Master's Degrees Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A master's degree is commonly viewed as the natural progression following the completion of a bachelor's degree. This advanced level of education serves as a bridge to further expertise and specialization. 

While certain master's programs provide focused training in specific fields, others are tailored to equip students for careers in academia or research. The diverse nature of master's degrees reflects the varied pathways individuals can pursue, either deepening their knowledge in a particular area or preparing for roles that demand advanced skills and a profound understanding of their discipline.

1. What is a Master's Degree?

A Master's degree is an advanced academic credential obtained after completing a bachelor's degree. It offers specialized and in-depth instruction in a particular area of study, providing students with advanced knowledge and skills. Master's programs often cater to individuals seeking career advancement or specialization in their chosen field.

2. Can I Transfer Previously Earned College Credits?

The transfer of college credits depends on the specific master's degree program. For instance, many bachelor’s degree programs on Coursera, like Georgetown University’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, allow students to transfer certain credits. Each university establishes its policies, determining the number of pre-approved transfer credits that can be applied toward the master's degree requirements. Interested individuals should consult the degree program for detailed information on transfer policies.

3. Do I Need a Bachelor's Degree to Pursue a Master's?

In most cases, a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for enrolling in a master's program. However, some programs offer the flexibility to commence master’s coursework while simultaneously completing a bachelor's degree. This option allows students to transition into advanced studies seamlessly.

4. Can I Pursue a Master's in a Different Field?

Yes, many master’s programs accept applicants with bachelor's degrees from various fields, as long as the degree is from an accredited institution. This inclusivity allows individuals to explore new areas of interest or pursue a different career path through advanced studies.

5. What is the Cost of a Graduate Degree?

The cost of a graduate degree varies depending on the specific program and the institution. On average, a master's degree costs around $66,340, but this figure can range from $30,000 to $120,000. Similarly, the average cost of a PhD is $98,800. Prospective students should check with their chosen institution for precise tuition and fee details.

6. How Long Does a Master's Degree Take to Complete?

The duration of master's degree programs varies based on factors such as the program's structure, credit requirements, and whether it is pursued on a part-time or full-time basis. Typically, undergraduate degrees take two to six years, while master's degrees can be completed in one to three years.

7. Is a Master's Degree Challenging?

Master's degree coursework is generally more challenging than a bachelor's degree. However, this difficulty level is intended to build upon students' academic and career experiences, fostering a deeper understanding of the chosen field of study.

8. What's the Difference Between a Master's and a PhD?

Master's programs are often designed to be career-oriented, focusing on practical applications of knowledge. In contrast, PhD programs are more research-centric, requiring students to contribute significantly to their field of study through original research. Some PhD programs may have a prerequisite to obtaining a master's degree.

9. Should I Work Before Pursuing a Master's?

The decision to gain professional experience before pursuing a master's degree is subjective. While some enter a master's program immediately after completing their bachelor's degree, others opt to work first. Professional experience can provide valuable insights and enhance the practical application of knowledge gained during advanced studies.

10. Are There Prerequisites for MA or MS Programs?

While application requirements vary by program, a common prerequisite for most Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) programs is completing a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

11. What is an MPH (Public Health) Master's Degree?

A Master of Public Health (MPH) is an interdisciplinary graduate degree focusing on various aspects of public health. This includes designing community health education programs, navigating legal and political systems to advocate for public health policies, and addressing environmental health concerns.

12. What is a Data Science Master's Degree?

A data science master's degree is a relatively new graduate program integrating core concepts from mathematics, computer science, statistics, and information science. It equips students with the skills to analyze and leverage data for operational and business improvements, including machine learning, data visualization, and statistical analysis.

13. What is a Computer Science Master's Degree?

A master's degree in computer science is a graduate-level program focusing on advanced computer programming. It is tailored to individuals with a background in computer science, providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex technical challenges in various professional settings.

14. How Long Does an Online Master’s Program Take?

The duration of online master's programs varies, offering flexibility to accommodate learners with different schedules. Some programs, like the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Master of Science in Management, can be completed in as little as one year. Depending on the specific program requirements, others may take two years or more.

15. Is a Postbacc Program Equivalent to a Master’s Degree?

No, a postbaccalaureate (postbacc) program is not equivalent to a master’s degree. It serves as a preparatory step for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree and intend to pursue further education in research or a professional degree program.

16. What Careers Require a Master's Degree?

Various professions mandate a master’s degree for entry. Examples include physical therapists, audiologists, architects, nurse practitioners, educators, genetic counselors, social workers, librarians, clinical psychologists, and archaeologists. The advanced knowledge and specialized skills acquired through a master's program are crucial for excelling in these fields.

17. Do I Need to Go to Graduate School?

The decision to attend graduate school depends on the career path and individual goals. Certain professions, such as nursing practitioners, physician assistants, lawyers, and doctors, often require advanced degrees. However, alternative learning paths like online courses or professional certificates may be viable options for career switches.

18. What's the Financial Benefit of Going to Graduate School?

Graduates with master's degrees tend to earn higher median salaries than those with bachelor's degrees. In 2021, the median annual income for master's graduates in the US was $81,848, while bachelor's graduates earned a median of $69,368, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

19. What Opportunities Does a Master's Degree Provide?

Earning a master's degree opens up numerous opportunities beyond just salary increases. It enhances job candidacy, facilitates career changes, supports upward mobility within a current field or company, increases job security, and provides the credentials to negotiate a higher salary. Additionally, it enables individuals to meet specific job requirements and excel in various professional settings.

Share On