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Question: What Is an MS Degree?

Answer: Master of Science (MS) is a formal designation for graduate degrees in a wide range of scientific fields, including mathematics, physical science, applied science/engineering, social and behavioral science, computer science, medicine, and nursing. MS programs provide technical instruction and training and usually require the completion of a master’s thesis, a research paper, or a capstone project.

An MS is a graduate degree that provides knowledge and training in specific areas of science, technology, mathematics, or in the behavioral sciences, medicine, nursing, social work, and a broad range of related multi-disciplinary subject areas. There are MS programs in biology, chemistry, and physics, and MS degrees in environmental science, data science, computer science, cybersecurity, and many other fields. MS programs may consist of classroom-based instruction, laboratory research, or a combination of the two. Some MS programs include a master’s thesis component and/or an applied research capstone project. These programs typically take one-to-two years of full-time enrollment to complete, depending on the discipline and the structure of the program. An MS degree may provide targeted professional training and/or serve as a pathway toward earning a doctoral degree.

While the Master of Science designation may seem to imply that MS programs are confined to areas of study in the hard sciences, that is not the case. MS degrees may be offered in any field that relies on the scientific method as an approach to learning, researching, and problem solving. For example, there are MS degree programs that cover many business functions, including communication, finance, marketing, and human resource management. These programs provide students with a scientific basis for understanding problems and applying problem-solving strategies in those fields. Common MS subject areas include:

  • Accounting
  • Administration
  • Analytics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Communication
  • Counseling
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Finance
  • Information Systems
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • Physics
  • Social Work
  • Statistics

The main admissions requirement for MS programs is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Individual programs may have additional admissions criteria, which might include a minimum cumulative GPA, standardized test scores (typically the GRE or GMAT), and/or certain undergraduate course prerequisites. Although some MS programs may prefer applicants who majored in a particular discipline as an undergraduate or require applicants to have completed the coursework associated with that major, often a specific undergraduate major is not a requirement for admission to an MS program.

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