2 million+ students
helped annually

Subscribe Today

For exclusive college and grad school planning content.

Subscribe Today

For more exclusive college and grad school planning content.

100+ guides
available for free

7+ years
worth of content

2 million+ students
helped until now

Planning Your StudiesGuide to Getting an MS Degree

Guide to Getting an MS Degree

Increasingly, people are deciding to continue getting more formal education in universities in the form of graduate and postgraduate degrees. This education grants them the title of a Master’s Degree or a Doctoral Degree.

There are many types of Master’s Degrees and one of them is an MS Degree.

This article will guide you on how to get an MS Degree and the details on it:

What Is MS Degree?

MS is a course based degree and stands for Master of Science or Magister Scientiae in Latin

The MS Degree meaning stands for the words Master of Science or as it used to be known before, Magister Scientiae in Latin. Together with the MA Degree, they make up the oldest Master’s qualifications which were invented.

MS degrees have been growing in attendance. The technological advancement has opened a lot of opportunities for scientific fields and more and more students are enrolling to get an MS Degree. It is the third most popular degree after Business and Education.

Stat: In 2015 around 18 to 20% of graduate students enrolled to get an MS degree

The MS Degree is for students who want to complete their graduate studies and specialize in fields related to science or study a subject from a scientific perspective.

Most common MS subjects

The MS subjects which are most common to get the degree for are:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) related field
  • Some social sciences and humanities

Most common MS degrees

Because of these MS subjects, the most common degrees that students get are:

  • MS Finance
  • MS Computer Science
  • MS IT
  • MS Business
  • MS Marketing Science
  • MS Information Systems

What is MS Degree?

The MS degree is a taught or course based degree. It is focused mostly in technical and quantitative methods and analysis. It prepares students with in-depth knowledge on how to apply the technical and quantitative skills in the job market or to get other degrees. Those who hold the degree are specialized in their field and have great analytical and problem solving skills.

Even though it is a taught degree, it still incorporates some form of research. Most MS degrees require a dissertation, capstone, or thesis for graduation. This means that students choose a specific topic from the subject of their study and conduct independent field or laboratory research on it. At the end of their research, they present it in front of a panel or “defend” their thesis and if it qualifies, it might get published in university or other journals.

earning a master of science degree

The MS degree used to be the highest form of degree a student could get to achieve academic excellence in a scientific field. However, now it is considered a “second cycle” degree. This means that after your Bachelor’s Degree comes the Master’s Degree and then the Doctoral Degree or PhD. Because of this, students who finish their MS degrees go on to also get a PhD research degree.

Many students who finish their MS degrees go on to also get a PhD research degree

Most people think that you can get an MS degree if you only study a science related subject. That is however not the case. The MS degree means that you learn a subject from a scientific perspective, so social sciences and humanities qualify too. You can get an MS in Sociology for example if the program you are enrolled in is teaching you how to quantify human behavior and habits and conduct sociological experiments.

Also, it is not necessary to have a previous Bachelor’s Degree in Science (BS) to start your MS degree. Many students come from other backgrounds and they are admitted into an MS program. You might be required to take on some introductory courses to help you with quantitative skills, but your background is not important in terms of the Bachelor Degree that you have.

Some universities might even accept students who have not done a Bachelor’s Degree at all. The degree can be substituted by work experience or some other form of vocational study. This changes based on institutions, so to ensure that the school of your choice has this rule you should contact them.

MS vs MSc

There are many names for the MS degree due to differences in countries and educational systems. Students most often see the abbreviations MS and MSc and they become confused because they don’t know whether these are different degrees.

In fact, an MS and an MSc degree both stand for Master of Science and they are basically the same degrees. Different institutions will have different names, but there is essentially no difference between the titles of MS and MSc degrees.

The only difference between MS and MSc degrees might be the course content. This can come because universities have varying ideas about what students should learn so they put different courses and teaching methods in their curriculum. If you are unsure whether you should do an MS or an MSc degree then look at their curricula or contact the university to get more details.

MS vs MA

One of the biggest confusions related to Masters Degrees is the difference between MA and MS. There are some differences and some similarities to both degrees.

The main difference is the fields of study and approach to getting the degree. The MA degree is more focused on social sciences and humanities. Its approach is also more from a theoretical and cultural perspective. The MS degree on the other hand is more focused on science and takes a more quantitative and analytical perspective.

This difference however is not absolute and universities have the freedom to label their degrees as they choose. If you are between an MA and MS degree, then you should contact the universities or look at their curricula.

In addition, for some of the social sciences and humanities, the MA degree is the highest academic achievement that they can get. This is called a terminal degree. Those with MA degrees can choose to do a PhD, but it is not always necessary.

For MS degrees though, it is more preferable to do a PhD degree and gain more skills in your field since the degree is more quantitative and research oriented. That does not means that it is not good to do a PhD after an MA degree, especially if you want to go into teaching.

In general, in terms of their value, they are equivalent to each other. The MA and MS degrees both are completely equal and neither one is better than the other. If you want to know more information about the MA degree, we have compiled a definitive guide to getting an MA degree.

What Are The Types Of MS Degrees?

Based on different characteristics, there can also be different types of MS Degrees. Most distinctions are general for a lot of Master’s Degrees. The first one is based on the fields of study that you select:

  • Single Degrees
  • Dual Degrees

Single MS Degrees

Single degrees are when a student chooses one area of interest to do their MS on. For example, if you want to become an expert in Math or Engineering, you can get a MS in Math or a MS in Engineering. Almost all universities offer single degrees.

Dual MS Degrees

Dual degrees are when students combine two fields of study and get a dual MS degree. If you want to combine both Physics and Engineering, then you can get an MS in Physics and Engineering. Your research and courses will reflect the combined nature of your degree. Not all universities offer such degrees though, so if you are interested in the dual degree, you should check with the university.

Types MS Degrees based on the time of study

The second distinction can be made on the time of study:

  • Full time
  • Part time
  • Distance Learning

Full time MS study

These are general divisions of types of degrees. The full time study means that you are taking the certain amount of specified credits per semester to qualify as a full time student by the standards of your university.

Part time MS study

The part time study means that due to different obligations you have chosen to get fewer credits than what you need to be a full time student. Distance learning means that you are completing your studies online through an accredited institution, either full or part time.

Types of MS Degrees based on thesis defense requirement

The third distinction is on the requirement of a thesis or dissertation defense:

  • MS degree with thesis
  • MS diploma without thesis

MS Degree with thesis

The only way to get a full MS degree is if at the end of your studies or whenever your university specifies it, you complete a few months of research on a topic that you have selected. This research is presented and can be published in reputable journals. At the end, you become a Master of Science.

MS Degree without thesis (postgraduate diploma)

If you choose to not do a thesis or not to research anything, you will only be awarded a MS postgraduate diploma. The diploma is not a full MS degree, but it is still valuable in terms of gaining more skills and employment. However, if you want to go into academics or become a professor you will need to get the full MS degree.

How Long Does It Take To Get An MS Degree?

The typical length of an MS degree is usually 1 to 2 years, but can be different based on:

  • The type of degree
  • The country or educational system

Length of MS Degree based on the type of the degree

The length of the MS degree depends on the type of degree that you have chosen to do. If you choose to do a single degree, it will take less time than with a dual degree. The same goes for your status as a student. If you are a full time student, you will get the MS degree for less time than if you were a part time student. In addition, if you complete a thesis, it will take you longer than if you choose to only get the diploma without the thesis.

Length of MS Degree based on the country or educational system

Based on the country, for countries such as the US, the UK, Australia the degree takes one to two years of study. For other countries such as Germany, Austria, or some other European countries it can take up to five years. This is because some educational systems beside the research component which might be longer also require practical study such as internships or vocational training.

What Are The Requirements For MS Degree?

Most of the requirements for getting a MS degree are similar to all master’s studies. The initial admissions criteria will be:

  • To have a Bachelor’s Degree or relevant work experience in the field
  • To have a good GPA of 2.1 and higher. The higher the GPA, the better.
  • Submit a research proposal for your thesis or area of interest
  • Submit essays, graduate test scores, and recommendation letters
  • English language proficiency test scores if you are an international student

In addition to these general criteria, there might be other tailored requirements of different universities or countries, such as a certain amount of work experience or a threshold for GPA and graduate test scores.

How To Get MS Degree?

After you are admitted into the MS degree program of your choice, you should enroll in the recommended classes. Your academic advisor will have a list of required and elective courses which you need to complete for your degree. You can follow the standard curriculum or you can tailor it to your needs.

You will have a lot of quantitative assignments and readings, so you need to complete and read everything before classes. Your classes might have a lecture on one day and a tutorial on the other one. The format is done to ensure that students understand both the theoretical and practical sides of what is being taught.

There will also be laboratory and project work which you need to complete in time and ensure that it is accurate so as to have success.

At the end, you will work on your research thesis. You will be allowed to choose a mentor or advisor who will guide you throughout your work and provide feedback to help you improve. Your thesis will be the final point in your program, after which you will get your degree.

Where To Get MS Degree?

The most popular fields and sub-fields to get an MS degrees are as follows:

fields of study for ms degree students

more fields of study for ms degree students

The top 5 most popular countries to get an MS degree are:

  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • United States of America (USA)
  • Netherlands
  • France
  • Germany

The top 5 most popular cities to get an MS degree are:

  • London
  • Cities in Scotland
  • New York City
  • Amsterdam
  • Nottingham


This guide serves to inform prospective graduate students who are looking into getting their MS or Master of Science degrees. These degrees are highly valuable in the job market and they will continue to be some of the best degrees to get in the future.

Latest article

Featured Guides You Should Read

How to Choose an MBA Program: 9 Things to Consider

Choosing the right MBA program starts with knowing your goals well, especially your career objectives. Take time to think about where you see yourself professionally...

Best MBA in Cybersecurity Programs (2024)

If you're considering advancing your career in cybersecurity, an MBA might be just what you need. Unlike a master's degree, an MBA equips you...

Best US States for International Students (2024)

Studying in the United States is an experience like no other, which is why the country attracts students from all corners of the globe....

Best MBA in Finance Programs (2024)

Pursuing an MBA in Finance goes beyond mere number crunching; it's about learning to decipher the pulse of global markets, anticipating trends, and shaping...