Derick de Souza
Written By - Derick de Souza

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According to a CareerBuilder survey[1], having a graduate degree can give you a sizable competitive advantage. You can compete for jobs in in-demand industries and satisfy the minimum educational requirements for some professions, such as social work and school administration, by obtaining your master’s degree. In addition to giving you a chance to earn at least $12,000 more per year than you would with a bachelor’s degree[2], graduate school also offers you an opportunity to develop your critical thinking abilities, pick up specialized skills and knowledge, and advance your career. 

Returning to school to get your master’s degree does not require quitting your job or, in any other way, disrupting your family life. The variety of enrollment options many universities provide means you can return to school and complete your master’s degree sooner than you might anticipate. However, the precise duration needed to complete your master’s degree will vary depending on several factors.

How long does it take to get a masters degree

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Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Are All Master’s Programs Completed in 2 Years?

No, not all master’s programs are two years. Some master’s programs can be finished in less than two years, while others take longer than two years.

The length of time required to earn a master’s degree will vary depending on the field of study, the type of program you choose, and your school. Duration also depends on whether the degree is taken up full-time or part-time, whether classes are synchronous or asynchronous, credit transfers, the chosen coursework, and the mode of instruction – online, on-campus, or hybrid – a combination of online and in-person.  

Here is a closer look at some of the critical factors that influence the duration of a master’s program.

Full-Time and Part-Time Programs

The length of your degree program will depend on whether you enroll full- or part-time. Each choice has benefits and drawbacks of its own. 

  • Full-time: Students who enroll full-time and take a full course load (typically nine credits per semester) can expect to usually complete their degrees sooner than part-time students. Nevertheless, balancing full-time study with family, work, and other obligations can be difficult. 
  • Part-time: It might be simpler for part-time students to juggle their studies with their other responsibilities, and it might also be less expensive. But unfortunately, choosing to do a part-time master’s program will take longer to finish. 
Dual-Degree Programs

You can simultaneously pursue two degrees in a dual-degree program, typically two graduate programs or a graduate degree and a doctoral degree. This usually requires more time than obtaining a single master’s degree but less time than completing two degrees singly.

Accelerated Degrees

An accelerated master’s program combines a bachelor’s and master’s degree to allow students to complete both in less time (sometimes called a 5-year or 4+1 program). With the help of these programs, you can earn two degrees at once and earn a bachelor’s and a master’s in as little as five years instead of the usually required six.

Credits & Program Requirements

At most schools, the number of credits you earn from a course is determined by the number of hours you spend in that course during the semester. Between 30 and 60 semester hours of graduate study are typically required to complete a master’s degree program. It is not uncommon for degree plans to need as many as 72 credit hours.

Furthermore, fieldwork, an internship, a thesis paper, or a capstone project may be required as part of your master’s degree program’s culminating requirement.  

  • master’s thesis is typically required for master’s degrees in research-intensive fields like psychology, physics, and mathematics. This research paper will require extensive time spent outside class doing research and experiments.  
  • An internship or capstone project may be necessary for some non-thesis degrees. This is especially common in theoretically-oriented fields like business and computer science, where actual practice can help.

How to Finish a Master’s Degree Faster

Finishing a master’s degree ahead of schedule is possible if you are willing to put more time and effort into your studies. Here are some of the ways you can graduate faster: 

(a) Opting for self-paced programs 

If you choose a self-paced program, you can take a heavier course load and complete your courses faster by dedicating more time to your studies. While ensuring your grades do not suffer, you can spread your course load as much as possible by taking nights and summer courses.

(b) Choose courses you are already familiar with 

If you have taken some courses in your undergraduate studies and find that your master’s program also has advanced versions, you can save time and effort by choosing these courses. Since you would already have foundational knowledge from your undergraduate studies, you can complete these courses easier and quicker. 

(c) Transferring and maxing out credits 

If you qualify to transfer credits, do so without hesitation. Depending on the university and whether it follows the quarter or semester system, you can also max out your credits by taking the maximum permissible courseload. Additionally, you can shave off a significant number of credits by transferring prior coursework and awarding credit for work experience (if any).

Taking Online Programs Can Be Faster

In most instances, you can earn a master’s degree quickly online. The quickest master’s degree online might only take a few months; in fact, you can find online master’s degrees that take nine or even six months to complete.

 That said, compared to 6- or 9-month master’s degree programs, 12-month degrees are much more prevalent and accessible. Often, 1-year master’s degree programs make for some of the shortest master’s degree programs by using accelerated courses. However, they may also require a significant amount of experience and possibly some transfer credits. Accelerated courses typically last between 4 and 8 weeks, 6-week accelerated courses being typical. Short, self-paced courses help working professionals finish their degrees on their own time for online master’s programs that last one year.

Preparation is key whether you pursue an online master’s degree for six months, nine months, or one year. 

When selecting a master’s degree program, be aware of what you are getting into. Ensure you have completed all the prerequisites and your schedule permits you to take accelerated courses.

Another way to finish your master’s degree faster is to pursue one that does not require a bachelor’s degree. However, it is noteworthy that most such programs need students to have adequate work experience and finish certain prerequisites before enrolling.

Is Doing a Master’s Hard?

Most master’s degrees are demanding and are made to push you. Nevertheless, a master’s degree is also manageable if you put in the time and effort. Time-wise, one must devote at least two years to complete a program, which can be challenging depending on work, family, or other commitments. Additionally, effort-wise, the difficulty level of pursuing your master’s degree depends on the area of study and discipline. While one could opt for easy online master’s degrees, it is important to connect your goals and the subject area you are studying to earn your degree, lest your efforts go in vain.

Related Content

Here are some articles to help you decide on a master’s degree program that’s best for you.: 

  1. Online College Courses – This comprehensive guide walks you through all aspects of online college courses and the many options they offer. 
  2. Why Online Masters – Learn about the advantages and benefits of an online master’s program and everything you need to know about the online mode of lesson delivery.  
  3. Sync. Vs. Async. Learning – Understanding synchronous and asynchronous classes is essential for students to make informed choices that will affect their studies and the time to graduate. This in-depth guide explains them both.


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