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Academic and Professional Master's Degrees: What's the Difference?

By Joe Aguilar

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2005, almost 13 million Americans held master's degrees. If you want to join the ranks of people with graduate-level educations, you first need to make key decisions such as selecting your degree type. There are two main styles of master's degrees: professional and academic. Try to pick the option that best suits your career goals.

Joining the Workforce: Professional Master's Degrees

Professional master's degrees are sometimes "terminal," which means that they give the highest certification level in their field. An example of professional master's degrees include the Master of Fine Arts (MFA), the Master of Business Administration (MBA), and the Master of Education (MEd). Because professional master's degrees teach career-oriented skills, people who earn professional degrees usually enter the workforce right after graduation.

PhD Preparation: Academic Master's Degrees

While professional master's degrees focus on building job skills, academic master's degree programs are centered around research. You might study for your Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS) degree in the humanities, sciences, or fine arts. During your program, you may gather field research, take courses in your specialty, and prepare an original thesis. Academic master's degrees are especially handy for people who want PhD degrees. Whether you want to earn your doctorate in English, mathematics, or foreign languages, your master's studies can prepare you for a stellar career in academia.

If you currently work a full-time job, you should think about online master's degree programs. Online master's degrees allow you attend school during your free time, and you can complete coursework from any computer with an Internet connection.

Source

National Center for Education Statistics, Number of Persons Age 18 and Over, by Highest Level of Education Attained, Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity: 2005

 


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