You have two options after finishing your undergraduate degree: launch yourself into the world of work, or enroll in higher education via a master’s degree program.
But whether it’s in law, engineering, business, or something else, a master’s degree is a big commitment. Having just completed your bachelor’s, you’ll be required to commit to more studying, more exams, and more waiting to kickstart your career.
Before you enroll, you need to ask yourself: how long is a master’s degree, and am I prepared to make that commitment?
How long does it take to get a master’s degree?
The length of your master’s degree depends on the type of degree you choose, and there’s a wide range of options depending on your career goals, but most programs follow a similar timeline.
If you’re a budding lawyer and want to make yourself attractive to law firms, you may decide to enroll in a Master of Laws (LLM). If you do, you’ll be looking at a further one or two years of study.
The same is true for a Master in Engineering. There’s a mixture of one- and two-year courses available, with the majority requiring two years. The length of your program can depend on how quickly you complete your coursework.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering—considered one of the best schools in the world for engineers—requires its master’s students to complete their studies over an 18-month to two-year period, depending on the time it takes to complete their final thesis.
For medical master’s students, there’s an array of different programs available with specializations across the whole medical landscape.
Most courses have similar lengths. Harvard Medical School has master’s degrees in subjects including bioethics and healthcare quality and safety, which are taught over one or two years.
How long it takes to get your master’s degree will vary. Across all master’s types, program lengths differ from school to school, and some may offer part-time or online programs with more flexibility.
How long is business school?
If you dream of a career in business, with a Big Three consulting firm, a multinational bank, or a big tech company; you may choose to enroll in a business master’s. If you do, there are a range of options available.
The original business master’s degree, the Master in Business Administration (MBA) covers business fundamentals and is usually taught over two-years.
Increasingly, there’s a growing number of accelerated programs, giving you the option to complete your business master’s in 18 months, one year, or even less. IE Business School’s International MBA can be completed in just 11 months.
Master in Management
While the MBA is aimed at professionals with anywhere from two to five years of work experience, students with less experience can enroll in a Master in Management (MiM) degree.
This is also a generalist program, taught over one or two years. The Financial Times’ top-ranked MiM program, offered by University of St Gallen, can be completed in 18 months. Other top programs offered by schools like London Business School and HEC Paris take two years to complete, which provides a more in-depth learning journey.
“Providing students with an outstanding and exhaustive training in management requires two years,” says Sophie Dimich-Louvet, HEC Paris’ associate director of student recruitment.
The program’s first year teaches fundamental business practices while the second includes 20 specializations and dual degree options giving students an entirely different experience, she adds.
How many years is a specialized business master’s?
If you want to develop your career in one specific sector or industry, then you might turn to a specialized business master’s. Specialized programs typically follow a similar timeline to other master’s programs.
Master of Finance
Master in Finance (MiF) degrees vary in length, with a one-year degree the most common.
Schools like HEC Paris and EDHEC Business School offer one-year MiF degrees, while there are also shorter options available, like the nine-month program offered by University of Oxford Saïd Business School.
There’s also the option of a longer program, offering a less intense experience with more in-depth study and opportunities for internships and longer research projects. China’s Tsinghua School of Economics and Management offers a full-time degree with two and three-year options.
Master of Business Analytics
Currently one of the most sought-after business degrees, the Master in Business Analytics (MSBA) is typically a one-year course.
Two-year degrees, which include internships, international trips, and research projects are however a popular option in Europe. HEC Paris offers one such program in partnership with Ecole Polytechnique, while partners ESSEC Business School and Centrale Supelec offer a similar two-year degree.
Master of Marketing
Master’s in Marketing are typically one-year programs. The likes of Imperial College Business School, Columbia Business School, and ESADE Business School are ranked among the best programs in the world by QS. All offer intensive one-year degrees.
If you choose to study in Europe though, you’re more likely to find a longer program. ESCP Business School’s Master in Marketing and Creativity takes between 18 and 21-months to complete, while HEC Paris offers a two-year program.
Master of Accounting
The Master in Accounting (MAcc) degree is often a precursor to the Certified Public Accountancy (CPA) Exam, so you may have more work to do after graduation before launching your accounting career.
But your initial degree is likely to take one or two years to complete, depending on your chosen school. New York University’s Stern School of Business offers a well-regarded one-year MAcc in the US, while the UK’s prestigious Cambridge Judge Business School offers an extended two-year program.
Is a master’s degree worth it?
When deciding if a master’s degree is worth it, it’s important to consider the long-term impact the program may have on your career.
Master’s degrees open up a wealth of opportunities, and master’s graduates often enter the workplace at a higher level than undergrads. This means higher salaries and a faster route to more senior positions.
Whether you choose a master’s in business, medicine, or law, it’s unlikely that your degree will stretch beyond two-years. If you’d prefer to graduate earlier, you also have the option of one-year and accelerated courses.
The relatively short length of time you need to set aside for a master’s degree means you should see a strong return on your investment further down the line. It may seem like a big commitment now, but in the long run, a master’s degree will enhance your career long term.