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What is an MS Degree?

A Master of Science (MS) degree is a graduate degree that typically focuses on technical and scientific areas and takes 1-2 years to complete. Some MS degrees you could consider include cybersecurity, finance or health information management.
A woman sitting in on a meeting with two other people discussing what an MS degree is

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Earning your bachelor's degree is an essential first step to becoming educated in your desired field, but you can take it further. Moving forward with a master's degree can help you gain a more specialized education and build a solid foundation for your career.

There are many types of master's degrees for you to explore when considering your options — like a Master of Science.

What Does MS Degree Stand For?

A blue infographic with the text Master's programs can range from 30-60 credits.

Your desired field of interest will determine the type of master's program you should enroll in. For example, a Master of Science (MS) focuses on technical and scientific areas while covering a wide array of skills and knowledge.

An MS degree is a graduate degree that contains different programs that fall under the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, as well as programs in business, social sciences and healthcare.

Whether you want to work in accounting, cybersecurity or sports management, an MS degree can provide you with the knowledge and skills to problem solve, think critically and research while providing expertise in your field.

Some examples of MS degrees include:

A bachelor's degree is normally 4 years and 120 credits, but how long is a master's degree? Master's programs typically take anywhere between 1 to 2 years to complete and vary between 30-60 credits, depending on your program.

When deciding on your master's degree, look into all of the possible options within an MS degree or a Master of Arts (MA) degree, which are generally the two broadest types of master's programs.

There are also more specialized master's programs, such as:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)

Be sure to do your research to ensure you are getting the best education for your career goals.

Which is Better, MA or MS?

Infographic with the text MA vs MS and images depicting each degree

There is no one master's program that is better than the other. It all depends on your field of study and the career you hope to advance in. The main difference between an MA and MS degree is while an MS degree focuses on more technical fields, like business and STEM, an MA degree focuses on the arts and humanities.

Your interests and goals will be the best indicator of what degree you should choose. For example, if your goal is to understand business better, you would want to pursue an MS in Business Analytics. It can give you a more technical and hands-on approach to analyzing data and creating clear-cut data visuals with industry-standard tools.

If your goal is to become a writer, you may want to consider an MA in English or an MA in Creative Writing, taking a more theoretical approach to creating the foundational skills needed to be successful.

While both an MA and an MS have their benefits, one will be better for you and your goals. No matter the program, getting your degree can expand your knowledge and broaden your career opportunities whether you intend on advancing in your current career or pivoting to a new one.

The master's degree info you need #shorts

What Falls Under an MS Degree?

An MS degree covers a wide range of programs and prepares you for a number of different careers. It can also help you market yourself because it shows employers that you have knowledge in your chosen field.

Some examples of popular programs and their job outlooks that fall under an MS degree:

MS in Accounting

A master's in accounting can help you get ready for a career as an accountant, auditor, fraud examiner or financial analyst. An accountant's role is to prepare and review financial records for individual corporations. The specialized skills learned in your MS degree may give you advanced knowledge to better do your job.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $79,880 in May 2023 with a projected 4% job growth from 2022 to 2032.*

Find out if a master's degree in accounting is worth it for you.

MS in Criminal Justice

During your master's in criminal justice program, you can gain the necessary skills in ethical leadership, business management and more. Whether you want to work for the federal government, state and local government, or continue to advance in your law enforcement job, an MS degree can help take you to the next step.

Working in the criminal justice field is ever-changing and growing. Police and detective work is projected to grow 3% from 2022 through 2032, earning a median salary of $74,910 in 2023, according to BLS.*

Learn more about what you can do with an MS in Criminal Justice.

MS in Human Resources Management

Human resources management is a vital role at any company. Obtaining your master's in human resources management can provide you with the soft skills needed in your field. The program is designed to help you learn creative problem-solving skills, management skills, decision-making skills and how to work from an empathic and ethical standpoint.

In 2023, human resources managers earned a median salary of $136,350, with 5% job growth projected through 2032, according to BLS.*

Learn more about how to become a human resources manager.

MS in Information Technology

The world of information technology is constantly evolving and is needed in every industry. A master's in information technology can prepare you to identify and implement technologies to provide competitive differentiators for organizations, making you more marketable in your career.

The median earnings for people working in IT were $104,420 in 2023, according to BLS.*

Discover the different types of IT jobs.

MS in Psychology

Whether your career goal is to become a therapist, psychologist or professor, you can attain real-world perspectives during your master's in psychology. This degree can provide a deeper and more technical understanding of different forms of psychology, learning theories and ethical practices.

In 2023 psychologists earned a median salary of $92,740, with 6% job growth through 2032, according to BLS.*

Learn more about what you can do with an MS in Psychology.

Find Your Program

Employment in jobs with a typical entry-level education of a master's degree is expected to grow by 11.3% from 2022 to 2032, according to BLS.*

A master's degree can also increase your earning potential.* According to BLS, the median weekly wage in 2023 for full-time workers over the age of 25 whose highest education level was a master's degree was $1,737, compared to $1,493 for those holding only a bachelor's degree.*

Is an MS Degree Right For Me?

An MS degree can provide you with a deeper and more focused education in the sciences than a bachelor’s degree would, help accelerate your career growth and supply you with a better foundation to begin moving forward in your future goals.

Married couple Irina Roach, left, and David Roach, right, 2024 MS in Cybersecurity graduates from SNHU

Husband and wife David and Irina Roach '24 both earned an MS in Cybersecurity, completing their programs at the same time.

Although Irina already worked in cybersecurity, she often used what she was learning during her program while at work, even before finishing her degree.

"I do learn on the job a lot, but having that academic knowledge certainly helps," she said.

David decided to earn his MS degree because he wanted to back into the cybersecurity realm after his previous company dissolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm looking forward to using this to advance my career in the direction I want to go," he said.

There's a lot to consider if you want to go back to school and pursue a master's degree. You'll want to make sure it's the right time for you and that the degree offers the pacing you need.

Be sure to do your research by talking to an advisor, reviewing job descriptions and researching different programs' curricula to find the right degree and program for you.

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

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a content facilitator and writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Based in New Hampshire, she completed her bachelor's in creative writing and English on campus at NH. Currently, she is pursuing her master's in marketing online at the university. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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