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Types of Master’s Degrees || Choosing The Right Master’s Degree

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Types of Master's Degrees || Choosing The Right Master's Degree

master's degree

For most people, getting a master’s degree is the next step in their academic journey after their undergraduate studies. While there are different reasons people decide to study for a master’s degree, getting a master’s degree requires careful consideration and commitment.

A Master’s degree is a broad-level postgraduate qualification. It covers various types of degree programs. These types could be classified as either course-based (taught), research-based, professional or vocational programs.

What type of master’s degree is right for you?

To know the best master’s degree for you, you should consider what you hope to achieve from getting one. Again, getting a master’s degree is not something to rush into. Consider how it aligns with your plans or relates to your undergraduate degree. For some people, getting a master’s degree will help to advance their career and increase job prospects. For others, a master’s degree is a step toward a different career path.

Types of master’s degree

The variations of master’s degrees are designed to offer different purposes and training. These variations will determine the method of delivery and type of coursework involved during your study program. Since there is no uniform title system, universities have different titles for their programmes.

Though course content and titles may vary with the institution, here are the most common types of master’s degrees:

  • Master of Arts (MA)

MA degrees are among the most popular postgraduate degrees awarded by universities worldwide. MA degrees are common in fields like Arts, Humanities or Social science because they typically focus on theoretical concepts in different subject areas. Most MA degrees are course-based postgraduate programmes and will include lectures, seminars and a dissertation at the end of your programme. MA degrees are an ideal choice for creatives who wish to go into join academia or further research a particular field.

  • Master of Science (MSc or MS)

Similar to MA degrees, MSc degrees are typically course-based and involve structured course modules (through lectures, seminars, field or laboratory work) and a final dissertation. MSc degrees, however, have a more technical focus and are generally awarded in STEM and business-related courses. MSc degrees can also be awarded in other fields of study when the course structure has a focus on quantitative analysis rather than theoretical concepts.

master's degree
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)

MBA is a specialized master’s degree designed to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills and provide training for careers in management, business and finance. MBA programmes are typically targeted toward mid-level professionals who wish to advance their careers in a specific field of business. 

MBA degrees can also be useful in other careers outside business and management. This type of master’s qualification has variations to suit professionals at different levels in their career (entry-level to senior professionals). MBA programs adopt a “hands-on” approach, which means coursework and the final research project will involve working with industry trends and figures.

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Like the MBA degree, the MFA is a specialized postgraduate degree. The MFA degree is awarded in Creative Arts related fields and has a focus on performance rather than the study of the Arts. This performance-based approach of the MFA degree differs from an MA degree which takes a course-based approach and runs for 1-2 years.

MFA degrees are generally classified as “terminal degrees”. This means MFA degrees are considered the highest level of academic qualification one can be awarded in these fields. This explains why MFA degrees run for a longer period (2-3 years) than the regular MA degrees. MFA degrees are mainly assessed through projects and performances because they are designed to help students develop their skills and master a specific field. An MFA degree is an ideal choice for students with existing creative skills who wish to work in a creative career.

  • Master of Law (LLM)

Similar to MA and MSc degrees, LLM degrees are typically course-based masters that include a final dissertation. This postgraduate qualification is designed for students who wish to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific area of law. LLM degrees have a wide scope of relevance as the skills and knowledge gained from these programs can be applied to industries outside the law.

master's degree
  • Master of Social Work (MSW)

An MSW degree is designed to prepare students for a career as social workers. As a professional master’s degree, the MSW combines a course-based approach with work placement. To practice as a licensed social worker in most countries, you’ll need to earn an MSW degree. MSW students are assessed based on coursework, work placements (practical), and a final dissertation.

  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

This type of master’s degree qualification is a research-based postgraduate degree designed for students interested in pursuing extensive research in a particular area of study. As an advanced postgraduate degree, MPhil adopts an independent research approach which differs from the traditional MSc degree which is course-based. An MPhil degree will be a suitable master’s qualification for students who want to build a career in research or academia. Unlike an MSc degree, the MPhil degree is assessed based on a written thesis because of its research-based study mode.

  • Integrated Master’s Degrees

An integrated master’s degree typically combines undergraduate study with a master’s qualification. This type of master’s degree is designed for students who wish to gain a comprehensive understanding of a subject area by merging both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees into one program. These Integrated Masters are usually longer than the duration of a regular undergraduate degree. Integrated Master’s may have features that will differ from regular university programmes. For some integrated master’s degrees, students do not have the option of exiting the program early with just a Bachelor’s degree.

Though most integrated master’s degrees are a combination of a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in one programme, they could also be a combination of a Master’s and a PhD programme. Integrated master’s degrees are usually awarded in STEM courses and are designed for students who are interested in a specific career.

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