A master’s degree is the next level of educational pursuit after a bachelor’s degree. The time frame required for completion of a master’s degree varies significantly. The average is two years, but some programs, like divinity schools and law schools, require three to four years to complete. Some programs, such as law schools and some fine arts programs, actually combine master’s level and doctoral level educations, resulting in “terminal” degrees. This means that the degree received is recognized as the highest degree in that field. Examples of this include a Juris Doctor (received from a law school), and some Master of Fine Arts degrees.
Master’s degrees are typically designated as either a Master of Arts, or a Master of Science. Occasionally, specific fields give specific degree titles, such as a Master of Education, a Master of Social Work, or a Master of Divinity. Master’s degrees are always heavily research based, and involve extensive reading and writing. Most masters’ programs require a capstone experience, either a project or a thesis, which are the result of extensive original research synthesized into original ideas.
Admissions requirements for different master’s programs vary greatly. Generally, however, one must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, achieve acceptable results on a GRE exam, complete an application that typically involves an essay, and acquire letters of recommendation. Master’s degrees are stepping-stones for those desiring to pursue a doctoral education. Also, many fields recognize master’s degrees with promotions and higher pay. Some fields require master’s degrees for significant advancement, including education, the political sciences, and the behavioral sciences.
As with any educational program of today, most master’s degrees may be completed at least partially online, if not entirely. As many students pursuing a master’s degree are already working professionals, a new trend has developed in making graduate programs easily accessible, and the Internet has revolutionized this. While completing a master’s degree may seem daunting, it is possible, and, as with any level of education, will always prove worthwhile in the end.