How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree?

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by Thomas Broderick

Updated May 23, 2023 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Undergraduate and graduate programs help learners build skills for various careers. Graduates with a master's degree have advanced skills and knowledge in their field. Some employees need a master's for professional advancement. Some learners pursue a master's to qualify for a doctoral program. Professionals with a doctorate can qualify for tenure-track teaching positions at colleges.

Online master's programs offer many benefits. Read on to learn the advantages of earning a master's degree.

What Is a Master's Degree?

Bachelor's degree-seekers specialize by selecting a major. They also take general education classes. Master's degree-seekers focus on one subject. They take many upper-division classes and learn how to perform graduate-level research. Some programs' curricula attract learners planning to pursue a doctorate. Other programs prepare students for management-level positions.

Students earning a master's degree online can select from many majors. Top schools feature chemical engineering, computer science, and management science programs.

Questions About Master's Degrees

Q. How long does it take to get a master's degree?

The answer depends on the program and the student. Full-time learners can earn a degree in 2-3 years. Some accelerated online master's programs require only 12-18 months.

Q. What can you do with a master's degree?

A master's degree prepares learners for leadership positions in their field. Some graduates use the degree to enroll in a doctoral program. A career advisor can help learners explore their options.

Q. Are master's degrees in demand?

Rapidly growing fields need highly trained professionals with a master's degree. The healthcare, information technology, and public sector fields feature many positions requiring a master's.

Q. Can you complete a master's degree entirely online?

Top online universities feature dozens of fully online master's degrees. Options include elementary education, environmental engineering, and hospitality and tourism management. Some programs use a hybrid curriculum.

Why Get a Master's Degree?

  1. 1

    Allows You to Switch Careers

    A master's degree can help experienced professionals switch careers. A teacher with a bachelor's can earn a master's in education to work as a principal, superintendent, or curriculum designer. Many employers prefer master's degree-holders for management-level jobs.

    Potential degree-seekers may not need 2-3 years to graduate. Some master's programs award transfer credit for experience. Incoming students can take a test or submit a work portfolio to qualify.

  2. 2

    Potential Increased Earning Potential

    Earning a master's degree may lead to higher pay. Workers with a master's in the biology, communication disorders sciences, or business administration field earn 51-87% more than their peers with only a bachelor's. Master's degree-holders also earn more in the education administration and communication fields.

    Economic conditions change, so students should research the job market before selecting a program. Career advisors can help learners explore different options.

  3. 3

    Helps You Become Competitive in the Job Market

    Applicants in a tight job market need every advantage. A master's degree shows mastery of specific skills and a passion for the field. Employers respect both because new employees may need less training and might remain in the profession their entire career.

    Job interviews let applicants discuss their master's degree and how it applies to a potential job. Candidates can also promote their educational experience in a cover letter or resume.

  4. 4

    Helps You Stay Current in Your Field

    Many college-educated professionals take professional development or continuing education classes to learn new skills. A master's degree provides students with an in-depth education in their field's latest best practices. The degree also helps professionals in some fields meet their state's licensure renewal requirement.

    Many online programs run asynchronously. Learners can apply their new skills on the job and continue working while earning a master's.

  5. 5

    Improve and Grow Your Skills

    Professionals can use their skills and expertise to perform their job well. This value may protect them from layoffs and other negative economic trends. Developing skills may feature additional benefits. For example, professionals may discover new interests. Some students feel personal satisfaction after mastering new skills.

  6. 6

    Prepares You for a Doctorate

    Many doctoral programs consider applicants with only a bachelor's degree. However, prospective students with a master's have an advantage. Most master's programs feature coursework in original research. Learners develop their research, writing, and analytical skills in small projects before completing a thesis or capstone.

    These skills help doctoral students since many programs require a dissertation. Degree-seekers can apply the same research skills they learned during a master's program to write their dissertation.

  7. 7

    Allows You to Network

    Degree-seekers do more than study while in a master's program. Learners earning a master's degree online network with peers and professors. This lets them make new professional contacts. Graduates can use these contacts to explore career opportunities or find the right doctoral program.

    Online students use many tools to network, such as classes' online discussion boards. Many schools offer Handshake to help degree-seekers network and search for new jobs.

  8. 8

    Gives You Access to University Resources

    In addition to Handshake, institutions offer enrollees access to many university resources. Learners can use their student account to access libraries' databases and virtual books.

    Degree-seekers living close to campus may use on-campus resources. For example, they can participate in networking events, professional development workshops, and speaker panels. Graduates with an online degree receive the same alumni benefits as those who studied on campus.

  9. 9

    Boosts Your Credibility

    Earning an online master's degree can boost credibility, which benefits job applicants and employees. Workers with a master's hold specialized knowledge, making them industry experts. Their peers may turn to them for advice, which can increase respect in the workplace.

    Prospective degree-seekers wanting to boost their credibility can work with an admissions advisor to find a program that aligns with their career goals. Current students can consult academic and career advisors to select the best classes.

  10. 10

    Potential Opportunities to Study Abroad

    Earning a master's degree can help learners see the world. Many master's programs offer study abroad programs. Degree-seekers may complete internships or classes at top foreign institutions. Study abroad may occur during the academic year or during an extended break. This flexibility helps learners with a career or family.

    Studying abroad exposes learners to new cultures. The experience also lets degree-seekers network with international students in the same field. These connections may make graduates more employable.

Professions That Require a Master's Degree

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a projected growth rate for most U.S. careers. The 10 careers below each require a master's degree. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 7-45% from 2020-2030.

Keep in mind that the careers below may require more than a master's. For example, therapists and nurses need a state-issued license to practice. Other jobs require professional certification and many years of experience. Salary varies by employer and geographic location.

Salary Potential and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Nurse Practitioner $117,670 45%
Speech-Language Pathologist $80,480 29%
Statistician $93,290 33%
Physician Assistant $115,390 31%
Computer and Information Research Scientist $126,830 22%
Occupational Therapist $86,280 17%
Marriage and Family Therapist $51,340 16%
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $58,120 11%
Urban and Regional Planner $75,950 7%
Postsecondary Education Administrator $97,500 8%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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