionals with a graduate degree.

2. Your earning potential is higher from the start

Professionals with Masters degrees earn significantly higher starting salaries. The gap widens with experience in the field. That’s something to think about if you’re wondering whether to pay thousands of dollars more to earn a graduate degree. That degree can give your paycheck a huge boost from the start.

3. You’ll find it easier to transition to more senior positions

In addition to specialized knowledge, Masters programs also cover topics related to management and leadership. When it comes to promotions, employers look for both, expertise in the field as well as management and leadership qualities. This is where having a Master’s degree will give you the edge you need. In some roles such as health care and education, a Masters degree is a mandatory requirement for senior positions.

4. You’ll start out with a wider professional network

Everybody in your graduate program is looking to specialize in the same or related field. When you graduate, you’ll already have a network of peers. Networking with other professionals can go a long way in advancing in your career. In addition, professors of graduate programs are typically leaders in their industry. They can help broaden your network even more.

Is A Masters Degree Right For You?

There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone. Only you can decide whether a master’s degree is right for you and whether you want to put in the extra effort required.

As you can see, earning a Master’s degree offers several benefits on a professional and personal level. On a personal level, you’ll broaden your knowledge, specialize in your field, and learn valuable leadership and management skills. On a professional level, a graduate degree will boost your employability, earning potential, and career advancement opportunities. You’ll have a competitive edge when applying for jobs in your field and often earn a higher starting salary with higher income raises. Plus, senior positions are more attainable with a Master’s degree.

But, to enjoy the many benefits of a graduate degree, you must be prepared to put in the hard work. And earning a Master’s degree is hard work. Getting a Bachelors degree is like taking a walk in the park compared to the work you’ll need to put in to earn a Masters degree. You will need to commit to the program and put in the work required.

Another factor that holds undergrad students back from pursuing a graduate degree is the cost of tuition. Most students would have already taken thousands of dollars in student loans to complete their Bachelors degree. The thought of taking on more student loan debt can be daunting. Fortunately, there are several types of financial aid available for students enrolling in graduate programs. With your higher earning potential after you complete the program, you’ll be able to pay off your debt more easily.

How To Earn A Masters Degree

A bachelors level education from an accredited institution is a pre-requisite to applying for any Masters degree program. Some programs may have additional requirements.

Want to earn a Master’s degree? Use our major’s search tool to find out which universities offer graduate programs in your specific field. Check their eligibility requirements and application formalities.


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