Types of Advanced Degrees

Types of Advanced Degrees

Types Of Graduate Degrees [Ph.D., M.A., M.Ed., M.S.W., M.B.A., M.P.A.]

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

The highest of the advanced degrees, the requirements to earn a Ph.D. vary widely throughout the world of academia and different American universities, and the descriptions of individual programs are available on university websites.  However, generally, the Ph.D. is broken down into the following components [time to complete each part in brackets]: 1) Coursework in the intended field of study [1-3 years], 2) preliminary, comprehensive, or cumulative oral and written examinations on coursework focusing on wide knowledge in the field [1 year], 3) oral and written examinations that test specialized knowledge of coursework and field [1 year], and 4) depending on discipline, the completion of a 50-450 page dissertation on a research project in your field [2-6 years].

As you can see from the timeframe of 5-8 years, a Ph.D. is a major time commitment that requires passion, perseverance, and consistent effort towards your subject.  Also often included in these degrees are courses in teaching and opportunities to serve as teaching assistants to professors and to teach undergraduate classes while earning a degree, which will not only pay for your pursuit of this degree but prepare you for teaching post-completion of Ph.D., if you choose to become a professor. 

Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Sciences (M.S.)

The Master of Arts, or M.A., is a post-graduate degree that can either be accomplished in the first one to two years of a Ph.D. program or can be taken as a stand-alone 1-2 year terminal degree in a particular field.  The achievement of a Master’s Degree indicates a high-order understanding or expertise in a particular field, including the mastery of theoretical and applied concepts and projects within a chosen field.  Like the Ph.D., the M.A. or M.S. varies widely, depending on the particular field and the university.  In general, Master’s Degrees are broken down into periods of theoretical coursework and usually require the completion of a shorter thesis or final project, following the completion of all coursework.  Most M.A. and M.S. programs last 1-2 years, and financial aid is available in certain cases, depending on the program.  A Master’s Degree demonstrates a further level of achievement and understanding in your field than a B.A.  It can prepare you for the greater challenge of a Ph.D., allow you to teach in your subject in some settings, or help you to demonstrate to future employers your dedication to your goals and mastery of a subject.

Master of Education (M.Ed.)

The Master of Education, or M.Ed., is a post-graduate professional degree, dealing with many different aspects of the educational system.  There are numerous different subjects within the field of education that a student can pursue in a M.Ed. program.  Each M.Ed. program usually lasts 1-2 years, depending on the university and specialty that each student chooses and, while most are unfortunately unfunded, financial aid, in certain cases, is available. 

For those who want to pursue a career in advising, counseling, or administrating, these degrees can be crucial first steps towards achieving those career goals.  These degrees allow those interested in education to not only learn more about how to improve teaching in their field, but also learn more about the educational system as a whole.  It can also help administrators, teachers, and counselors learn strategies that will allow them to collaborate more effectively in order to provide the best education possible to their students.

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

The Master of Social Work or M.S.W. is a professional degree, which focuses on building a greater understanding and expertise in the field of social work.  Usually, students have the option of pursuing an M.S.W. in either a clinical track, which allows direct engagement with clients, or a practice track, which allows for political advocacy and research of community practice, social policies, and human services management. In general, all M.S.W. degree programs take at least two years to complete.  Financial aid, in certain cases, is available.  M.S.W. programs are necessary for those interested in pursuing most forms of social work, from working on individual cases as a social worker, to working on the wider areas of public policy and community organizing. 

Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)

The Master of Business Administration, or M.B.A., focuses on the scientific study of business management.  Although M.B.A. programs vary from university to university, most include core courses in various areas of business, such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and operations. The duration of these programs varies, depending on the particular field on which an M.B.A. candidate concentrates and the prior business experience that the candidate has.  However, typically, a full-time student can complete an M.B.A. in two years, and a part-time student can complete it in three years. Many schools also offer an option of an accelerated MBA program that typically lasts 12-18 months.  These programs are usually unfunded, but some companies will pay for their employees to earn an M.B.A.  M.B.A. programs teach students about numerous different, but interconnected fields, within the business world and allow those who complete them to have a better understanding of business management and a greater advantage when pursuing management positions within their companies.

Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.)

The Master of Public Administration is an advanced degree for those who wish to pursue management careers in the public services sector and in local, state, and federal government.  It is a two to three year program.  Similar to an M.B.A., but with a focus on the public sector, students in M.P.A. programs will study organizational management, public and nonprofit finance, human resources, public law, strategic communications, and program and policy evaluation and can then choose to specialize in a particular area within the wider public service world, such as urban planning, transportation, or emergency management.