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How Long is a Masters Degree?

The length of time you’ll spend on your masters degree will depend on a few things – the particular subject you’re studying, your choice of study mode, and the style of masters you choose.


How long is a masters degree?So, how long is a masters degree?

Most masters degrees take an average of one year to complete when studied full time. Masters degree programs can take the full twelve months to complete, or one academic year depending on the university. A part-time masters degree usually takes two years or more to complete.

Some full-time masters courses may take two years to complete, depending on the course, particularly those studied in mainland Europe rather than in the UK.

It is important to check the specific course details when finding out how long the masters program is. For instance, check whether it runs for a full twelve months, or takes place over a shorter academic year to see if you’ll be studying over the summer or not! 

Often, the thesis (sometimes known as a dissertation) will be worked on over the summer period, so you may not be undertaking lessons, but you will still be on the course, so this is worth bearing in mind.

This guide covers everything you need to know about the length of a masters degree and the factors to look out for.

Masters Length of Study

Factors affecting the length of a masters degree

There are a few things that can change the length of a masters degree, such as the teaching style, subject and whether you study full time or part time. Here’s an overview of the factors that affect the length of masters study.

1. Taught or Research?

Assuming you’re doing the masters degree full time (we’ll discuss alternatives later), then it may still vary in length depending on the style you choose – taught or research. Should you go for a taught degree, (MA, MSc, etc) you can expect it to take a year full time. 

Taught masters courses are designed to fit within a one year period, taught across separate terms and semesters. You will complete modules and exams, as well as a dissertation throughout this one year period.

However, if you choose to study a research degree (MRes, MPhil), you’ll find a much different answer to the question: how long is a masters degree? Because a research-based masters involves completing original research, the length will very much depend on how long this research takes. This is usually estimated at one to two years.

2. Which subject?

The length of a masters degree can also vary depending on the subject. 

As well as checking the course’s teaching style, you’ll need to check the length of time it takes to study a masters degree in your specific subject. Most courses (the arts, humanities, science and social science subjects) will tend to be of standard length – a year full-time taught, possibly more if research.

However, some subjects are the exception to this. One masters subject that generally takes longer to complete is a Social Work MA. Should you choose to study this, you can expect the timescale to be nearer two years. This is to accommodate the work experience and vocational aspect of such a course. It’s usually vocational courses that require a longer period of time, but you’ll need to refer to each course individually to find out the specific details.

3. Full or part time?

Then there’s the question of whether to study a masters full or part time. Full-time masters degrees take around half the time it takes to complete a part-time masters degree.

Studying a masters full time means it’ll usually be about a year long. Regardless of subject or teaching style, studying a masters degree full time is the shortest route to getting that degree, and will always take the least time. When it comes to studying part time, you’ll want to look at how long the university allows you to take to complete the program. Usually, it’ll be two years, but sometimes you may be able to extend it to three.

Of course, you need to bear in mind the previously mentioned factors – a research masters studied part time might even extend up to four years, and you’ll want to ask whether vocational masters can be studied part time at all.

4. Distance learning

How long is a masters degree?Distance learning adds in even more variables to the question: how long is a masters degree?

With distance learning (sometimes known as online study), it generally takes much longer to complete the masters degree in comparison to studying in-person. Distance learning can be especially long if you intend to study part time – which is a popular choice for many online-based masters students.

For instance, with the Open University, students are given a period of ten years to complete the required credits! This is definitely the longest route to getting a masters (which may well be useful if you’re busy or working).

If you’re wondering whether to study a distance learning masters, you’ll need to account for other factors, such as teaching style and subject-specific study lengths, since these can make the distance learning program even longer. Though obviously, some factors – like vocational masters – won’t be relevant, as it’s impractical to do a vocational degree via distance learning.

In conclusion...

So there you have it – just how long is a masters degree? Within certain constraints, it’s however long you make it.

In theory, it can be anything from one to ten years! But on average, you’re looking at one year full time, two years part time, with exceptions for the odd vocational course.

  • Full-time masters degrees are the quickest option, often taking one year to complete.

  • Part-time degrees then generally take around two years.  

  • Distance learning masters can take much longer – as much as ten years to complete.  



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