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How Many Academic Credits Do You Need For A Master's Degree?

written by: Winston Smith•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 3/24/2011

Earning a master's degree is difficult: there are advanced courses, tuition to pay and often expectations that students will produce original research. This article answers one of the most common administrative questions: how many credits do you need for a master's degree?

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    Introduction

    The number of credits required to earn a master's degree varies widely depending on the university granting the degree. In addition to differences in the number of academic credits, many programs have "core" or required courses that all students must complete as well as a selection of elective courses that allow students to explore their interests. Learn about the different answers to the question "how many credits do you need for a master's degree?" by reading the rest of this article. The answer typically ranges from about 15 credits to 30 credits.

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    MBA Degree: Credits and Requirements

    Master of Business Administration degrees are very popular as they one of the most profitable master's degrees available. Most full-time students complete their MBA in one or two years of study; part-time students can take three years or more depending on the program's flexibility. Here are some examples of different MBA programs and their credit requirements:

    • Stanford University: Stanford offers a two year, full time MBA courses. Students take required courses in the first year of study and electives in the second year. Some of the required first year courses are Financial Accounting, Managerial Finance, Marketing, Organizational Behavior and Operations. Electives include international study courses outside the US, information technology, human resources and accounting.
    • Northwestern University: This university offers one year and two year MBA degrees. The one year program has only 1.5 required credits out of a total of 15.5 credits (Management and Strategy, Values and Crisis Decision Making). Elective courses offered at Northwestern include: Business Law, Marketing Research, Operations Management and Statistical Decision Analysis. The two year MBA requires students to complete 24.5 credits; mandatory courses include Accounting for Decision Making, Business Strategy, Leadership in Organizations, Microeconomic Analysis and Finance.
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    MA Degree: Academic Requirements and Credits

    The Master of Arts (MA) degree is primarily awarded to those studying social science and humanities fields such as English, history, art, philosophy, economics and other fields. In most instances, the MA degree is typically only offered on a full-time basis and students are expected to complete the program in one year. Students who wish to write a thesis or conduct a similarly large research project may take up to two years to complete the degree.

    • North Dakota State University: The MA degree in English requires 27 credit hours of academic work. Students may decide between one of two areas of focus: Composition or Literature. In either case, the degree requires that students attain "intermediate fluency" in a foreign language and two specific courses (Graduate Scholarship and a research course). Elective options include linguistics, American literature, British literature and critical theory.
    • Master of Arts in Latin American Studies (Georgetown University): Most students complete this MA degree in two years, but Georgetown also permits students to study for the degree on a part-time or accelerated basis. The number of credits required for the degree depends on whether a student completes a thesis. Without a thesis, this MA program requires 36 credits. With a master's thesis, 33 credits are required. There are two core courses: Culture & Power in Latin America and Political Economy of Latin America.
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    Master of Science (M.Sc): Degree Credits

    Master of Science (M.Sc) degrees are comparable to MA degrees insofar as the degree can be earned in many different fields (e.g., biology, engineering, computer science, mathematics and physics) and the required number of credits varies considerably. Some universities also use the abbreviation "MS" to denote Master of Science degrees. Consider these two examples of different M.Sc programs and their academic requirements.

    • Master of Science in Physics (University of Minnesota): There are two degree options depending on whether or not students wish to complete a thesis. The thesis option requires 20 credits of course work and a thesis which is equivalent to 10 credits of study. The non-thesis option requires students to complete 30 academic credits along with research projects. Courses offered include solid state physics, medical physics, quantum field theory and transport theory. The vast majority of credits for this MS degree are electives selected based on the student's interests.
    • University of Wisconsin Oshkosh: The master's degree in biology requires 30 credits of coursework as well as a thesis. Unlike some of the other master's degrees discussed in this article, this program has a mandatory thesis. Required courses include data analysis, botany, zoology and microbiology. In addition, students are required to pass a comprehensive examination in their field of interest.
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      Resources

      To learn more about the research requirements and other answers to the question, "how many credits do you need for a master's degree?", consult the resources provided in this section.

      Department of English MA Degree (North Dakota State University), http://english.ndsu.edu/ma_degree/

      Master's Degree Program - Center for Latin American Studies, http://clas.georgetown.edu/academics/requirements/

      Master's Degree in Biology or Microbiology, http://www.uwosh.edu/biology/masters-degree-program-in-biology-or-microbiology

      MBA Programs (Northwestern University), http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Programs/FullTimeMBA/MBA_Programs.aspx

      MBA Program (Stanford), http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/