Online Masters Degree

A Masters degree typically takes one or two years to complete, although it can take three for some areas of study. Masters degrees are one step higher than a Bachelors and are sometimes a prerequisite for Ph.D studies. Some colleges offer five-year Bachelors-to-Masters programs that allow students to earn both degrees at once.

Masters degrees can be earned at traditional public, private and community colleges, and are increasingly offered online.

Why Earn a Masters Degree?

Because some careers require one. Most professional-level careers require at least an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree to start, but a few—particularly in scientific research—require a Masters as an entry-level credential.

Because it can allow you to advance your career. Many higher-level administrative and leadership positions require a Masters degree. Not all do, but often a Masters can set you apart from other applicants who have not earned the credential. In some cases, employers are willing to finance or contribute to tuition for an employee’s Masters degree in order to facilitate advancement within the company.

Because it can increase your earnings. Studies show those who hold Masters degrees typically earn an average of $10,000 more per year than those with Bachelor’s degrees alone.

Types of Masters Degrees

Masters degrees are usually either research-based or fully-taught. A research-based degree requires extensive research into a topic, and usually culminates in a dissertation as well as an oral exam. A fully-taught degree involves more classroom guidance and is typically more similar to the instruction received in a Bachelor’s degree program, although it is significantly more in-depth. These programs may or may not end in a dissertation.

There are dozens of different types of Masters degrees applying to subjects in a wide range of industries. The following are some of the most common.

Master of Arts (MA). The Master of Arts in most U.S. universities is typically a mixture of research-based and classroom-based learning. It’s typically awarded in subjects grounded in the humanities, including English, History, Literature, Theology and the Social Sciences.

Master of Science (MS): Like the Master of Arts, the Master of Science can be research-based, fully-taught or more commonly a mixture of the two. It’s usually offered for subjects in the sciences including Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and sometimes the Social Sciences. In many cases it is a prerequisite to entry into a Doctorate program. In the sciences, a Masters degree or significant credits in the same field you intend to earn an online Doctorate degree in is more critical than it is for subjects in the humanities.

Master of Business Administration (MBA): The Master of Business Administration is a widely recognized credential that’s extremely valuable, particularly in corporate settings. There are several different types of MBA programs, including executive MBA’s tailored to those in executive or management positions. These degrees are often earned by full-time employees, and businesses are often willing to finance tuition. Because of this, MBA programs are often more suited to working and part-time students than other Masters degree programs. Online MBA programs are widely accepted.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA): An MFA is a degree typically awarded to students in the fine arts, creative writing, theatre, visual arts or filmmaking. Coursework is typically hands-on, and the program often ends with a performance or showing of the student’s key work. An MFA differs from an MA in that it is much more performance or application-oriented, whereas the MA emphasizes scholarly study of the subject. An MFA is typically a terminal degree, and is most useful for students who wish to teach their subjects at the graduate level.

Master of Professional Studies (MPS): A Master of Professional Studies emphasizes applied study in a variety of subjects that don’t fit into the more usual Arts or Sciences divisions. Subjects include Humanitarian Services, Homeland Security, Landscape Design, Paralegal Studies, Real Estate Management and Strategic Leadership. The degree is usually terminal; graduates typically use it to advance a career.

A Masters degree can increase your opportunities in a variety of fields. It can qualify you for a range of Doctorate programs or make your resume more competitive for advanced management and leadership positions. With a Masters degree, you’ll be able to advance your career—and earn more in the long run.