When and how to earn a US master’s degree.

Who earns a US master’s degree?
Plenty of people nowadays! Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You’ve spent four years (or more!) earning a bachelor’s degree, but you don’t want to put away your textbooks for good quite yet.
  • You have research you want to conduct.
  • You’ve already spent a few years in the workforce and now want to learn more about your field.

If so, a US master’s degree may be in your future. But before you choose a graduate school, be sure to determine what type of college degree you want and what you will need to do to earn it.

US Master’s Degree Requirements

Each school you consider could have different requirements for its US master’s degree.
You might need to earn a minimum number of academic credit or a certain grade point average. You might be teaching classes. Also find out if you will need to write a thesis, complete a project, or take a final oral or written exam.
A US master’s degree can sometimes be earned without a thesis, although students choosing this option may face more coursework or a written exam. Sometimes a US master’s degree can be earned in as little as one year.

Types of US Master’s Degrees

Students can earn a master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS) degree or opt for a degree with a more specialized focus, such as a master of business administration (MBA).
Check with the university to determine whether your field offers an MA or MS. An MS degree is generally offered in technical fields, such as engineering.
However, an MA and MS degree may be very similar at some colleges. For example, at the Department of Radio, Television and Film at the University of North Texas, the only difference between the degrees is that students who wish to earn an MA must meet a foreign language requirement.
Find out which US master’s degree is most common in your field or determine what type of degree employers require their new hires to possess.

Professional and Terminal US Master’s Degrees

Another option is a terminal master’s program, which often means the US master’s degree does not lead to a US doctoral degree.
This can include MBAs and professional degrees in fields such as education, social work and journalism. These degrees may not offer students the option to write a thesis, and all students in the program may follow the same curriculum.


As you research US graduate programs, be sure to understand the requirements to apply to a school and earn a degree.
You will probably have to take the GRE or GMAT. You also will want to learn the average time students take to earn a degree in your field and if there is a maximum time limit for you to complete the work.
The answers can vary significantly based on your academic focus in college and maybe even your university. Be clear about your professional goals so you can earn the best US master’s degree for your field.