What is the Difference Between a Master of Arts Degree and a Master of Science Degree?

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Updated April 15, 2021

When considering a graduate degree, one of the main questions that arises are what is the difference between a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree. Many graduate degree options in a particular subject offer either degree type, making the entire process quite confusing and difficult for prospective students. Those that are considering which option to choose will find that the below information that highlights the difference makes the entire process much simpler and also provides the clarification necessary to make the best decision for you and your future career.

A Master's of Arts Degree

To put it simply, a Master's of Arts degree is a degree option that is focused on areas such as the humanities. Types of subjects where most Master's of Arts degrees are available are communications, English, teaching, literature, linguistics, art, and languages. The main method of learning for Master's of Arts degrees are seminars, which are heavily based discussions regarding the subject matter. This is also the main difference between a Masters of Arts degree and a Masters of Science degree. The method of teaching is not the same.

When considering how long each of the degree options take, the Master's of Arts degree typically takes two years. The reason behind this is that the Master's of Arts degree is focused on the research and discussion based learning.

The final difference between a Masters of Arts degree and a Masters of Science degree is the thesis option. In terms of a Master's of Arts degree, many programs do not require a thesis, as they would with a Master's of Science degree.

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A Master's of Science Degree

The Master's of Science degree option is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects. These types of subjects include computer science, biochemistry, engineering, economics, mathematics, and public health. Students that undergo a maters of science degree option can expect to be heavily immersed in lab work, scientific research, analysis, and evaluation. Students with strong logical and mathematical skills are best suited for this type of degree option.

The average time span for a Master's of Science degree is also two years, however in some cases, it can be more. One simply needs to take into consideration their career goals when choosing which degree option to take.

While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, individuals that pursue a Master's of Science degree typically require a thesis. The thesis can span six to nine units and require extensive research on the subject studied. Students must defend their thesis through synthesizing the subjected learned and other information gathered through their own lab work.

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Is a Master of Science or a Master of Arts Best?

When it comes to choosing a Master's of Science or a Master's of Arts, students need to take into account their own career goals, according to the University of Michigan. Employers make no distinction between the two areas of study and they hold the same prestige. If one is more suited towards humanities subjects, then the Master's of Arts is best. However, if sciences are one's forte, then a Master's of Science is a better choice. Overall though, the difference between a Master of Arts and a Master of Science degree is very small and unimportant, as the true marker of success is attainment of a master's degree and the use of it after graduate school.

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