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How do I get a Master's Degree in Science?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated May 17, 2024
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In the United States, you can earn a master's degree in science by successfully completing all of the coursework required by a public or private accredited college or university. Coursework will include what are known as general education courses or core classes such as English Composition I and II, Oral Communication, and Introduction to Psychology or Introduction to Sociology. Elective classes almost always are mandatory as part of the requirements leading to a master's degree in science. These are classes that might or might not be directly related to your specific major, and you have more freedom in choosing which subjects to study to meet the electives requirement. Keep in mind that core classes as well as choice of electives usually vary depending on whether you are majoring in what is known as a "soft science," such as library science or political science, or in a "hard science," such as computer science or forensic science.

There is more than one way to get your master's degree in science. You might want to begin your studies at a two-year community college, where college credits tend to be more economical than at four-year colleges. An associate's degree is the highest degree you can earn from these two-year schools, but it can be the first step you take toward the master's degree. If you choose this option, however, you will want to make sure that all of your credits will be accepted at the four-year institution of your choice so that you will transfer to it with junior status as a third-year student and will be well on your way to earning your bachelor's degree. You must have a bachelor's degree to study for a master's degree in science.

After you have earned your bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university, you then will be permitted to begin studying for your master's degree in science, which usually takes at least two years to earn if you attend full-time. The names two-year and four-year college often are misleading because it takes the average student three and five years, respectively, to complete them, even attending full-time, which is the taking of 12 or more credits at a time. If you do not intend to earn your master's degree in science at the same school where you earn your bachelor's degree, it will again be necessary to ensure that all credits will transfer to the graduate school of your choice. Some schools have regional accreditation while others have national accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation do not always accept credits earned at establishments with national accreditation.

Other requirements involved with earning a master's degree in science generally include first writing a thesis to earn the bachelor's degree before studying approximately another two years for a master's degree. Depending on the specific science in which you major, you also might be required to complete a practicum or hands-on training. Most of your major related coursework will not be introduced until you reach the junior level.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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