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How Many Years is a Master's Degree?

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If you want to become an expert in your chosen subject or make yourself an irresistible candidate for your dream job, a master's degree might be the right path for you. It's an intense study experience, but not necessarily a lengthy one; some master's degrees can be completed in a little as one year if you opt for a full-time schedule.

What Is a Master's Degree?

A master's degree is the first level of qualification at the postgraduate level, generally sought by those who have successfully obtained a bachelor's degree. A master's give you a higher level of expertise in a specific field of study or area of professional practice. Two main types are available: taught master’s degrees and research master’s degrees.

Taught master’s degrees – also known as course-based master’s degrees – consist of a structured program of lectures, seminars and supervision, and allow students to select their own research projects. Research master’s degrees involve less teaching time and require a lot more independent work, allowing students to undertake a longer research project. Many master's degrees are aimed at working professionals and offer a range of flexible study options, such as distance/online learning, part-time courses, and evening and weekend classes.

Why Get a Master's Degree?

Education providers are keen to know a prospective student's reason for taking a particular course, which the candidate explains via a personal statement. For many people, it is fueled by the passion for the subject they established while earning a bachelor's degree or during independent study outside formal education. They want to learn more about the subject to teach it to others or prepare for doctorate-level research. Other may get a master's degree because they are pursuing a career path that requires one, such as law, medicine or education. A master's degree may also give you the edge over bachelor's degree graduates when applying for a job. Some people simply get a master's degree because they love to study and wish to stay in academia for as long as possible.

Length of Time for a Master's Degree

Master’s degrees typically take one to three years to complete, through either part-time or full-time study. The duration depends on the subject, the country in which you study and the type of master’s degree you choose.

Concerning study credits, the European system of higher education stipulates that students must have 90 to120 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System credits. Students in the United States need 36 to 54 semester credits to complete a master's program, and the United Kingdom requires 180 credits. Some colleges and universities offer a joint-degree program, allowing students to get a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at the same time. Students start the graduate program in the fourth year of college and upon successful completion of the program, graduate with bachelor's and master's degrees at the same time.

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About the Author

Claire Gillespie is a writer and editor with experience in law, business and PR. She has written about careers for many websites, including SheKnows and Reader's Digest.