Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Archive
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A master's degree is designed to provide additional education or training in the student's specialized branch of knowledge, well beyond the level of baccalaureate study. Master's degrees are offered in many different fields, and there are two main types of programs: academic and professional. A person who finishes graduate school in the U.S. earns an M.A., M.S. or Ph.D. degree (Master of Arts, Master of Science or Doctorate of Philosophy). The Ph.D. is the highest scientific degree in the U.S. This degree usually requires at least three years of study and a dissertation defense. M.A. or M.S. degrees are awarded after two years of graduate studies.
• Academic Masters: The Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees are usually awarded in the traditional arts, sciences, and humanities disciplines. The M.S. is also awarded in technical fields such as engineering and agriculture. Original research, research methodology, and field investigation are emphasized.
• Professional Masters: These degree programs are designed to lead the student from the first degree to a particular profession. Professional master's degrees are most often "terminal" master's programs, meaning that they do not lead to doctoral programs. Such master's degrees are often designated by specific descriptive titles, such as master of business administration (M.B.A.), master of social work (M.S.W.), master of education (M.Ed.), or master of fine arts (M.F.A.). Other subjects of professional master's programs include journalism, international relations, architecture, urban planning, public administration (M.P.A.), and public policy (M.P.P.).
A doctoral degree is designed to train research scholars and, in many cases, future college and university faculty members. Receipt of a doctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity as a trained research scholar in a specific discipline.
At the doctoral level, the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) is the most common degree awarded in academic disciplines. Other doctoral degrees are awarded primarily in professional fields, such as education (Ed.D. or Doctor of Education) and Business Administration (D.B.A. or Doctor of Business Administration). Doctoral programs involve advanced coursework, seminars, and the writing of a dissertation that describes the student's own original research, completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser.
The Ph.D. degree is awarded to those students who complete an original piece of significant research, write a dissertation describing that research, and successfully defend their work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. This may take an additional two to three years. To earn a Doctoral Degree it may take anywhere from five to eight years beyond the bachelor's degree, depending on the field of study.
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