Whether you are still pursuing a Bachelors degree or you are already part of the work force, you may be wondering, “How long does it take to get a Masters degree?” Masters degree programmes are designed to be completed within a year or two, and in an increasingly competitive global job market, an advanced degree, such as a Masters in Finance or Management, may give you the edge you need to stand out to a potential employer.

Impacts of Masters degree programme duration

You may want to consider what impacts the various programme durations will have on your life and career plans. Shorter programmes are likely much more intense, with less time for study and shorter breaks between sessions. Commitment and resolve will need to be at peak level. And just because a programme is shorter in length does not necessarily mean the tuition is less expensive, just that the same amount of material is being covered in a shorter period of time. Apart from tuition costs, however, a shorter programme means lower overall living and travel expenses during the time you spend completing the degree. This option also may appeal to you because it means you will enter the work force sooner, earning real-world income instead of internship stipends, or even working an internship for free.

How long does it take to get a Masters degree around the world?

Masters degree programme lengths are very similar at a global level – they typically span over either one (e.g. in Europe) or two (e.g. in the USA) academic years. There are, of course, some differences between the UK and Western Europe when compared to other countries, but for the most part, the differences boil down to terminology and other substantively inconsequential issues rather than overall length of the programme. For example, in the United States, a typical year runs for two semesters instead of three terms, which extends the amount of time you will study one topic, and likely increases the number of courses you will need to take at one time.

Check out: European vs. American Masters Programmes

Traditional Masters programmes

A typical student pursuing a Masters degree will add roughly one or two years to his or her total schooling to attain it. For two-year Masters studies, this includes a normal summer break of about three months in between the first and second year, as well as shorter breaks in between terms. You might choose to spend those breaks studying or travelling. Ideally, you would spend the summer break serving an internship at a company within your field of study. That would give you practical experience and, as long as it is an approved internship, count toward the requirements of the Masters degree.

Check out: Masters Programme Formats

Accelerated Masters programmes

The length of your Masters programme may be dictated by the university, or you may be able to choose from several options. For example, the London Business School offers three choices for its Masters programmes: 15, 18, or 21 months. Shorter programme lengths tend to be much more rigorous, with the same amount of study packed into less time. They might also offer fewer options in terms of available classes or internships.

Part-time programmes

In decades past, a part-time degree programme was, for the most part, impossible. A student was expected to live on or near the campus and not work another job at the same time. These days, many universities, in an attempt to remain competitive, offer much more flexible options for students, including fully online courses that can begin and end almost on demand. A part-time programme takes longer to complete, of course, but it might suit your individual situation perfectly.

Online or distance learning Masters programmes

Traditional brick-and-mortar universities, where you attend class in person, tend to follow a traditional term schedule, taking a small number of courses simultaneously over a longer period. This is usually true even for distance learning, since the faculty needs to offer the class on the same schedule as other courses.

There are online programmes, however, that break from tradition and organise classes sequentially. For example, a Masters programme might alter its structure so that a student takes only one course at a time for a shorter period, like eight weeks. One big advantage to this format is that you can concentrate your focus on only one class and its assignments rather than trying to juggle several courses and multiple assignments.

Dual or joint degree programmes

There are many options for a student wanting to pursue two different Masters degrees. Dual or joint degree programmes may be ideal for a student wanting a base of knowledge in two different subjects that could have overlapping significance in their career choice. For example, a dual programme with both law and business administration, or journalism and Latin American policy, would suit very particular career paths very well. Obviously, earning two Masters degrees take longer than one, but there are certain universities and/or certain programmes that allow electives to count toward both degrees. This could cut a dual degree programme down from four years to three, for example.

Check out: Why Consider MBA Dual Degree Programmes

Just knowing you have options is valuable to you when it comes time to decide on a Masters degree programme and university. Beyond that, you will need to further analyse those options according to your situation and to optimise your time and money.