How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters Degree? [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 14, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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How long does it take to get a masters degree? Discover the factors influencing the duration of a master's degree, from full-time to part-time programs.

How long does it take to get a masters degree? The answer can vary based on your desire to enroll with full-time or part-time status.

Masters Degree

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The type of program you enroll in will also determine the length of the degree path.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Masters Degree?

master's degree student attending a class in university

Here’s a look at anticipated duration for various degree paths:

Part-time program: Enrolling part-time in a masters program means that it may take you up to 1.5 times longer to complete your degree than a full-time student. A part-time student should expect to be enrolled anywhere from three to five years.

Full-time program – Most masters programs are designed to allow full-time students to graduate in two years.

Dual-degree program – A combined program can take double the amount of time to complete than a single-focus program. Expect to be enrolled for between three and four years when you use your time as a student to pursue two areas of expertise. However, following a dual-degree path is often faster than pursuing two separate degrees.

Online program – The time frame for an online masters program typically follows the same pattern as an on-campus option. That means you can expect to have your masters degree in two years. However, plenty of online masters programs take less than two years due to the accelerated, self-paced nature of this option.

Campus program – A standard on-campus masters program can typically be completed in two years.

Accelerated program – Most accelerated programs are designed to allow you to complete your degree in one year. This type of program is typically only offered for majors and specialties that don’t require clinical or hands-on work. Your completion rests on your ability to keep up with a program that condenses a two-year program into a one-year program.

In summary, a student pursuing a masters degree can expect to encounter programs that range from one year to five years. Of course, graduation is contingent upon your ability to complete and pass all required courses.

Finishing A Masters Degree Faster

master's degree students in university classroom

What if you want to finish your masters degree faster? Modern degree programs offer lots of flexibility for speeding through your credits.

Choose an Accelerated Master’s Programs

master's degree student studying in university library

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect to complete a masters degree in one year if you enroll in an accelerated program. An accelerated program is a good fit for someone studying liberal arts areas like education, communications, or business.

The speedy approach may not work if you’re pursuing a degree in science, engineer, or some other field that requires clinical work or multi-semester research.

Going faster does not mean you’re cutting corners or doing less work. Accelerated degree programs tend to be more grueling than longer programs because you’re covering the same amount of ground in half the time.

Of course, keeping this pace makes a master’s degree worth it especially for students who simply want to progress to the next level for career advancement or doctorate purposes.

Take Extra Credits

master's degree students participating in class discussion

Most colleges and universities make it easy to get on the fast track to a degree by offering opportunities to take extra credits. The school year isn’t just comprised of two semesters.

Most schools offer winter and summer sessions that allow you to complete credit requirements between semesters.

Masters courses that are offered during winter and summer sessions tend to be accelerated. It’s important to know that some “core” courses are only offered during the traditional fall and spring semesters.

It’s necessary to communicate your desire to level up with extra courses with your adviser to ensure that you’re planning everything correctly.

It may be possible to obtain financial aid through FAFSA, scholarships, or work-study programs that make it easier to pay for credits.

Learn Proper Time Management

master's degree students studying together in class

Becoming a master at time management is essential for speeding through a masters degree program. It’s important to be realistic about your bandwidth for coursework when enrolling in a full-time or accelerated program.

However, orienting your life to temporarily accommodate an accelerated study load could pay off substantially if you’re trying to jump to the next tier in your career.

Some people simply make the decision to “hunker down” to concentrate on schooling in order to get their masters degrees as quickly as possible.

For some, this means pausing their career in order to focus all of their efforts on school. Others simply reorient their personal lives to have more time for studying.

Transfer Credits

master's degree student studying in library

You may be able to leverage transfer credits to speed up your degree path. It’s possible that you completed some masters courses a few years ago before abandoning a program due to personal, scheduling, or financial issues. Make sure you’re choosing a transfer-friendly school if you’re planning to start again.

It’s important to make sure the school you’re applying to in the present day has credits that are easily transferable. There is always the possibility that you will need to pause your education for some reason.

Choosing a school with regional accreditation through a CHEA-approved organization may increase your odds of being able to transfer your course credits to a new school in the future.

Benefits of a Masters Degree

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A masters degree provides extraordinary benefits for professionals seeking to become respected in their fields. Let’s talk about what to expect once you have a graduate diploma.

Increase Job Opportunities

business administrators shaking hands after a meeting

Many professional doors can open once you have a masters degree. In fact, some highly specialized job roles or management positions will only accept applicants with masters-level educations. There is also a higher earning potential for professionals with masters degrees.

Anyone interested in obtaining a management-level position should strongly consider bulking up their resume with a masters degree. In addition, those working in education may only be able to move up through the ranks to obtain administrator roles if they have masters degrees. Higher degrees are also required to teach in some states.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with masters degrees make on average around $78,210 per year. That creates a large increase in earning potential over the course of a lifetime.

Employment in masters-level occupations is projected to grow by nearly 15 percent through for the next ten years. The projected growth rate for all occupations is just 3.7 percent.

More Credibility

business professional working in an office

A masters degree helps to establish you as an expert in your field. It can prove that you can handle high-level courses and grueling research requirements.

In addition, it can give you credibility because you’re educated in the principles and practices related to your specific industry or career field.

More Research Options

Many people who wish to rise through the ranks in the scientific or research communities pursue masters degrees in order to gain research opportunities. This is especially true for those seeking to be published or enter doctorate programs.

A masters degree could potentially bolster your chances of being welcomed at research universities or institutions.

Can You Get a Masters in 4 Years

Can You Get a Masters in 4 Years?

Yes, it’s possible to extend your post-graduate career to four years if you’re taking a part-time course load. However, it is far more common to complete a degree in two years. This is a topic that you can discuss with your academic adviser upon enrollment.

Is it Hard to Get a Master’s Degree?

The reason why a masters degree holds so much weight is because it requires work and dedication. A degree program is certainly challenging. However, whether or not a person finds a program difficult is subjective.

What is the Easiest Masters Degree to Earn?

Degree paths can’t be compared on the basis of “easiness.” Every student will have an entirely unique experience regarding difficulty and satisfaction levels based on their interests, bachelor’s backgrounds, and talents. The goal should be to find a degree option that fits your objective.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Masters Degree Part-Time?

master's degree students studying in class

Part-time status typically means that it will take you 1.5 times longer to complete your degree than a student enrolled on a full-time basis. Your actual completion time will depend on how many credits you take each semester.

Some students only need to tack on one additional year when studying on a part-time basis. Others take five years to earn their degrees. The length of time it takes you to complete a program isn’t reflected on your diploma.

What Can Make a Master’s Program Take Longer?

There are several factors that can cause a masters degree to take longer. You may need to pause your studies or reduce course load due to scheduling conflicts with your home life or work life.

Certain programs simply take longer to complete. For instance, a masters degree in a scientific field may require you to write a research paper or participate in clinics that simply require multi-semester commitments.

Are There Longer Master Degree Programs?

master's degree students studying together in university library

Yes, some masters degree programs will be longer even if you do enroll on a full-time basis. Pursuing a dual-discipline masters degree can take up to double the amount of time due to a much larger requirement for credits.

Most colleges and universities generally construct their masters programs for all majors to take two years or less for full-time students studying under normal circumstances.

Are There Master’s Degree Credit Requirements?

Yes, you will need to complete the credit requirements set by the institution you’re attending. You’ll need to calculate how many credits you’re capable of completing in a semester against the total course requirement for a program to figure out how long it will take you to earn your masters degree.

How Many Credit Hours Are Needed for a Master’s Degree?

The number of college credit hours needed will vary by college and university. However, a typical masters program requires students to complete between 30 and 60 credit hours to graduate.

That’s much less than the 96 to 120 credit hours required for a bachelor’s degree.

Should I Choose a Master Degree Specialization?

master's degree students in university library

A masters degree is intended to distinguish you as an expert in your chosen field. It can be extremely beneficial to choose a specialty that aligns with your career goals.

Alternatively, a general business degree may be a good fit for someone with more flexibility regarding job goals.

How Many Years is a Masters Degree?

It’s important to look at a masters degree in terms of credit hours required instead of focusing on the number of years involved. However, most programs are designed to ideally be completed within two years.

An accelerated degree path may enable you to complete your degree in just one year. In addition, a part-time or dual program could take anywhere from three to five years.

Getting Your Masters Degree Online

master's degree student studying at home

An online masters degree can open up lots of new possibilities for balancing life obligations and your desire to pursue an advanced degree. Most online programs offer more flexibility and self-guided learning than on-campus programs.

However, you’re still receiving the same expert instruction and degree credibility as a student who attends classes on campus.

It is worth strongly considering obtaining your masters degree online if getting on campus is an obstacle to enrollment for you. Many working professionals simply do not have the time to commute to campus to be present for in-person instruction.

An online program makes it possible for the classroom experience to work around your schedule.

Walking through the world with a masters degree can allow you to operate as a respected, qualified expert in your field. It can also open up exciting doors for job roles and salary opportunities.

There’s no reason not to consider applying to the masters program that fits your goals.

Ready to start your journey?