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Types of Master's Degrees: Which One Should You Choose?


Table of Contents:


Research focused degrees

Course focused degrees

Common Types of Master's Degrees Based on Coursework Type

Useful websites when looking for a master




Choosing the right master's degree is an important decision that can greatly impact your career and future opportunities. With the vast array of advanced education programs available, it's crucial to understand the different types of degrees and their potential benefits. In this article, I will explore the countless types of master's degrees. More specifically, I will differentiate between research based and course based degrees, and then look at some of the most chosen master's degree paths, such as the Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and more.

If you want to learn more about the unique characteristics and focus areas of each degree, this article is what you are looking for. Moreover, understanding the differences between master's degrees can help you make an informed decision about your education goals and career options. Whether you are considering furthering your education for personal growth, career advancement, or a change in industry, knowing the various types of master's degrees can guide you toward the best path for your individual aspirations and ambitions. Join me to delve into the world of master's degrees and unlock your future success.

Research focused degrees

Research based degrees, such as a Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Research (MRes), are focused on developing students' ability to conduct independent research in their chosen field. These programs typically involve a mix of lectures and substantial research projects, and include a final dissertation or thesis. The duration of these programs can vary, but typically they take an average time of 1 or 2 years to complete on a full-time basis.

Mentorship plays a crucial role in research based degrees, with students being supervised by researchers who guide them through their research project. These constructive interactions can also help students to develop their specialized skills and professionality, as well as being an opportunity for personal growth and development. 

Completing a research based master's degree can definitely open up a wide range of career opportunities, particularly in academia, research institutes, and industry. If you choose this path, you may pursue a career as a research associate, laboratory manager, or data analyst. Plus, you will have gained skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and project management, that are all highly valued and transferable across various sectors. 

Course focused degrees

Course based master's degrees are structured programs that offer a wide range of subjects such as business, education, engineering, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences. These degrees typically consist of a set of courses tailored to the specific subject area, with a focus on practical application of knowledge. The coursework can range from traditional lectures and seminars, to academic papers, practical projects and internships. Assessment methods usually involve exams, essays, and presentations.

As you may imagine, career opportunities for degree holders vary depending on the subject area. Graduates may find employment in fields such as education, healthcare, engineering, business management, government, and non-profit organizations. To put it in a nutshell, these degrees are designed to prepare students for becoming professionals in their chosen field and equip them with a strong theoretical foundation combined with practical skills. 

Common Types of Master's Degrees Based on Coursework Type

When pursuing a master's degree, students have the option to choose from different coursework types that cater to their individual learning preferences and career goals. This section of the article will explore the various types of master's degrees by coursework type. Each degree offers a unique approach to learning and allows students to tailor their education to align with their specific interests and career aspirations. Whether you are seeking a degree that delves deep into a specific field of study, encourages a multidisciplinary approach, or focuses on practical skills and applications, understanding the different coursework types will help you make an informed decision about which master's degree program is the best fit for you.

Master of Science

The Master of Science (MSc) degree offers a wide range of areas of study and specializations that focus on scientific and technical expertise. Students can pursue education concentrations in fields such as accounting, cyber security, data analytics, information technology, engineering, and many others. 

To give you a few examples, a Master of Science in Accounting provides students with the tools to understand complex financial systems and prepare for professional certifications, while a Master of Science in Cyber Security equips students with the technical skills to protect sensitive data and prevent cyber attacks. If you are interested in using data to drive business decisions, a Master of Science in Data Analytics may be the right option for you. Lastly, a Master of Science in Information Technology will teach you about the design, implementation, and management of information systems. 

Master of Arts

A Master of Arts (MA) degree provides individuals with advanced knowledge and skills in their chosen field of study. Some popular options for obtaining an MA degree include MA in Communication, MA in English and Creative Writing, MA in History, and MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. 

While the possibilities for a MA degree are countless, I would like to specifically explain one of them, as it is often confused with the Master of Education (see next section). The Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A. in Teaching) program is designed for individuals interested in pursuing a career in education. The program offers concentrations or specializations in areas such as elementary education, secondary education, special education, and more. It is suitable for individuals without an undergraduate teaching degree as it provides the necessary training and qualifications to become a licensed teacher.

Master of Education

As it was previously mentioned, the Master of Education (MEd) program can also be a valid option for aspiring educators. More in detail, it focuses on practical, field-based experience to help teachers expand their understanding of teaching theories and strategies. It offers various concentrations or specializations such as curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, special education, and literacy, allowing students to tailor their studies to their interests and career goals. Unlike the Master of Arts in Teaching, the MEd program emphasizes practical experience and is designed for educators who want to enhance their teaching skills and knowledge.

One of the advantages of the MEd program is its flexibility, making it ideal for full-time teachers. Many programs offer evening or online courses to accommodate the schedules of working professionals, allowing them to continue teaching while pursuing their degree. Graduates of MEd programs can pursue various career paths, such as curriculum specialist, instructional coordinator, educational consultant, or school administrator. Overall, the MEd program provides teachers with the opportunity to gain practical experience, specialize in a specific area of education, and advance their career in the field.

Master of Business Administration

Another well-known option is the Master of Business Administration (MBA), typically a two-year-program that requires candidates to have a bachelor's degree and a minimum amount of work experience, usually around 2-5 years. The program offers a wide range of specializations, including finance, human resources, and operations management, enabling students to focus on areas of interest and tailor their education to their career goals. The MBA curriculum often emphasizes corporate management, providing students with a broad understanding of business principles, leadership, and strategic decision-making.

Work experience is highly valued for MBA candidates, as it brings real-world context to the classroom and allows students to apply the theories they learn to practical business situations. It is precisely this emphasis on experiential learning that helps prepare students to become effective leaders in the corporate world.

MBA programs are known for their flexibility in accepting candidates from various academic backgrounds. While a business undergraduate degree is common, many programs welcome students with diverse educational and professional backgrounds, recognizing the value of a mix of perspectives in the classroom. This inclusivity allows individuals to pursue an MBA, regardless of their undergraduate field of study, thus promoting diversity and innovation in business leadership.

Master of Public Administration

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles in the public sector. Through rigorous coursework and practical experience, you will gain the skills and knowledge needed to effectively manage public organizations and address complex societal challenges.

The MPA program offers various specializations, including international administration and environmental policy. These specialties provide focused training on particular areas of public administration, equipping students to navigate the complexities of global governance and sustainable environmental initiatives.

Remember that there are some key differences between the MPA and other related degrees, such as a Master of Public Policy or a Master of Business Administration. Indeed, an MPA degree usually puts high emphasis on public sector management, policy analysis, and ethical leadership, as well as equipping students with the understanding of public administration principles, budgeting and finance, and strategic planning, necessary for effective governance in the public sector.

Master of Laws

Master of Laws (LLM) programs offer a wide range of specializations to cater to the diverse interests and career goals of students. Some popular specializations include European law, tax law, environmental law, criminal law, international law, and human rights law. These specializations allow students to deepen their knowledge and expertise in specific areas of the law, preparing them for specialized roles in the legal field.

The typical duration of LLM programs varies depending on the country and institution, but they generally last for one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. It's important to note that a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) is not always a mandatory entry requirement for LLM programs. Many programs accept applicants with a Bachelor's degree in a related field or with relevant work experience in the legal field.

Useful websites when looking for a master

Last but not least, I wanted to provide you with some resources you can use while looking for your desired program. Here is a list of the top 5 websites that can help you:

1. QS World Grad School Tour: This website allows you to meet representatives of leading universities, discuss graduate-level study options, and apply for exclusive scholarships. It is a great resource for connecting with top graduate programs worldwide.

2. Peterson's: This platform provides comprehensive information on graduate programs. It offers insights into transfer policies and term start options, helping you make informed decisions about your postgraduate education.

3. FindAMasters: Here is another popular search tool to find master's programs across various fields of study. Here you will not only gain knowledge about different degree types, but you will also be able to access funding information and study guides.

4. GradSchools: This website allows you to search for master's programs by location, subject, and program type, together with providing information on transfer policies and term start options.

5. MastersPortal: To conclude, this is another valuable website that offers a wide range of master's programs worldwide. You will be able to select your area of interest, compare various options and make your best choice.


In conclusion, this article has highlighted the various types of master's degrees available to students, including MA, MS, and MBA programs. In summary, we have discussed all the main differences between these degrees, such as focus areas, career opportunities, and skill development.

Overall, this blog post provides (hopefully valuable) information that can assist you in making a well-informed decision about your graduate school journey. Choosing the right type of master's degree program can have a significant impact on a student's future career prospects and personal development. I wish you all the best as you navigate your graduate school journey and make important decisions about your academic and professional futures. Good luck!

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