One of the most important questions you will have when considering applying for a masters is: how long is a masters degree? Taking time away from your career – or before you start it – is a big commitment, and so it is very important to be aware of how much of a commitment you’ll be required to make. The length and intensity of your studies will have a huge bearing on how much you can earn and how much time you’ll have available for other things.
Usually, a masters degree will take between a year to two years to complete. Unfortunately, beyond this broad estimate, it depends a lot from course to course!
Two main factors intervene to determine the length of any given degree. We’ll run through these below, to give you a sense of what to expect:
The single biggest factor that shapes how long a master’s will take to complete is the structure of the course itself. This not only determines the absolute length of your studies – from admission to graduation – but it also affects how many contact hours you have, and how much time during any given week that will be taken up with your studies.
Full time degrees tend to be shorter – normally around 1 year – but also more intense. You will be expected to devote the same amount of time as you would to a full-time paid position – so 38 – 42 hours a week. Any paid or voluntary work you might wish to embark upon during this period will need to take place during your “off” hours – nights, weekends, and vacations. Many universities forbid their students taking full-time degrees from taking on additional employment during term, in order to ensure that they are not distracted from studying.
Part-time degrees, as you’d expect, involve a smaller time commitment per week, spread over a much longer period – usually around 2 years. You’ll need to devote at least 20 hours a week to studying, but this will vary – leaving your remaining time free for paid work and other activities. For this reason, part-time degrees are popular amongst people who have already begun their careers, or for those who will need to work to support themselves while studying.
Online courses require the same amount of time as other degrees, but because the material is covered from the comfort of your own home, the timing of when and how you study is much more flexible. Distance learning courses also entail quite a bit more flexibility; some universities allow you to spend up to ten years covering the required material!
Taught degrees in most fields usually demand up to one year of study – but some degrees, especially those attached to a vocational qualification like Architecture or Social Work, require longer due to the number of work placements and technical training involved.
Another type of degree that can last longer are research masters – like the MRes degree. Because these are based around a research project, rather than a taught course, it’s possible to take slightly longer than a year to complete your studies and finish writing up.
Did you know that on MastersAvenue you can compare part-time, full-time and online courses for every subject? Just search for your favorite subject and try it out.