You have friends or acquaintances or relatives who have earned a Master's degree and you are wondering whether that is something you should earn too. You are not really sure what a master's degree is, how long it will take you or how much work you will need to do, what the costs are, and whether it will be an advantage to you in your career. These are all important questions to research before you make a final decision. A masterís degree may be perfect for your best friend but it may not be the best choice for you. Here are some of the facts about what a masterís degree is, how long it will take you to earn one, and what the requirements are for admission to a masterís program, to get you started on your personal research about the masterís degree.
What is a Masterís Degree?
A masterís degree is one of the graduate degrees that you can earn after you have graduated with a bachelorís degree. Usually you will earn either a Master of Arts degree (MA) or a Master of Science degree (MS). The MA is earned for studies in the humanities such as English, sociology, history or anthropology. The MS is awarded for studies in areas such as biology, mathematics, or economics. Sometimes the designation depends upon how your university designates the degree. Other masterís degrees are more specialized such as a Master of Social Work (MSW), a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Master of Education (MEd) or a Master of Library Science (MLS).
How Long Will it Take to Earn a Masterís Degree?
The degree usually takes 2 years of full time study to earn. However, there are always exceptions. The fact that you may be working on the degree by distance learning in an online course can make a big difference, since you often have the option of studying throughout the year thereby completing more work in that year than someone on campus who can only study for 8 or 9 months of the year. You may then complete the degree in one year or a year and a half. On the other hand you may be working and taking fewer credit courses per year than a full time student. This of course means that it may take you 5 or 6 years to complete all the work. There may also be other factors such as whether you need to make up some courses that you did not take as an undergraduate student when completing your bachelorís degree. This would add extra time to what is normally required.
In general you do require a bachelorís degree for admission to most masterís degree programs. Although it can be in a discipline other than the one you intend to study for your masterís, it should be in a related subject or you should have experience in the field you wish to study. Normally the university to which you are applying specifies a minimum grade point average (GPA) in your undergraduate courses or at least the last year or two of courses. Another requirement usually asked for by graduate schools is that you take either the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Millerís Analogy Test (MAT) and you must earn a specified score on the test. However, for online degree programs, often these tests are not required. Two or three letters of recommendation, a personal letter or statement of intent, your resume, and sometimes an essay are other requirements that are very often requested along with your application for a masterís degree program. If English is your second language, then you usually need to take the TOEFL test and earn a score specified by the university that you are applying to.
There is wide variation in the requirements for admission to masterís degree programs so you will need to check what they are for the school you are interested in to make sure you will qualify. You will also need to make sure that you have all the requirements completed and sent to the university by their deadline. The percentage of qualified applicants accepted into masterís programs can be as low as 10% and is never as high as 100% so you need to do everything possible to make sure that you are one of the successful applicants by following the application instructions exactly including the application deadline. It is better to make sure you send everything in early rather than at the last minute.
With so much information to research about the best program for you, the best school for you, and whether you will qualify for admission to the program, you can see that it is best to begin this exploration very early. I would suggest that you begin months before the application needs to be submitted.