Bob Litt
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How Many Years is a Master’s Degree?

No matter the field where you work, a master’s degree almost certainly lets you improve your knowledge and grow you into a subject-matter expert, and a position with better pay-scales. But before spending your time and resources into getting a master’s degree through online education, there are many factors to weigh. The first and foremost question is – How Many Years is a Master’s degree?

How long it takes to complete a Master’s Degree?

The full-time study course of a Master’s degree at the American University typically takes around two years to complete. There are many online Master’s degrees that you can finish in a year or so. And some degrees take longer than two years. In most cases, the longer your degree is, it is offset by additional opportunities for development and transferable abilities that you gain. Let’s check various factors that clarify your question of how many years is a Master’s degree?

#Factor 1: Types of Master’s Degrees

Several choices with varied course lengths are available for the completion of a variety of diverse research modes. Generally, there are two primary types of Master’s degrees, namely Taught and Research master’s degrees. There are several Master’s degrees available for working professionals (like executive Master’s degrees, integrated Master’s programs).

#Factor 2: Taught or Research?

Depending on the style you select, the length of the Master’s degree can differ. You can expect a full year to the course if you take a taught degree (M.A., M.S, MBA, etc.).

Yet, if you want to go for research degree style (MRes, MPhil), the duration can typically take one or two years to complete as this relies very much on how long this original research takes. Research Master’s degree needs even more independent study and less teaching time, so graduates can perform a more extended research project to finish than taught Master’s degrees.

#Factor 3: No. of Credit Hours

In short, the longer the program will take, the more credit hours it requires. The standardized European system of higher education points out that graduates must have 36- to 54-semester credits in the U.S, although the number of necessary credits varies by degree or institution.

#Factor 4: Part-Time/Full-Time Programs

In individual universities, students can choose between full-time or part-time registration options to flexibly decide how quickly they want to complete their Master’s degrees. Keep in mind that as you take more classes per semester, the faster you complete.

It takes only two years for full-time programs. Part-time programs include evening or weekend classes to suit the demands of a professional. The part-time study takes at least 1.5 times the length of a full-time program and usually takes twice as long.

#Factor 5: The Specific School

Distinct schools have their criteria and options to organize a specific Master’s degree academic program. And you could also notice that, within a discipline, the variance from school to school is as high as one year+ in program length.

#Factor 6: Online Learning Methods

As the world and universities are so global today, almost every school offers an online or hybrid Master’s degree learning options. Such graduate programs can differ in format; some can deliver 100% online, while others incorporate conventional on-campus learning with an online component. Such “non-traditional” learning styles provide greater freedom for students to choose how and when to complete the course work.

#Factor 7: Thesis, Internships, Independent Research, and Other Requirements

Certain conditions can also increase the Master’s degree course duration. Programs involving a thesis, an internship, or independent research are usually longer than ones lacking these kinds of criteria. It may take longer to graduate if you invest time in the laboratories.

#Factor 8: Background Studies

The comparison of the classes needs more background study and further studies. Many courses (arts, humanities, and sciences) seem to have traditional length – a full-time year, even longer, possibly more if research. Although the subject of Social Work MA needs a long time (it is nearer to two years), it’s typically vocational courses that take longer course duration to complete, however, find out about each class personally.

Want to Finish Ahead of Schedule?

Accelerated Master’s Programs

Some Master’s programs have accelerated program options. These usually involve a lower amount of credit hours, a higher load course per semester, and less versatility in selecting the opportunity, but you can graduate more rapidly.

Overloading Credits

Some schools may allow you to complete early graduation if you meet all credits and criteria before allocating the number of semesters. To achieve so, you must generally take a hefty course load. Also, ensure that you can graduate early before committing yourself to this. Not all schools allow you for early graduation for Master’s programs, so you’ll have to stay extra semesters taking viable alternatives (and paying additional tuition).

Future Thoughts

Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ statement, jobs that need a master’s degree are going to rise by 18 percent from 2012 to 2022. In today’s rising competitive global workforce, the benefits of a master’s degree can help you distinguish yourself and remain a valued employee.

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Sai Yallapragada

Bob Litt, the author of this article, has had a 40-year career working in New York’s financial industry, Federal government contracting, the professional Theater, and Las Vegas casinos. Bob now accepts consulting work as a technical writer and corporate training developer. He is also an author, screenwriter and blogger. Explore his website at

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