Master's degree

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A master's degree is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.[1][dead link] Within the area studied, graduates are posited to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently. The degree is awarded upon graduation from a university.[1][dead link]

Titles[edit]

The two most common titles of master's degrees are the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S., MSc, M.Si., or M.C.A.); these may be course-based, research-based, or a mixture of the two. Some universities use the Latin degree names; because of the flexibility of syntax in Latin, the Master of Arts and Master of Science may be known as magister artium or artium magister and magister scientiae or scientiae magister, respectively. Harvard University, University of Chicago, and MIT, for example, use A.M. and S.M. for their master's degrees. More commonly, Master of Science often is abbreviated MS or M.S. in the United States,[citation needed] and MSc or M.Sc. in Commonwealth nations and Europe.

Other master's degrees are more specifically named ("tagged degrees"), including, for example, the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Counselling (MC), Master of Library Science (MLS), Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Laws (LL.M.), Master of Music (M.M. or M.Mus.), Master of Information (MI), Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.); some are similarly general, for example the M.Phil., Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS, MLA/ALM, and MLS), and the Master of Studies (Advanced Study / Advanced Studies). See List of master's degrees.

Types[edit]

Structure[edit]

There are a range of pathways to the degree, with entry based on evidence of a capacity to undertake higher degree studies in the proposed field. A dissertation may or may not be required, depending on the program. In general, the structure and duration of a program of study leading to a master's degree will differ by country and by university.

Duration[edit]

In some systems, such as those of the United States and Japan, a master's degree is a strictly postgraduate academic degree. Particularly in the U.S., in some fields/programs, work on a doctorate begins immediately after the bachelor's degree, but the master's may be earned along the way as a 'Master's degree "en route"', following successful completion of coursework and certain examinations. Master's programs are thus one to six years in duration, with two to three years being a common length of time to complete.

Under the Angloamerican systems many master´s degrees are differentiated either as 'Master (Thesis)' or as 'Master (Non-Thesis)' programs. Regardless of a de jure minimum period of a master degree program in the same discipline, the required de facto duration to complete the program may vary highly significant by university. One of the main reasons of this is the fact that the required level of courses or research complexity and quality of a thesis also can vary greatly, e.g. in "very high research activity" elite universities students who are admitted to a "very high research" Master (Thesis), have to fullfil course and thesis level requirements at a regular PhD level, however.

By contrast, in some cases, such as the Integrated Master's Degree in the UK, the degree is combined with a Bachelor of Science, as a 4-year degree. Unlike a traditional MSc, the fourth year finishes at the same time as undergraduate degrees in the early summer, whereas traditional MSc students typically spend the summer vacation completing a dissertation and finish in September. Examples include MMath (see also Part III of the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge), MEng and MSci (not to be confused with an MSc).

In the recently standardized European System of higher education (Bologna process), a master degree programme normally carries 90 - 120 ECTS credits, with a minimum requirement of at least 60 ECTS credits at master level (one- or two-year full-time postgraduate program) undertaken after at least three years of undergraduate studies. It provides higher qualification for employment or prepares for doctoral studies. As one ECTS credit is equivalent to 25 hours of study this means that a master's degree programme should include 2250 hours of study. Current U.K. MSc/MA programmes tend to include 1800 hours of study (or 180 UK credits), although many claim to be equivalent to an ECTS accredited master degree.

Admission[edit]

In countries in which a master's degree is a postgraduate degree, admission to a master's program normally requires holding a bachelor's degree, and in the United Kingdom, Canada and much of the Commonwealth, an "honours" bachelor degree.[citation needed] In both cases, relevant work experience may qualify a candidate. In some cases the student's bachelor's degree must be in the same subject as the intended master's degree (e.g. a Master of Economics will typically require a bachelor's degree with a major in economics), or in a closely allied, "cognate", discipline (e.g. Applied Mathematics degrees may accept graduates in physics, mathematics or computer science); in others, the subject of the bachelor's degree is unimportant (e.g. MBA) although, often in these cases, undergraduate coursework in specific subjects may be required (e.g. some M.S.F. degrees require credits in calculus for admission, but none in finance or economics); see also under Business education#Postgraduate education. Most competitive programs also have a grade point average (GPA) that the student must have achieved in their undergraduate degree.

Comparable European degrees[edit]

In some European countries, a magister is a first degree and may be considered equivalent to a modern (standardized) master's degree (e.g., the German and Austrian university Diplom/Magister, or the similar 5-year Diploma awarded in several subjects in Greek, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, and other universities and polytechnics).

See also[edit]

References[edit]