How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s Degree? Your Questions Answered

howlongdoesittaketogetamastersdegreeObtaining a master’s degree isn’t for everyone.  But if you’re one of the many individuals who find that they can and want to go the extra mile in education, then a master’s degree program might just be the right fit.  In deciding whether to make that type of commitment, one of the first question you most likely will ask yourself is, “how long does it take to get a master’s degree?” The answer: not that long! Well, not nearly as long as a typical undergraduate degree or a more specialized graduate degree in law or medicine for example.

A master’s degree is an academic degree obtained by individuals who have completed in-depth high level work and research in a specific field of study or area of professional practice. Within the area studied, graduates are expected to have advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently. The degree is awarded upon graduation from a university.

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Two common titles of master’s degrees are the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S., MSc, M.Si., or M.C.A.); these may be course-based, research-based, or a mixture of the two. Some universities use the Latin degree names; because of the flexibility of syntax in Latin, the Master of Arts and Master of Science may be known as magister artium or artium magister and magister scientiae or scientiae magister, respectively. Harvard University, University of Chicago, and MIT, for example, use A.M. and S.M. for their master’s degrees. More commonly, Master of Science often is abbreviated MS or M.S. in the United States, and MSc or M.Sc. in Commonwealth nations and Europe. (source:

Other master’s degrees are more specifically named (“tagged degrees”), including, for example, the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Counselling (MC), Master of Library Science (MLS), Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Laws (LL.M.), Master of Music (M.M. or M.Mus.), Master of Information(MI), Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.); some are similarly general, for example the M.Phil., Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS, MLA/ALM, and MLS), and the Master of Studies(Advanced Study / Advanced Studies). See List of master’s degrees. (source:

Length of Typical Master’s Degree Programs

The majority of master’s degrees are obtained in the academic disciplines of education and business. If the student already has a baccalaureate degree, these degrees normally can be completed through two years of full-time study. Of course, many students will not be able to devote full-time attention to their studies because of commitments to work and family responsibilities. The increase of online academic programs in recent years has made it easier for working adults to attend college.  However, a master’s degree is academically challenging and will require significant time whether classes are attended online or in person.

Other, less popular master’s degree programs include humanities, English, computer science, the natural sciences and liberal arts. These programs often have specific educational requirements for admission (for example, a bachelor’s degree in science). The lengths of these programs vary widely but typically require one to three years of full-time study.

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Part-Time Master’s Degree Programs

Because many graduate students who enter master’s degree programs are well into their adult years with work and family responsibilities, many schools offer part-time programs which extend the time needed to complete the program. For example, a typical Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program may require sixty credit hours (four full-time academic semesters at 15 credits per semester). A student that pursues this degree on a half-time basis (7-8 credits per semester) will take four years to complete the program. Part-time students could carry a lighter caseload, but keep in mind that most schools have rules regarding the maximum time (usually six years) allowed to complete a degree.

Get Your Bachelor’s and Master’s in the Same Program

Another master’s degree option that is offered by many schools is a joint bachelor’s-master’s degree program, where students coming to college with only a high school diploma can earn both degrees with five years of full-time study. For example, a student could attain both a bachelor’s degree in Business and an MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) degree in a single five-year program.

These types of programs are great for those who are fairly certain the direction they are headed.  The downside of this is you’re stuck on an academic train that you might not want to be on after a couple of years.  Most adults entering college about just barely adults at the age of 18 and generally have no idea what their interests are.  Either way, this is nonetheless an option if time is a huge determining factor in whether to obtain your master’s degree.

Make the Decision

The relatively short length required to obtain a master’s degree weighs in favor of just going for it if you are on the fence about applying. Tackling the application process is only one hurdle well worth the work.  Oftentimes obtaining a master’s degree can open up opportunities and options you never knew you had or were capable of.  Education always open doors.