Master's degrees

Master's degrees in the USA can help advance your career in a variety of fields, giving you specialised knowledge and more experience than a graduate from a bachelor's programme.

There are a few types of terminal master's degrees (those that do not lead to a PhD) in the USA:

Academic master's degrees

  • LLM
  • MA
  • MSc

These degrees are usually two years in length, although LLMs can be one year long. Even though they are focussed towards a specialised area of academia, US master's allow for greater breadth than the UK, often through:

  • Field projects
  • Interdisciplinary work
  • Internships
  • Collaboration with faculty on research projects

Unlike the UK, it is not usually a requirement for PhD entry to complete a master's degree first. Students interested in PhDs typically apply to PhD programmes, and take taught classes in their first two years.

Taking an academic master's in the USA can be a good option for UK students interested in furthering their knowledge or becoming competitive applicants for PhDs in the UK.

Professional master's degrees

These degrees can be a good option for students interested in demonstrating their interest and expertise in a particular professional realm. They are just as academically intensive as LLM, MA and MSc degrees, but have a more professional focus and application.

The following list is not exhaustive, but includes many common professional master's degrees in the USA:

  • MArch (architecture)
  • MBA/Executive MBA (business administration)
  • MFA (fine arts)
  • MEd (education)
  • MPA/MPP (public administration and public policy)
  • MPH (public health)
  • MSW (social work)

Some professional master's degrees, such as the Executive MBA and MEd, can take one year to complete. Others take two years. 

Much like the UK, the terminal professional qualification for engineering is usually at the undergraduate level. One-to-two year Master of Engineering degrees do exist, but are not as common as doctoral research programmes.