A master’s degree, or graduate degree, as it is sometimes called, is a degree that sets you apart as a specialist, or master, in a certain field. Typically, you must have previously earned a bachelor’s degree to pursue a master’s degree. A perk, however, is that only in certain fields, such as nursing, does the bachelor’s degree have to be in a subject related to the master’s degree you decide to earn. That makes earning a master’s degree especially inviting. In essence, you get the chance for a career “do-over” if you earned a bachelor’s degree in a field that no longer interests you. Even if your bachelor’s degree is in a relevant subject, a master’s degree allows you to concentrate on a specific area of the field.
Usually completed in two years, master’s degrees are focused on gaining a deeper knowledge and developing proficient skills in a particular subject area, such as business, education, or nursing. These degrees are more intensive and often require a thesis or capstone project to demonstrate mastery of the material.
What is the Difference Between a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree?
There are a few primary differences between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. First, as previously noted, earning an undergraduate, or bachelor’s degree is typically a prerequisite for enrolling in a graduate degree program.
Second, a bachelor’s degree is more general in nature. It provides a broad knowledge of the subject and requires that you take several non-degree-specific liberal arts courses to give you a well-rounded educational experience in preparation for the working world. A master’s degree, on the other hand, allows you to focus strictly on your area of interest.
Third, a master’s degree is more rigorous, as it should be. It tends to be more in-depth and generally covers more material in less time. It also requires time management and self-direction. You can gain useful tips from our guide to being a successful student.
Finally, a bachelor’s degree is normally completed in four years, whereas a master’s degree takes approximately two years to finish. However, it can vary a great deal, depending on your schedule and goals, as well as the length of the course terms. Let’s explore that a bit more.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree?
Keep in mind that a bachelor’s degree requires at least 120 credits to graduate, whereas the average master’s degree requires between 30 and 60 credits, depending on the selected program and any additional requirements. That’s why it is feasible to complete the degree in two years, sometimes less.
There are variables, however. For example, Ottawa University’s accelerated online degrees require between 30 and 36 credit hours and are offered in convenient 8-week terms. So, you can take one course per term to finish in two years (six terms per year) or double up during any of those terms to arrive at your goal even quicker. On the other hand, our accelerated online degrees also allow the flexibility to take a term off if needed. So, in many respects, you determine how long earning a master’s degree will take you. Keep in mind, many other schools have terms that are 10 weeks or even 16 weeks long. You should know that Ottawa University is your best option for moving from classroom to career faster and better prepared for success. What’s important is that you find the pace and format that’s right for you.
What is a Concurrent Program?
Another thing to consider is that Ottawa University offers the option of taking concurrent programs if you agree to move straight into a master’s program from your bachelor’s program. For example, our Master of Accountancy allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the same time as pursuing their master’s degree, earning both in just five years!
We also offer our RN-MSN Nursing Bridge program within our Master in Nursing. This unique format allows Registered Nurses to take up to three graduate-level courses that apply towards both undergraduate and graduate degrees, saving time and money. We even offer a Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP) which allows nursing students from partnering institutions to complete coursework for an Associate Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science (BSN) in Nursing at the same time.
What are the Different Types of Master’s Degrees?
Many students want to know the difference between the two most common types of master’s degrees - the MA (Master of Arts) and the MS (Master of Science). Both are equally valuable, and the one you earn will be dependent solely on the subject you choose. The MA is a master’s degree based in the arts, or humanities, such as Leadership or Education. An MS, on the other hand, is a master’s degree based in science or technical competencies, such as Addiction Counseling.
Other degrees may have a different designation, such as the Master of Business Administration, commonly referred to as an MBA, or the Master in Accountancy (MAcc).
How Can a Master’s Degree Advance my Career?
The answer to this question largely depends on your career goals. There are two particular instances when a master’s degree will likely be required to advance your career.
First, if you have a bachelor’s degree and experience in one field but have been thinking about changing industries, then earning a master’s degree may be the smartest way to do that while gaining upward mobility. Since most master’s degree programs are not tied to your undergraduate major, you can reinvent yourself and begin an entirely different career.
Second, if you are satisfied with the field you are in but you’re ready for career advancement, a master’s degree can qualify you for positions with greater responsibility, especially when coupled with the experience and knowledge you’ve already gained. If a role inside or outside the company opens up that is a good fit, you have a much greater competitive edge if you hold a master’s degree, as it is the preferred credential for many jobs, especially senior leadership positions. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that between 2020 to 2030, master's-level jobs are projected to grow by 16.4%, the fastest of any education level.
Never underestimate what a master’s degree can do for your career development, also. Going back to school can help you stay abreast of industry trends, equip you with new skills and knowledge, and make you more effective at your job. In short, it will keep you from getting left behind when new, younger graduates come on board.
Can I Work While Getting a Master’s Degree?
The good news is that Ottawa University’s online master’s degree programs cater to the working adult. While a select few are hybrid – part online and part on-campus, most programs are offered 100% online. Our accelerated online degrees allow students to earn a master’s degree at their own pace and on their schedule.
Whether you work a traditional 8-5 job, work the graveyard shift, or you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad, Ottawa University’s asynchronous classes are available 24/7, allowing you to access course materials and complete coursework on your time. You can plan your schedule accordingly and easily hold down a job while reaching your educational goals. Our enrollment team can help you find the program that meets your needs.
What are the Benefits of Earning a Master’s Degree?
First, let’s talk money. A master’s degree holder earns an average of $13,000 to $17,000 more annually than someone with only a bachelor’s degree, especially in the fields of education, business, and health care. Over a 35-year career, that’s potentially $600,000 in additional earnings. Even if you spend $50,000 earning your degree, the return on investment is significant.
Second, let’s talk opportunity. With a master’s degree, you gain leverage. More job options are available, so you can pick the one that’s a perfect fit for you, whether in your current location or a new setting altogether. Who doesn’t want choices?
Finally, let’s talk satisfaction. When you put in the hard work to finish your master’s degree, you prove to yourself that you can do it. You earn respect – from yourself and others. You also demonstrate your dedication and drive to your employer. There are several reasons to pursue a master's degree.
How Do I Get Started in a Master's Program?
We thought you’d never ask! First, do some self-reflection regarding your career interests and goals and think about which degrees interest you. Then reach out to an enrollment advisor and we can help you narrow it down and answer any questions you may have before you enroll.
Ottawa University’s accelerated online degrees are the perfect option for adults looking to pursue a graduate degree. With locations in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Phoenix, we are a fully accredited, non-profit university that utilizes industry experts as professors. We understand and foster the strong values that you bring to the classroom as a working adult. Contact us today!
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