What is a Masters Degree?
A master's degree is an advanced collegiate degree conferred after successful completion of one to two years' full time study beyond completion of a bachelor's degree. Post secondary education developed into its modern format initially as comprised of a bachelor's degree and a doctorate, with nothing in between. When the first masters' degree was introduced in 1859 it was considered a weak substitute for the pursuit of a PhD.
Masters Degree Requirements
Generally speaking a master's degree requires eighteen months to two years to complete, although there are accelerated programs that can be finished in a year's time. The class requirements range from thirty to forty two credits, with thirty six being the usual course load. Some master's degrees may require up to sixty credits, particularly in the field of education; and some specializations in nursing require an additional course load for completion of the MSN.
At one time all master's degree programs required a thesis but that is no longer the case. Many programs offer the student a thesis or non-thesis option, which allows for substitution of a large academic report or "capstone project" in lieu of the thesis. Usually the thesis option is chosen by students who intend to continue on to the next level of academic achievement, completion of a doctorate.
Careers that Require a Masters Degree
Today the master's degree plays an integral role in educational development and in career goals. The professions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, advanced practice nursing, and marriage & family therapy all require a master's degree for state licensure. In order to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam an applicant must have completed 150 credit hours of university study, a requirement which many schools have used to create a Master of Accounting program.
A bachelor's in business has lost much of its value with the ascendancy of the MBA. In many corporate environments, particularly in the financial services sector, a Masters in Business Administration is necessary for any degree of advancement into the more lucrative professions or into management ranks. In the investment sector, most students seeking a career as brokers or financial analysts or fiscal consultants will complete a master's degree in business, finance, statistics, economics, or in one of the more esoteric fields such as financial engineering.
Enhancing your Career with a Masters Degree
Many people are returning to school after beginning a career with a bachelor's degree and accumulating several years of experience. Teachers are returning to school to earn a Master's in Education in order to join management ranks, or a Master of Arts in Teaching to move up in pay grade and teach at the secondary education level. Engineers are finding that the best jobs require a master's degree; some Registered Nurses are bypassing the bachelor's degree altogether and enrolling in an RN to MSN program. More education simply means more opportunity in many professional sectors.
There are more areas of specialization in many fields today than existed just twenty years ago. You can choose among eighteen "majors" in the MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania. The areas of concentration in IT keep multiplying: networking, data management, software engineering and computer engineering are just a few of the masters degrees that have become essential in technology careers. The MSW has career tracks today, as does the MSN and the ever-growing range of engineering degrees. Today a master's is an accepted terminal degree and a valuable career asset.