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MA and MS Degrees in the US

These graduate degrees are professionally equal but indicate different specialties.

If you plan to pursue a master’s degree in the US, you first must choose whether to earn a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS).

Often, the choice is made for you. Several MA and MS programs in the US require students to have earned their bachelor’s (BA or BS) in a closely related field.

Sometimes, however, you are able to obtain a master’s degree in a discipline totally different from your undergraduate college major.

Both MA and MS degrees are academically and professionally equivalent, but each features a unique curriculum. An MA indicates specialization in the humanities, while an MS indicates a more technical or science-based field.

MA vs. MS: What Can You Study?

Majors common to students seeking an MS in the US include statistics, physics, mathematics, economics, chemistry, biology, political science and urban development. An MA, by contrast, offers degrees in such fields as literature, theater, comparative studies, history and philosophy.

In the US, neither degree is superior to the other. In fact, both share many of the same requirements. For example, both are typically earned in 1-2 years, both generally require you to write a thesis, and both are often prerequisites for a doctoral degree.


When deciding which of these master’s degrees to pursue in the US, consider your previous academic work, as well as your professional goals. If you have a humanities background, you may find trouble transitioning into more technical disciplines. Similarly, don’t choose a degree simply because it’s “practical.” Honor your own passion and curiosity.

No matter which graduate degree you obtain, both the MA and MS in the US are marks of personal and professional achievement.