Is a Master’s Degree Considered a Graduate Degree?

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Master’s degrees are an excellent solution for people who want to advance their career, learn more about a specific subject, or explore things that they are interested in, after completing a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree is considered a graduate degree, which means that the learning experience is very intensive, combining both academic studies and work experience. If you are considering such a degree yourself, you may want to learn more about what it entails and whether it is actually the right fit for your personal goals.

What Is a Master’s Degree?

Essentially, this is a type of academic qualification that is given at postgraduate level to those who have completed a study (the master’s curriculum) that demonstrates they have high levels of knowledge in a certain field of professional study, or field of study. Those who graduate have the most advanced techniques, skills, and knowledge associated with a certain subject area, which they obtain through focused learning, independent projects, and collaboration with peers.

Usually, it takes between one and three years to go through a master’s program, either full time or part time or online master’s program. Exactly for how long the degree will need to be completed will depend on a range of factors, including:

  • Which country you study in
  • Which subject you’re studying
  • The educational establishment you have enrolled with
  • How you study towards your degree

In this country, graduating from a master’s program requires the completion of between 36 and 54 semester credits.

The Different Types of Master’s Degrees

There are, broadly, four types of master’s degrees you can pursue:

  1. Research master’s degrees, where you work mainly independently, with must less teaching and more focus on completing a piece of unique research
  2. Taught master’s degrees, or course based models, whereby you follow a specific structure according to a program that includes supervision, seminars, and lectures, often adding a research project at the end
  3. Executive master’s degrees, which are targeted specifically at working professionals
  4. Integrated master’s programs, which follow on directly from a bachelor’s degree

Delivery of the course work can be done in a variety of different ways, including:

  1. Full time study
  2. Part time study
  3. Distance learning
  4. Synchronous online learning
  5. Asynchronous online learning

Should You Go for a Master’s Degree?

If you want to enroll in a master’s degree, you will usually have to formulate a personal statement that explains your motivation for pursuing such a study. This means you need to think about why you want to complete the degree, why you are a relevant applicant, and what your goals are. Commonly, students use one or more of the following reasons to motivate their choice:

  1. They have a personal or professional interest in a certain subject, which they started to develop in their bachelor’s study, allowing them to specialize in it.
  2. They want to further develop their career, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and qualifications. Sometimes, for instance, a master’s is required to take a licensing examination. This is true for professions, such as physicists, librarians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and CPAs (Chartered Public Accountants) to name but a few.
  3. They want to become more employable. Having a master’s degree demonstrates that you can take on positions with greater responsibilities and variety.
  4. They eventually want to complete a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D.
  5. They love studying. Life is a continuous learning journey, and some people take this very seriously. Often, they are the ones who end up with a Ph.D., at which point their can dedicate their life to research and learning.
  6. They want to change direction, which is known as a “conversion course”.
  7. They want to specialize professionally and/or network with others.
  8. They want to be challenged academically.
  9. They like the flexibility of master’s degree studies, as they can study in their own time, particularly if they opt for asynchronous learning.
  10. It is an industry requirement in their field.
  11. They want to earn more money, because having a master’s degree can significantly increase salary potential.

Alternatives to Master’s Degrees

A master’s is a type of graduate degree. Nevertheless, there are other options for those who want to continue their education and studies. Some people simply don’t have the time and money available to invest in a degree. Others only have an interest in certain modules, instead of an entire degree. Either way, you can opt to complete a PGCert (Post Graduate Certificate) or a PGDip (Post Graduate Diploma). With these programs, no research project has to be completed. PGCert and PGDip programs tend to be shorter, more flexible, and more affordable. However, they are not considered as graduate degrees.

So What Is a Graduate Degree?

Graduate degrees are for those who have graduated from undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree programs), and who want to further their personal skills and knowledge. However, for something to be classed as a graduate “degree” it does have to be a full degree, such as the master’s and doctoral degrees.

What Is Graduate School?

One of the interesting things about graduate schools is that they don’t force you to continue in the field of study in which you obtained your bachelor’s degree. Rather, the expectation is that you follow the same school of thought. So, if you have completed a BA (Bachelor of Arts), you could pursue any type of MA (Master of Arts). Or if you completed a BS (Bachelor of Science), you could go for any type of MS (Master of Science) as well. This is regardless of the subject area (although there are usually some prerequisites in terms of completed courses).

The big difference between a master’s degree, which is a graduate degree, and a bachelor’s degree, which is an undergraduate field of study, is that the bachelor’s degree focuses mainly on the school of thought (liberal arts or science), with some emphasis on the subject area, whereas the master’s does the exact opposite.

Master’s degrees come in different formats, which are the MA, the MS, and the MBA (Master of Business Administration. Some degrees drop the school of thought from their name, such as the Master of Education (MEd), but they are part of that school of thought. The Master of Education, for instance, is actually a type of MA.

Master’s degrees and doctoral degrees are both considered graduate degrees. One of the key differences, however, is that the doctorate degree is always a terminal degree, meaning you can get no higher than that. A master’s degree, by contrast, can be a terminal degree, but is more often than not a stepping stone towards the doctoral degree, although it does not mean you have to pursue the doctorate as well. Sometimes, schools offer combined graduate degrees, such as the MA/Ph.D. or MS/Ph.D., in the same way as some schools offer a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree (although these are less common).

Additional Resources

Sady Brown
Written by Sady Brown
Sady Brown is Editorial Strategist for Nogre.com