A master's degree (from Latin magister) is a second-cycle academic degree awarded by universities upon completion of a course of study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected 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.
Masters degrees are commonly titled using the form 'Master of ...', where either a faculty (typically Arts or Science) or a field (Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Business Administration, etc.) is specified. The two most common titles of master's degrees are the Master of Arts (MA/M.A./A.M) and Master of Science (MSc/M.S./S.M.) degrees; which normally consist of a mixture of research and taught material. Integrated master's degrees and postgraduate master's degrees oriented towards professional practice are often more specifically named for their field of study ("tagged degrees"), including, for example, the Master of Business Administration, Master of Divinity, Master of Engineering and Master of Physics. A few titles are more general, for example Master of Philosophy (MPhil), used (in the same manner as Doctor of Philosophy) to indicate degrees with a large research component, Master of Studies (MSt)/Master of Advanced Study (MASt)/Master of Advanced Studies (M.A.S.), and Professional Master's (MProf).
The form "Master in ..." is also sometimes used, particularly where a faculty title is used for an integrated master's in addition to its use in a traditional postgraduate master's, e.g. Master in Science (MSci) and Master in Arts (MArts). This form is also sometimes used with other integrated master's degrees, and occasionally for postgraduate master's degrees (e.g. Master's in Accounting).
Some universities use Latin degree names; because of the flexibility of syntax in Latin, the Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees may be known in these institutions as Magister artium and Magister scientiæ or reversed from the English order to Artium magister and Scientiæ magister. Examples of the reversed usage include Harvard University, the University of Chicago and MIT, leading to the abbreviations A.M. and S.M. for these degrees. The forms "Master of ..." and "Master in ..." are indistinguishable in Latin, thus MSci is "Master of Natural Sciences" at the University of Cambridge.
In the UK, stops (periods) are not used in degree abbreviations. In the US, The Gregg Reference Manual recommends placing periods in degrees (e.g. B.S., Ph.D.), however The Chicago Manual of Style recommends writing degrees without periods (e.g. BS, PhD).
Master of Science is generally abbreviated M.S. or MS in countries following United States usage and MSc in countries following British usage, where MS would refer to the degree of Master of Surgery.
In Australia, some extended master's degrees use the title "doctor": Juris doctor and Doctors of Medical Practice, Physiotherapy, Dentistry, Optometry and Veterinary Practice. Despite their titles these are still master's degree and may not be referred to as doctoral degrees, nor may graduates use the title "doctor".
- Postgraduate/graduate master's degrees (MA/M.A./A.M., MSc/M.S., MBA/M.B.A., MSt, LLM/LL.M., etc.) are the traditional formal form of master's degree, where the student already holds an undergraduate (bachelor's) degree on entry. Courses normally last one year in the UK and two years in the US.
- Integrated master's degrees (MChem, MEng, MMath, MPharm, MPhys, MPsych, MSci, etc.) are UK degrees that combine an undergraduate bachelor's degree course with an extra year at master's level (i.e a total of four years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland). A 2011 survey of UK Higher Education Institutes found that 64% offered integrated master's course, mostly in STEM disciplines, with the most common degrees being MEng, MSci and MChem. 82% of respondents conferred only a master's degree for the course, while 9% conferred a bachelor's degree at the end of the bachelor's-level stage and a master's degree at the end of the course and a further 9% conferred both bachelor's and master's degrees at the end of the course.
- Non-master's level master's degrees The ancient universities of the UK and Ireland have traditionally awarded MAs in a different manner to that usual today. The Scottish MA is a bachelor's-level qualification offered by the ancient universities of Scotland. The Oxbridge MA is not an academic qualification; it is granted without further examination to those who have gained a BA from Oxford or Cambridge Universities in England, and the MA of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland is granted to its graduates in a similar manner.
- Research master's degrees are primarily research based, although may contain taught elements, particularly on research methods. Examples are the MPhil (always a research degree, often linked to a doctoral programme), MLitt (usually, but not always a research degree) and Master's by Research. They aim to prepare students fit research careers. Care should be taken not to confuse the Master by Research (MbyRes, MRes or ResM), which is a research degree in a specific subject, with the Master of Research (MRes), which is a taught degree concentrating on research methods.
- Specialised or advanced study master's degrees are primarily taught degrees, although commonly at leasta third of the course is devoted to a research project assessed by dissertation. These may be stand-alone master's courses, leading to, e.g., MSc, MA or MRes degrees, or integrated master's degrees.
- Professional or practice master's degrees are designed to prepare students for a particular professional career and are primarily taught, although they may include work placements and independent study projects. Some may require professional experience for entry. Examples include MBA, MDiv, LLM and MSW as well as some integrated master's degrees. The name of the degree normally includes the subject name.
The United States Department of Education classifies master's degree as research or professional. Research master's degrees in the US, e.g. M.A./A.M. or M.S., require the completion of taught courses and examinations in a major and one or more minor subjects, and (normally) a research thesis. Professional master's degrees may be structured like research master's (e.g. M.E./M.Eng.) or may concentrate on a specific discipline (e.g. M.B.A.), and often substitute a project for the thesis.
The Australian Qualifications Framework classifies master's degrees as research, coursework or extended. Research master's degrees typically take one to two years, and two thirds of their content consists of research, research training and independent study. Coursework master's degrees typically also last one to two years, and consist mainly of structured learning with some independent research and project work or practice-related learning. Extended master's degrees typically take three to four years and contain significant practice-related learning that must be developed in collaboration with relevant professional, statutory or regulatory bodies.
In Ireland, master's degrees may be either Taught or Research. Taught master's degrees are normally one to two year courses, rated at 60 - 120 ECTS credits, while research master's degrees are normally two year courses, either rated at 120 ECTS credits or not credit rated.
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.
Stand-alone master's programs in the US are normally two years in length. In some fields/programs, work on a doctorate begins immediately after the bachelor's degree, but a master's may be granted along the way as a intermediate qualification if the student petitions for it. Some universities offer evening options so that students can work during the day and earn a master's degree in the evenings.
In the UK, postgraduate master's degrees may be either "research" or "taught", with taught degrees being further subdivided into "specialist or advanced study" or "professional or practice" (see above). Taught degrees (of both forms) typically take a full calendar year (i.e. three semesters, 12 months), although some may be completed within an academic year (i.e. two semesters, 8 months), while research degrees often take either a full calendar year or two academic years. The UK integrated master's degree is combined with a bachelor's degree for a four (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or five (Scotland) academic year total period - one academic year longer than a normal bachelor's degree.
In Australia, master's degrees, master's degrees vary from 1 year for a "research" or "coursework" master's following on from an Australian honours degree in a related field, with an extra six months if following on straight from an ordinary bachelor's degree and another extra six months if following on from a degree in a different field, to four years for an "extended" master's degree.
In the Overarching Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area defined as part of the Bologna process, a "second cycle" (i.e. master's degree) programme is typically 90–120 ECTS credits, with a minimum requirement of at least 60 ECTS credits at second-cycle level. The definition of ECTS credits is that "60 ECTS credits are allocated to the learning outcomes and associated workload of a full-time academic year or its equivalent", thus European master's degrees should last for between one calendar year and two academic years, with at least one academic year of study at master's level. The Framework for Higher Education Qualification (FHEQ) in England Wales and Northern Ireland level 7 qualifications and the Framework for Qualification of Higher Education Institutes in Scotland (FQHEIS) level 11 qualifications (postgraduate and integrated master's degrees, with the exception of MAs from the ancient universities of Scotland and Oxbridge MAs) have been certified as meeting this requirement.
Irish master's degrees are 1 - 2 years (60 - 120 ECTS credits) for taught degrees and 2 years (not credit rated) for research degrees. These have also been certified as compatible with the FQ-EHEA.
Admission to a master's degrees normally requires successful completion of study at bachelor's degree level either (for postgraduate degrees) as a stand-alone degree or (for integrated degrees) as part of an integrated scheme of study. In countries where the bachelor's degree with honours is the standard undergraduate degree, this is often the normal entry qualification. In addition, students will normally have to write a personal statement and, in the arts and humanities, will often have to submit a portfolio of work.
In the UK, students will normally need to have a 2:1 for a taught master's course, and possibly higher for a research master's. Graduate schools in the US may require students to take one or more standardised tests, such as the GRE, GMAT or LSAT.
Comparable European degrees
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, Austrian and Polish university Diplom/Magister, or the similar five-year Diploma awarded in several subjects in Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, and other universities and polytechnics).[clarification needed]
Under the Bologna Process, countries in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) are moving to a three cycle (bachelor's - master's - doctorate) system of degrees. Two thirds of EHEA countries have standardised on 120 ECTS credits for their second-cycle (master's) degrees, but 90 ECTS credits is the main form in Cyprus, Ireland and Scotland and 60-75 credits in Montenegro, Serbia and Spain. The combined length of the first and second cycle varies from "3 + 1" years (240 ECTS credits), through "3 + 2" or "4 + 1" years (300 ECTS credits), to "4 + 2" years (360 ECTS credits). As of 2015, 31 EHEA countries have integrated programmes that combine the first and second cycle and lead to a second-cycle qualification (e.g. the UK integrated master's degree), particularly in STEM subjects and subjects allied to medicine. These typically have a duration of 300 – 360 ECTS credits (five to six years), with the integrated master's degrees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being the shortest at 240 ECTS credits (four years).
- In Denmark there are two forms of master's degree. The Master's Degree or candidatus is a FQ-EHEA second-cycle qualification worth 120 ECTS credits. These degrees are research-based and offered through universities. The second form is the Master Degree (no possessive) within the adult further education system, which is worth 60 ECTS credits and is taught part-time. The candidatus degree is abbreviated cand. and upon completion of, for instance, an engineering master's degree, a person becomes cand.polyt. (polytechnical). Similar abbreviations, inspired by Latin, apply to a large number of fields, e.g.: sociology (cand.scient.soc), economics (cand.merc., cand.polit. or cand.oecon), law (cand.jur), humanities (cand.mag) etc. Use of a cand. title requires a master's degree. Holders of a cand. degree are also entitled to use M.Sc. or M.A. titles, depending on the field of study. In Finland and Sweden, the title of kand. equates to a bachelor's degree.
- In France, the master's degree (diplôme de master) takes two years and is worth 120 ECTS credits. The French master's degree is the combination of two individual years : the master 1 (M1) and master 2 (M2), following the Bologna Process. Depending on the goal of the student (a doctorate or a professional career) the master 2 can also be called a "Master Recherche" (research master) and a "Master Professionnel" (professional master), each with different requirements. To obtain a national diploma for the master 2 requires a minimum of one year of study after the master 1.
A French "diplôme d'Ingénieur" is also the equivalent of a master's degree, provided the diploma is recognised by the Commission des titres d'ingénieur, as are qualifications recognised at Level I of the répertoire national des certifications professionnelles (national register of professional certificates).
- In Italy the master's degree is equivalent to the two-year Laurea magistrale, which can be earned after a Laurea (a three-year undergraduate degree, equivalent to a bachelor's degree). In particular fields, namely law, pharmacy and medicine, this distinction is not made. University courses are therefore single and last five to six years, after which the master's degree is awarded (in this case referred to as Laurea magistrale a ciclo unico). The old Laurea degree (Vecchio Ordinamento, Old Regulations), which was the only awarded in Italy before the Bologna process, is equivalent to the current Laurea Magistrale.
- In the Netherlands the titles ingenieur (ir.), meester (mr.) and doctorandus (drs.) may be rendered, if obtained in the Netherlands from a university, after the application of the Bologna process, as: MSc instead of ir., LL.M. instead of mr. and MA or MSc instead of drs. This is because a single program that led to these degree was in effect before 2002, which comprised the same course load as the bachelor and master programs put together. Those who had already started the program could, upon completing it, bear the appropriate title (MSc, LL.M. or MA), but alternatively still use the old-style title (ir., mr. or drs.), corresponding to their field of study. Since these graduates do not have a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree. Bearers of foreign master's degree are able to use the titles ir., mr. and drs. only after obtaining a permission to bear such titles from the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs. Those who received their mr., ir. or drs. title after the application of the Bologna process have the option of signing as A. Jansen, M.A. or A. Jansen, M.Sc., depending on the field in which the degree was obtained, since the ir., mr. and drs. titles are similar to a master's degree, and the shortcut MA or M.Sc. may officially be used in order to render such title as an international title.
- In Switzerland, the old Licence or Diplom (4 to 5 years in duration) is considered equivalent to the master's degree.
- In Slovenia and Croatia, during the pre-Bologna process education, all Academic degrees were awarded after a minimum of four years of university studies and a successful defence of a written thesis are considered equivalent to the master's degree.
- In Baltic countries there is a two-year education program that offers a chance to gain a master's degree in interdisciplinary issues. The system offers an education in different areas, such as humanities, environmental and social issues, whilst paying specific consideration to the Baltic Sea area. It is a joint-degree program, which is part of a team effort with four universities. There is the University of Tartu in Estonia, the University of Turku in Finland, Vytautas Magnus University in Lithuania and the University of Latvia. The educational programs are very good; allowing students to be mobile within the system, for example one semester may be taken in a confederate school without paying additional membership or tuition fees. Subsequently after passing the qualifications provided, people may procure teaching qualifications and continue their scholastic research around doctoral studies, or carry on studying within their career in the private or public sector. Graduates of the program, within the Baltic Sea area are also given the chance to continue onwards with their studies within the postgraduate system if they have studied the social sciences or humanities field.
- In Greece, the metaptychiako which literally translates as post-degree (...programme or title), lasts normally from one to, more often, two years, and can be studied after a, at least, four-years undergraduate ptychio, which means degree.
- In Russia master (магистр) degree can be obtained after a 2-year master course (магистратура) which is available after a 4-year bachelor or a 5-year specialist course. A graduate may choose a master course completely different from his/her previous one. During these 2 years master students attend specialized lectures in chosen profile, choose a faculty advisor and prepare their master thesis which is eventually defended before certifying commission consisting mostly of professors.
- In the United Kingdom, first degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science are considered equivalent to master's degrees despite, for historical reasons, often having the titles of bachelor's degrees.
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In Brazil, after a regular graduation (after acquiring a bachelor's degree), students have the option to continue their academic career through a master's course (a.k.a. stricto sensu post-graduation) or specialization (a.k.a. lato sensu post-graduation) degrees.
At the master's degree ("mestrado", in Portuguese, also referred as "pós-graduação stricto sensu") there are 2–3 years of full-time graduate-level studies. Usually focused on academic research, the master's degree (on any specific knowledge area) requires the development of a thesis, presented (and defended) to a board of Ph.D. after the period of research. Differently, the "specialization" degree (also referred as "pós-graduação lato-sensu"), also comprehends a 1–2 years studies, but do not require a new thesis to be purposed and defended, being usually attended by professionals looking for a complimentary formation on a different knowledge area than their original graduation.
In addition, a great part of Brazilian universities offers a M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) degree. Those, nevertheless, are not the equivalent of US M.B.A. degree though, as it does not formally certifies the student/professional with a master's degree (stricto-sensu) but a post-graduation degree instead. A regular post-graduation course has to comply with a minimum of 360 class-hours, while a M.B.A. degree has to comply with a minimum of 400 class-hours. Master's degree (stricto sensu) does not requires minimum class-hours, but it's practically impossible to finish it before 1.5 year due the workload and research required; an average time for the degree is 2.5 years.
Specialization (lato sensu) and M.B.A. degrees can be also offered as distance education courses, while the master's degree (stricto-sensu) requires physical attendance.
Often serves as additional qualification for those seeking a differential on the job market, or for those who want to pursue a Ph.D. It corresponds to the European (Bologna Process) 2nd Cycle or the North American master's.
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M.Arch., M.L.A., M.U.D., M.A., M.Sc., M.Soc.Sc., M.S.W., M.Eng., LL.M. Hong Kong requires one or two years of full-time coursework to achieve a master's degree.
For part-time study, two or three years of study are normally required to achieve a postgraduate degree.
- 2 years master's programmes: these are mostly Master of Arts (M.A.) leading to M.Phil.;
- 4 years master's programmes: these are mostly Master of Science (M.S.) leading to Ph.D.
Both M.A. and M.S. are offered in all major subjects.
- Master of Arts (M.A.);
- Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.);
- Master of Computer Applications (M.C.A.);
- Master of Computer Management (M.C.M.);
- Master of Design (M.Des.);
- Master of Engineering (M.Eng.);
- Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.);
- Master of Science (M.Sc.);
- Master of Science in Information Technology (M.Sc.I.T.);
- Master of Technology (M.Tech.);
- Master of Statistics (M.Stat.);
- Master of Laws (LL.M.);
- Master of Commerce (M.Com.).
- Master in Business Studies (M.B.S)
- M.A., M.Sc., M.B.A.: postgraduate studies in Israel require the completion of a bachelor's degree and is dependent upon this title's grades. There exists also a direct track to a doctorate degree for graduate students, which lasts four to five years. Taking this route, the students must prepare a preliminary research paper during their first year, they then have to pass an exam after which they are automatically awarded a master's degree.
- M.Eng.: It is given by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Comparing to the M.Sc., it is a non-thesis track.
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In Nepal, after bachelor's degree about to at least three or four years with full-time study in college and university with an entrance test for those people who want to study further can study in master and further Ph.D. and Doctorate degree. All Doctoral and Ph.D. or third cycle degree are based on research and experience oriented and result based. Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) and all law and medicine related courses are studied after completion of successful bachelor towards doctoral degree. M.B.B.S. is only a medical degree with six and half years of study resulting medical doctor and need to finish its study o 4 years of period joining after master degree with minimum education with 15 or 16 years of university bachelor's degree education. The most professional and internationalised program in Nepal are:
- Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.);
- Master of Computer Applications (M.C.A.);
- Master of Engineering (M.Eng.);
- Master of Science (M.Sc.);
- Master of Science in Information Technology (M.Sc.I.T.);
- Master of Business Studies ( M.B.S.);
- Master of Education (M.Ed);
- Master of Arts (M.A.);
- Master of Agriculture (M.Sc. Ag.);
- Master of Laws (LL.M.);
- Master of Management (M.M.).
In Taiwan, bachelor's degrees are about four years (with honors) and there is an entrance examination required for people who want to study in master and Ph.D. degrees. The courses offered for master and PhD normally are research-based.
The most foreign-friendly programs in Taipei, Taiwan are at:
- National Taiwan University College of Management – Global M.B.A. (M.B.A. in Finance, Accounting, Management, International Business and Information Management);
- National ChengChi University – I.M.B.A.
Programs are entirely in English and tuition is less than would be paid in North America, with as little as US$5000 for an M.B.A.
As an incentive to increase the number of foreign students, the government of Taiwan and universities have made extra efforts to provide a range of quality scholarships available. These are university-specific scholarships ranging from tuition waivers, up to NT$20,000 per month. The government offers the Taiwan Scholarship ranging from NT$20,000–30,000 per month for two years. (US$18,000–24,000 for a two-year program)
- Associate's degree
- Bachelor's degree
- British degree abbreviations
- Diploma mill
- Educational specialist
- Engineer's degree
- European Joint Master degree in Economics
- Graduate school
- List of master's degrees
- Magister (degree)
- Master of Advanced Studies
- Master of Arts (Oxbridge and Dublin)
- Master of Arts (Scotland)
- Master of Engineering
- Master of Laws
- Master of Science
- Master's degree in Europe
- Master's degree in North America
- Master's degree non-Euroamerican
- Professional degree
- Professional Science Master's degree
- Terminal degree
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