Master's Degree


The term master's degree is used to describe an award given to students that have completed graduate level study, and achieved a minimum grade point average.  A master's degree is the lowest of the graduate level academic degrees, and can be achieved in as little as one year of full time study.


Students wishing to receive a master's degree must first receive their bachelor's degree.  The exact number of graduate level courses required to obtain a master's degree can vary by university.  Generally, the following combinations are typical of a program:

  • A minimum of 30 graduate-level course credits.
  • A minimum of 30 graduate-level course credits, including project credits as outlined by the area of study.
  • A minimum of 20 graduate-level course credits and ten thesis credits.

Students are also expected to have demonstrated a minimum level of expertise or knowledge in their field of study.  For this reason, universities typically require students to maintain at least a 3.00 grade point average.  Finally, schools will also require students to complete their program within a certain timeframe; usually five to seven years after being admitted.

While the most common master's degrees include the M.S. and M.A., these degrees can be further subdivided into the following types of study:

  • Master of Science (M.S.):  awarded to graduate students that major in areas such as accounting, biology, communications, economics, engineering, finance, information technology, management, and nursing.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.):  awarded to graduate students that major in areas such as classical studies, history, journalism, languages, philosophy, religion, sociology, teaching, and visual arts.
  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.):  awarded to students that major in areas such as information management, entrepreneurship, finance, global business, marketing, marketing research, strategy and leadership, and supply chain management.
  • Master of Engineering:  awarded to students that major in the engineering sciences, including biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, and materials.
  • Master of Law (L.L.W.):  awarded to students that major in law sciences, including civil and common law.

When received, a master's degree is typically combined with the student's major.  For example, a student can receive a Master of Business Administration in Corporate Finance.

Related Terms

associate's degree, bachelor's degree, doctoral degree, Latin honors, dissertation, ACT, SAT, LSAT