Skip to main content

Types of Graduate Degrees

A man working on his desktop researching the types of graduate degrees

Whether you want to advance in your career or start on a new career path, advanced education is key. So what are the graduate degrees that could help you reach your goals? It depends on what you hope to achieve.

With programs in arts, business or sciences, there are many different types of graduate degrees that can help you prepare for a variety of careers.

If you’re interested in furthering your education, it’s important to understand the kinds of degrees available and explore which one might be best for you.

What is Considered a Graduate Degree?

A graduate degree is an advanced educational program designed to focus deeply on one subject area or discipline. One of the most common types of graduate degrees is a master's degree. While most master’s degree programs take about two years to complete, some may be completed in as little as a year.

A four-year bachelor’s degree is typically required for admission to a master’s degree program. After earning a master’s degree, some students also pursue another type of graduate degree known as a doctoral degree.

There are many differences between bachelor's and master's degree programs, including different credit requirements and a focus on more specific areas of learning. The specialized skills learned in a graduate degree program can help you land leadership positions in your field and earn more money.

A blue infographic with the text Jobs that typically require a master’s degree are projected to grow 16.4% between 2020-2030, BLS reports.According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), master’s degree holders earned an average of 18% more in their weekly earnings than bachelor’s degree holders in 2021.

Jobs for graduate degree holders are also on the rise - they are projected to grow 16.4% by 2030. Jobs for bachelor’s degree holders are projected to grow 9.9%, according to BLS data.

If you’re ready to advance your career, it’s time to explore the different types of graduate degrees and discover which one is right for you.

How Many Types of Graduate Degrees Are There?

No matter what career you hope to pursue, there is likely a graduate degree program that can help you reach your goals.

Some of the most common types of graduate degrees include these master's degree programs:

  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Other specialized master’s degree programs

Deciding which program is right for you comes down to your career goals.

Master of Science (MS)

A Master of Science degree typically focuses on scientific or technical expertise. In an MS program, you’ll likely gain key technical skills that you can apply to your field right away.

Some of your MS options include:

  • MS in Accounting: Gain key accounting skills and experience in areas like auditing, financial analysis and accounts payable. This degree could help you move into high-level banking, taxation or insurance positions.
  • MS in Cyber Security: Learn how to develop effective security controls, understand cyber threats and reduce the negative impact of data breaches.
  • MS in Data Analytics: Take a deep dive into understanding data and build in-demand statistical techniques to collect and analyze large data sets.
  • MS in Information Technology: Gain advanced IT skills and serve as a bridge between IT departments and organizational management.

Learn more about what an MS degree is.

Master of Arts (MA)

A Master of Arts degree focuses on humanities and the theoretical understanding of the subject at hand. Learn more about the difference between a MA and MS degree.

Some of your MA degree options include:

  • MA in Communication: Gain hands-on experience using current communications practices to address real-world situations, so you can apply your learning to your daily work right away.
  • MA in English and Creative Writing: Learn to effectively tell your story and share ideas with the world by studying literature and building creative writing skills.
  • MA in History: Dig deep into advanced research, analysis, presentation, writing and critical-thinking techniques – skills you can use for a career in history, education or many other fields.
  • MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Build the skills you need to become a licensed clinical mental health counselor and learn to effectively work with a broad range of clients.

Learn more about what an MA degree is.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA is one of the most in-demand graduate degree programs out there. MBA programs typically focus on a specific area of concentration and leverage real-world learning. MBA programs also build in-demand soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration.

Some of your MBA options include:

  • MBA in Business Analytics: Learn to use data to help an organization implement change and achieve business goals.
  • MBA in Marketing: Develop a better understanding of consumers and how to market to them, including communication strategies that can help your audience take a specific action.
  • MBA in Project Management: Discover the processes that can help you plan and complete a project on time and on budget. You may also complete coursework that can help you prepare to take the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification.
  • MBA in Finance: Explore topics like short-term financial management, portfolio management and capital budgeting. Prepare for advanced finance roles such as financial analyst, security analyst and investment broker.

Learn more about what an MBA degree is.

Other Specialized Master’s Degrees

Beyond these common types of graduate degrees, there are additional master’s degree programs that may be available depending on the field you’re studying.

Some of these graduate programs include:

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An MSN degree can help you prepare for advanced nursing careers and focus on a specific area of the medical field. Available concentrations include population health, nursing education, nurse leadership and healthcare quality and safety.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): With an MPH degree you can learn how to act quickly to help control outbreaks of illness and disease. You may also explore how to develop community wellness programs and champion public policy changes with global implications.
  • Master of Education (MEd): An MEd degree prepares educators to be leaders in their field. You can learn to apply local, state and national standards to classroom education and may design learning experiences for various ages and learning environments.

Choosing Your Graduate Degree

The most important factor to consider when choosing a graduate degree is how the program will prepare you to meet your career goals.

Does the coursework align with the skills you need to land the job you want? Will the program help you prepare for any professional certifications you may need? Will you be prepared to move on to a more advanced graduate degree like a PhD or EdD?

No matter what type of graduate degree program you choose, you’ll be building in-demand skills employers want, so you can advance your career – or start a brand new one.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU master's program that can best help you meet your goals.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Explore more content like this article

A woman working on her online graduate certificate courses from her laptop

What is a Graduate Certificate and What Are Its Benefits?

A graduate certificate is a credential that equips you with foundational knowledge and skills in a particular field. Although it doesn't replace a master's degree, it can still prove competency in an area. You can even transfer the credits you earn from a certificate to a master's degree program.
A man sits at a table with his laptop researching how to transfer colleges

How to Transfer Colleges: Questions to Ask Before Making Your Decision

Whether you want to enroll at a more affordable university or change your degree program, attending a different college is a big decision – but it can also be a better one. If you’ve thought about transferring colleges, you’re not alone. Learn more about what you need to make the switch.
An educator earning her MEd and helping a student.

What is an MEd Degree?

MEd stands for Master of Education and is a master's degree for those working in education. With an MEd, you can advance your educational leadership skills and teaching career by gaining insights into new approaches and technologies that inspire learners and transform students.

About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.