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Master’s degrees are one of the most diverse degrees within the education system—ranging throughout different specializations, teaching methods, and majors. However, that diversity is what makes them so distinct and unable to group in one branch only.

Although two main groups of master’s degrees involve teaching-based coursework and research-based coursework, there are many variations that come off these two. So, without further ado, here are all the different types of master’s degrees.

 

Types of Master’s Degrees

There is no set determinator or one single standardized system by which master’s degrees are sorted. However, there are a few different types based on what they offer and how they’re achieved. Depending on how long and/or what it takes for students to achieve a master’s degree, they’re split into three main categories.

 

Postgraduate/graduate master’s degrees

Postgraduate/graduate master’s degrees refer to the degrees that are obtained after already completing a bachelor’s program. It can last anywhere between one to two years. Some master’s degrees that fit into this category include: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Master of Science (MSc/MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Applied Science (MAsc), etc.

 

Integrated master’s degrees

Integrated master’s degrees are called such when they are part of the undergraduate bachelor’s degree program that features an extra year of master-level classes. Such degrees are offered mostly in STEM disciplines and include these master’s degrees: Master of Chemistry (MChem), Master of English (MEng), Master of Mathematics (MMath), Master of Physics (MPhys), Master of Psychology (MPsych), etc.

 

Non-master’s level master’s degrees

The term non-master’s level master’s degrees refers to degrees granted by ancient universities for which students did not have to follow a master’s level degree program. Rather these degrees were awarded to students who followed bachelor’s studies.  

 

Types of Master’s Degrees by Coursework Type

Although it has been mentioned that there is no set standard by which universities categorize types of master’s degrees, we can group them according to the type of coursework they offer and oftentimes have particular subjects they are offered in.

Here are the different types of master’s degrees based on the subjects they offer and the coursework that comes with them.

 

Master of Arts (MA)

Master of Arts is a degree awarded upon the completion of a program that is usually taught through a combination of lectures and seminars and they are assessed through examination based on an independent research program. They are usually awarded in disciplines such as communications, languages, literature, education, geography, history, linguistics, and music.

 

Master of Science (MS, MSc)

Master of Science degrees have a good amount of the research component involved in them that are usually awarded in science fields. Some disciplines in which these degrees are awarded include biology, engineering, chemistry, health, and statistics; however, disciplines such as economics and social sciences can fall under both MA and MS umbrellas, and it is the university’s decision on what to call them.

Some MSc degrees include MSc in Statistics, MSc in Data Analytics, MSc in Biology, MSc in Cyber Security, etc. 

 

Master of Research (MRes)

Master of Research degrees are awarded to those who complete courses that help them become researchers. Such programs contain a huge element of research and as such, are usually pursued by students who wish to obtain PhDs.

 

Master by Research (MbyRes)

Master by Research is typically a longer degree that similar to MRes is awarded and usually pursued by students who wish to continue with their PhD studies upon completion. This allows students to focus on a particular topic independently with an in-depth stance and complete a single large-scale research project on said subject.

 

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Master of Philosophy is a master’s degree program that typically involves both a taught portion and a significant amount of research as well. For the duration of this program, in order to complete it and be awarded a degree, students must work on a thesis during the research portion of their studies.

 

Master of Studies (MSt)

Master of Studies degrees easily compare to MA and MS degrees, since they also require classroom learning, thesis, and examination for completion. However, this is not an incredibly popular degree, and it is only awarded in a select few universities.

 

Specialized and Professional Master’s Degrees

Apart from the more general different master’s degree types, there are also a number of postgraduate degrees that fit the master’s criteria that are more specialized and tend to focus on specific subjects. Sometimes, they are even referred to as tagged masters due to them being tagged to a certain field.

 

Here’s a list of said master’s degrees.

 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

A Master of Business Administration program is designed for business students who want to gain the skills and knowledge needed to progress in their careers in both business and management roles. MBA students are usually professionals who have already kick-started their business careers and want to advance it.

These students will start such a program to learn broad business skills and receive training in most areas of business. With an MBA, there is also the opportunity of choosing a specialization within the degree, such as accounting or finance, so students can tailor their degrees to a specific field of interest.

 

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

A Master of Public Administration degree is a postgraduate degree focusing on public policy and has many similarities with an MBA degree. This degree is aimed at students who want to focus on the public sector rather than the private one.

An MPA is usually sought out by students who wish to specialize in topics such as the environment; international administration, science, and technology with an aim to work for the government; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); not-for-profit organizations; consulting.

 

Master of Library Science (MLS, MLIS, MSLS)

A Master of Library Science is a program that focuses on both the theoretical and practical aspects of learning. It is designed to prepare students for their workplace, which in this case is a library. Such a degree is awarded by library schools.

 

Master of Social Work (MSW) 

As the name suggests, a Master of Social Work degree program is designed to prepare students to work within the field of social work. An MSW degree is for students who wish to learn how they can improve the lives of individuals, groups, and communities.

 

Master of Public Health (MPH)

A Master of Public Health postgraduate degree program is aimed at students who want to better their understanding of public health through both academic and professional learning. An MPH can oftentimes be specialized in a certain field such as global health, epidemiology, nutritional sciences, and occupational health.

 

Master of Music (MM/MMus)

Master of Music degrees are awarded by music conservatories and universities. These postgraduate programs aim to educate students in a specialized field of music combining it with advanced studies of general musical theory.

 

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

When it comes to Master of Fine Arts or MFA programs, they are granted for disciplines that include studio arts, visual, and performing arts. These programs are designed for students who wish to advance their studies in the fields of graphic design, filmmaking, theatre, creative writing, photography, and painting.

 

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MA, MALS, MLA/ALM, MLS)

A Master of Arts in Liberal Studies refers to degree programs that offer advanced level teaching in liberal arts. Such programs allow students to gather knowledge and be taught by professors across the university’s postgraduate programs. Students of these programs are usually not studying for a career path, rather broadening their intellectual horizons and exploring new ideas.

 

Master of Laws (LLM)

Master of Laws degree programs are usually followed by students that have already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in law. Students who wish to broaden their general knowledge on practicing law and specializing in a certain area of law.

 

Master of Engineering (MEng)

A Master of Engineering degree can be offered either as an academic degree or as a professional one, where one focuses on engineering theory and the other prepares students to work in engineering. Many of these degree programs will require students to have published work in industry journals or field experience, some may require both and others will require one or the other.

 

Master of Education (MEd, MSEd, MIT, MAEd, MAT)

As we can guess already by the name, Master of Education degree programs are programmed for students who wish to advance their knowledge on education. Some of these degrees are sought out by those that wish to achieve teacher certification and others by those that wish to specialize in a certain area of education.

 

Master of Architecture (M.Arch)

Master of Architecture degree programs are designed for students of architecture that wish to broaden their knowledge and even specialize in certain areas. These degrees are awarded upon completion of programs that involve practical internships, thesis projects, and final examinations.

 

So, Which Master’s Degree Is Right for You?

There is no one-fits-all answer to this question. A master’s degree should be chosen only upon considering various factors, such as field of interest, bachelor’s degree you hold, work opportunities, and aspirations for the future, among others.

 

Before making such an important decision, it’s advisable to take your time and really think about what you wish to achieve your degree. Additionally, you should consider whether you want to follow through on a research-based curriculum, a theory-based one, or a professional one that prepares you to be in the workforce, and maybe a variation of the combination between these?

Whether you choose to get an MBA, an MPhil, or an MA in Liberal Arts, it should be your choice and in tune with the future you wish to achieve.

 

We hope this list of various master’s degrees helped you understand how they differ, where these degrees are similar, and which one would be the right fit for you. Good luck with your studies!

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