What Do You Need to Get a Master's Degree?

by Contributing Writer

Master's degrees are available in academic subjects ranging from economics to anthropology, and they also come in the form of professional degrees like the J.D. (law degree) and the MBA (master of business administration degree). Master's degree programs usually require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject with an acceptable grade point average. Many programs also require applicants to take standardized tests like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Master's Degree Requirements

Once you have been admitted to the master's degree program of your choice, the real work begins. Most full-time master's degree programs take two years (four semesters or six quarters) to complete. If you enroll in an accelerated master's degree program, you can finish your master's degree in as little as one year. In addition, some schools also offer combined bachelor's and master's degree programs that allow students to finish both degrees in five years. If you're looking to enroll in a part-time master's degree program, it may take you three or four years to complete your courses. There are over 75 different types of master's degrees available in the United States, and the course requirements vary based on the type of program. Most master's degree programs in the United States require students to complete between 30 and 60 credits. Some master's degree programs require students to complete a master's thesis, while others offer a non-thesis option. Master's degree programs that require students to complete a thesis usually include fewer courses, while non-thesis master's degrees typically require more courses. Students who choose the thesis option are often required to participate in an oral defense of their thesis.

Types of Master's Degrees

The two most common types of master's degrees are Master of Arts degrees (MA) and Master of Science degrees (MS). Students can also earn master's degrees in specific professional occupations, such as a Master of Accountancy degree (MAcc), a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv), or a Master of Library Science degree (MLS). Master of Arts degrees are often awarded in the humanities, languages and social sciences. Master of Science degree programs train students for technology, engineering and health care fields, as well as careers in the traditional sciences.