How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree?
Reviewer & Writer
Editor & Writer
Reviewer & Writer
Editor & Writer
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- The time it takes to complete a master’s degree can vary from 1-3 years depending on the degree type, program requirements, and other factors.
- Many full-time master’s programs can be completed in two years or less, but some programs can take longer.
- Part-time, hybrid, or online programs may reduce or extend the duration depending on the requirements.
There's no doubt about it — a master's degree can help you earn more money in the long run, but is the time it takes to complete the degree worth it?
On average, master's programs take about two years to complete, but depending on the program, it can take longer or shorter. Checking the length of time it takes is important not only for your academic planning but also for the financial and personal investments you need to make.
Notably, from 2010–11 to 2020–21, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported a 19% increase in conferred master's degrees. So, yes, many students are finding it more and more worth it to earn a master's.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree?
A master’s degree is an accomplishment that many college students and graduates consider taking on, but how long does it take to complete a master’s degree?
Many U.S. master’s programs can be completed in two years or less if you enroll full time. Enrolling in accelerated programs and taking hybrid or online master’s courses can speed up the process in some cases. It is also good to be mindful that some programs take more than two years to complete.
Because the length of time can vary from program to program, it's important to do your research beforehand. For example, some colleges may offer one-year MBA programs, while others only offer two-year programs.
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5 Factors That Affect How Long a Master's Takes
There are various factors that can impact how long it takes to complete a master’s degree, including course requirements, learning format, enrollment options, and courses of study.
Each master’s program provides a program of study that outlines the required courses needed to complete the degree. The general rule is that an MA, MBA, MFA, or MS program can be completed in two years or less. However, some curriculums, such as MAT and MPH degrees, have additional components — such as internships, practicums, certifications, and field hours — that may increase the time it takes to complete the degree.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment
The time it takes to complete a master’s degree depends on if you are enrolled part time or full time. Full-time enrollment allows you to complete the degree in as little time as possible, whereas part-time enrollment can delay the completion of your degree.
Online vs. In-Person Classes
The duration of a master's degree varies based on factors like class format. In-person classes may extend the timeframe due to more in-class hours, while online or hybrid formats often offer more flexibility, allowing you to complete classes in less time.
Accelerated programs aim to reduce degree completion times, making them ideal if you want a quicker path to a master's degree. Depending on your chosen program, you could cut the typical two-year duration in half. Some accelerated master's programs take just one or 1.5 years to complete.
Dual-degree programs give you the opportunity to complete two degrees simultaneously. Sometimes, you can earn a bachelor's and master's or two master's degrees at the same time. The two degrees must usually be in complementary fields.
Is a Master's Degree Worth Your Time?
Deciding if a master's degree is worthwhile involves personal reflection and research. On average, master's degree holders earn 20% more annually than those with only a bachelor's degree, according to the NCES.
According to the 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, master's degree holders have a higher median salary ($1,661 weekly) and the lowest unemployment rates than those with a bachelor's degree or less.
To determine the value for yourself, calculate the return on investment of your degree and weigh the increased earning potential against the time and cost of obtaining a master's degree.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's Degrees
Can you earn a master's degree in one year?
Yes, while most programs can be completed in two years, there are some accelerated programs that allow you to finish a master's degree in one year.
How long does it take to earn an MBA?
Full-time MBA programs usually take two years to complete, while part-time or executive options may take two or three years. Accelerated MBA programs can be completed in around one year. Factors like curriculum, credit requirements, and summer courses also impact the timeline.
How long does it take to earn an M.Ed.?
Earning a master of education (M.Ed.) takes 1-2 years for full-time programs and 2-3 years for part-time or online options, depending on program requirements.
Is it hard to earn your master's?
The difficulty level varies among students, but it's crucial to consider that master's programs generally entail higher rigor than bachelor's degrees. You're expected to attain professional-level understanding with less professorial guidance.
Additionally, most master's programs emphasize research, so you can expect to do a good bit of reading and independent study.