The two graduate degrees offered in the United States are the master’s degree and the doctoral degree; both involve a combination of research and coursework.
Graduate education offers a greater depth of training than undergraduate education, with
increased specialization and intensity of instruction. Study and learning are also more self-directed at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level.
Academic Master’s: The master of arts (M.A.) and master of science (M.S.) degrees are usually awarded in the traditional arts, sciences, and humanities disciplines. The M.S. is also awarded in technical fields such as engineering and agriculture. These programs usually require one or
two academic years of full-time study beyond a bachelor’s degree and may lead directly into doctoral programs.
Professional Master’s: These degree programs are designed to lead the student from the first degree to a particular profession. Such master’s degrees are often designated by specific descriptive titles, such as Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.). Other subjects of professional master’s programs include journalism, architecture, and urban
planning. Professional master’s degrees are oriented more toward direct application of knowledge than toward original research.
One main difference between master’s programs is whether or not they are designed for students who intend to continue toward a doctoral degree. Those that do not lead into doctoral programs are known as terminal master’s programs. Most professional master’s degrees fall under this category.
The Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is the most common doctoral degree awarded in academic disciplines. In professional fields, other doctoral degrees include the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and the Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.).
There are also many nontraditional doctoral programs in the United States; these programs
might have very different types of requirements from traditional programs. Before applying to any program, make sure you know what is required to enter it and obtain a degree. This information is usually available from university catalogs and websites or directly from individual departments.