What is a Master's Degree?
A master's degree is a post-secondary graduate degree which is awarded by universities. It usually requires about 60 credits or 20 courses to obtain; typically this takes about two years to finish. The amount of time needed is really based on the amount of credits you can take during a semester, but most people finish the master's degree within two years.
Types of Master's Degrees
Generally master's degrees are awarded in two different classifications: master of arts and master of science. While these two degrees may seem completely different they are quite similar. One university may grant a master of arts in biology while another may grant a master of science for it. The names are just semantics, and do not reflect the topics studied. There are, however, some types of master's degrees that have special focuses such as:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA): This degree is the next step after earning a bachelor's degree in a business-related major, or for those who simply intend to pursue a business-related career path. The specializations offered in this program include finance, accounting, management, marketing, human resources, and others.
- Master of Social Work (MSW): This degree is the final degree for those intent on becoming social workers as it is generally a requirement in the field. This is an interesting degree as it requires two years of study plus two years of field experience, essentially an internship, which are completed while studying.
- Master of Public Administration (MPA): This degree is popular for those who wish to serve in upper level positions in government, nongovernmental organizations, or nonprofit organizations. It is somewhat similar to a management MBA since it focuses on management of governmental affairs.
Where Can I Get a Master's Degree?
There are two different ways to receive a master's degree; deciding which one to choose depends on personal preferences.
- Traditional: A master's degree can be pursued at a university and for a long time this was the only way to receive the degree.
- Online: The Internet is a powerful resource for various things, among them is education. The online path to a master's degree is perfect for those who cannot commit to commuting or living at a school due to work or family obligations.
Students must possess a bachelor's degree and satisfactory scores on graduate exams in their field (GRE, GMAT).
- GRE: The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized examination for entrance into most graduate programs. The exam consists of four parts.
- Verbal Reasoning: A multiple-choice section scored from 200-800 points in increments of 10 which mainly tests knowledge of vocabulary. Typically consists of 30 questions and 30 minutes are given to complete it.
- Quantitative Reasoning: This section tests students' reasoning abilities and usually contains 14 quantitative comparison questions, 10 discrete quantitative questions (multiple-choice) and four data interpretation questions. It is scored the same way as the verbal reasoning sections and 45 minutes are given to complete it.
- Analytical Writing: This section asks the test-taker to complete two different essays (Issue and Argument). Both essays are scored on a scale of 0-6.
- Issue: This essay presents an issue to the test taker and asks them to state their feelings/ideas about it. 45 minutes are given to complete this.
- Argument: This essay provides the test taker with an argument and asks them to consider the logic behind it and critique it. 30 minutes are given to complete this.
- GMAT: The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) utilizes the same format as the GRE but presents questions that are more prevalent to those seeking to enter a business-related field.
How Much Will a Master's Degree Cost?
The costs of a master's degree at a university can vary quite widely; anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 a year. Online degrees are typically cheaper, and will generally range from $10,000 to $50,000 for the entire degree, making them about half the cost of a traditional degree.
All schools offer financial aid for students based on need or achievements. Contact the school you are interested in to learn more about their financial aid policies and requirements.
Transitioning to a Master's Degree
Most people who are pursuing a master's degree have been in the workplace for a period of time, but don't worry. Schools understand this and make accommodations for their students regarding scheduling and the general methods of teaching. Don't let your fear stop you from pursuing education!
There is a wide variety of majors to choose from in a master's degree program. Almost any career you can think of has a master's degree which corresponds to it.