How long does it take to get a masters degree? [full and part-time]

A master’s degree is a postgraduate degree usually pursued after completing an undergraduate program. 

The duration to complete a master’s degree varies depending on the field of study, the level of specialization, and the institution’s academic requirements.

Typically, a masters degree can take between one and three years to earn. For instance, an MBA program may take one to two years, a law degree may take two to three years, and a master’s degree in engineering may take two years or more.

The exact timeline can also be influenced by factors such as part-time or full-time enrollment, pre-requisite courses, internships, and thesis or research requirements. In this article, we will explore the factors affecting the duration of a master’s program and offer insights on how to estimate the time and effort required to earn this advanced degree.

How Many Years Does it take to get a masters degree?

A Master’s degree can take anywhere from one to three years to complete depending on the type of degree, degree program and whether or not you are a full or part-time student.

Here are a few typical programs and their length:

ProgramAmount of Time to Complete Master’s
Business Administration (MBA)2 yrs
Health Administration (MHA)2 yrs
Library and Information Science (MLS/MLIS)2 yrs
Public Administration (MPA)2 yrs
Public Health (MPH)2 yrs
Social Work (MSW)2 yrs
Psychology (MA or MS)2 yrs
Environmental Science (MES)2 yrs
Computer Science (MS or MCS)1-2 yrs
Education (MEd)1-2 yrs
Engineering (MS or MEng)1-2 yrs
Nursing (MSN or MS)1-2 yrs
Finance (MSF)1-2 yrs
Applied Mathematics (MAM)1-2 yrs
Biotechnology (MBT)1-2 yrs
Communication (MA or MS)1-2 yrs

On average, it takes about 1.5 – 2 years for students to complete a Master’s degree if they are attending full-time, so a part-time student can expect to take longer.

The length of time it takes to complete a Master’s degree means that any student can take it at their own pace and still earn the degree in the end.

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

Completing a Masters Degree part-time can take a substantial amount of time.

The part-time fraction you are studying can significantly increase the length of a Masters with a 25% part-time fraction taking eight years to complete a two-year masters:

Part-Time FractionLength of Time to Complete Master’s
100% (Full-time)2 years
75%2.7 years (2 years, 8 months)
50%4 years
33%6 years
25%8 years

The length of time it takes to complete your degree also depends on many factors including:

  • the number of credits you take each semester,
  • your availability,
  • requirements of the program.

Many students opt for a part-time program due to its flexibility and ability to work it into their busy schedules.

How Hard is a Master’s Degree? My Insights To this graduate degree

A Master’s degree is often considered more challenging than a Bachelor’s degree due to its emphasis on critical thinking, independent study, and research skills.

You can find out more about my thinking in the YouTube video, below, where I share what I think about the difficulty of a masters, bachelors, and a PhD.

In my own experience, while my Bachelor’s program had a set structure and involved exams, my Master’s program entailed more open-ended research projects with a certain degree of risk in terms of research outcomes.

I found the research component of my Master’s degree more difficult compared to the relatively straightforward exams of my undergraduate studies.

A Master’s program is designed to challenge students and push them to the limits of their academic abilities. The workload is more rigorous, and classes are more intense, with a greater emphasis on individual research and the practical application of concepts.

As a student, I was expected to be proactive and self-sufficient in my studies, as I was given the freedom to choose my research topics and work independently for most of the time.

My personal experience also highlighted the importance of mental health and self-perception during a Master’s program.

I discovered that the lack of structure and continuous ranking in my Bachelor’s program made it more stressful compared to the more open and less competitive nature of my Master’s degree.

To successfully complete a Master’s degree, students like me need to be self-disciplined, organized, motivated, and able to work under pressure.

However, the rewards of a Master’s degree are significant and include higher salaries, better job opportunities, greater prestige, and a deeper understanding of one’s field of study.

A Master’s degree can be more challenging than a Bachelor’s degree due to the increased emphasis on research, independent study, and critical thinking.

However, individual experiences may vary, and some might find the less competitive nature of a Master’s program more conducive to their mental well-being, as I did.

The decision to pursue a Master’s degree should be based on one’s personal goals, interests, and readiness for the rigors of advanced study.

Which Master’s Degrees are most in Demand in the US? Get a degree worth something

In the United States, the master’s degree program that is most in demand is the business degree.

The demand for business graduates is quite high because of the wide range of job opportunities available to them.

A master’s degree in business can open the door to high-paying jobs in finance, consulting, marketing, and management.

A degree in business can also be the gateway to entrepreneurship, making it an attractive option for people who want to start their own business.

The skills that you’ll acquire during a master’s in business administration (MBA) program are highly transferable, making it possible to pivot into a new career or industry with ease.

However, it’s not just business degrees that are making waves. There are other master’s degree programs that are also in high demand, offering fantastic job prospects and rewarding careers.


For instance, technology-related master’s degrees, such as computer science, are highly sought after. With around 12,000 graduates per year, computer scientists can earn about $106,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. They’re vital for fields like AI, machine learning, and software development.


Engineering master’s degrees are also in demand, with electrical and electronics engineering seeing 11,000 graduates per year. Glassdoor shows 95,000 job results for electrical engineering, indicating a strong job market.

Data science

Another popular option is a data science master’s degree, which is typically helpful for those pursuing careers in big data and machine learning. There are around 3,100 graduates per year with a master’s degree in statistics, and data scientists can earn around $123,000 a year, as per Glassdoor.

Health-related masters

Health-related master’s degrees, such as nurse practitioner and physician associate degrees, also have high demand due to their requirement for specialized skills. Nurse practitioners can earn an impressive $139,000 a year, and there are 196,000 entry-level job results on LinkedIn. Similarly, physician associates can earn around $101,000 per year, with 71,000 entry-level job results on LinkedIn.

While postgraduate business degrees remain the most sought-after degree program in the United States, other fields, such as technology, engineering, data science, and healthcare, also offer excellent job opportunities and attractive salaries.

Is a masters degree program really worth it?

Determining the worth of a master’s degree depends on individual circumstances and goals.

When trying to decide if getting a master’s degree is worth it, a person should consider several factors.

  1. Firstly, evaluate the cost-benefit analysis by comparing the expenses of obtaining the degree against the potential increase in income and career prospects. Keep in mind that, in some cases, professional development or alternative certifications might offer similar benefits at a lower cost.
  2. Secondly, assess the value of the knowledge and skills gained from the master’s program, as well as the potential for personal and professional growth. Determine if the program’s focus aligns with your long-term career goals and interests.
  3. Lastly, consider the flexibility and adaptability of the degree, taking into account the potential to pivot into new industries or job roles.

By carefully examining these factors, a person can make an informed decision about the worth of pursuing a master’s degree in their specific situation.

In the specific case of a teacher from Sacramento, California, pursuing professional development was more cost-effective and provided a wider range of knowledge, whereas a master’s degree cost around 3 to 5 times more and provided a more singular focus.

The teacher’s income would increase by $5,000 per year in both scenarios, but the cost of the master’s degree was $15,000, while the professional development cost only $5,000.

Weighing the return on investment, personal and professional growth, and potential career paths will help individuals decide whether a master’s degree is the right choice for them.

In this particular case, professional development seemed to be the better choice, offering better knowledge and less money spent, while the master’s degree provided a prestigious title but at a higher cost and with less practical knowledge.

Can I Finish My Master’s Degree Ahead of Schedule? What about degree online?

Finishing a master’s degree ahead of schedule is possible, but it depends on several factors such as the length of time it takes to complete the degree and the number of credit hours required.

Some universities may offer accelerated programs or allow students to take more credit hours per semester, which could help them finish their degree sooner.

It is important to consider the workload and time commitment required for each course before taking on more credit hours than recommended.

Another way to finish early is by transferring in credits from previous coursework or experience.

It is also possible to complete a master’s degree ahead of schedule by dedicating more time and effort to your studies.

Wrapping up

A master’s degree is an advanced postgraduate degree typically taking between one to three years to complete, depending on the program and enrollment status. Key points to consider include:

  • Duration varies by field of study, level of specialization, and institution’s academic requirements.
  • On average, full-time students take about 1.5 – 2 years, while part-time students may take longer.
  • Master’s degrees are generally more challenging than bachelor’s degrees due to their emphasis on research, critical thinking, and independent study.
  • The most in-demand master’s degree in the US is in business, followed by technology, engineering, data science, and healthcare-related fields.
  • The worth of a master’s degree depends on factors such as cost-benefit analysis, personal and professional growth, and flexibility to pivot into new industries or job roles.
  • Finishing a master’s degree ahead of schedule is possible through accelerated programs, transferring credits, or dedicating more time and effort to studies.

Pursuing a master’s degree is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors, such as program duration, difficulty, demand, worth, and the possibility of early completion. By evaluating these aspects, individuals can make informed choices about whether a master’s degree aligns with their personal and professional goals.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.