Smiling woman graduate in cap and gown.

The length of time it takes to complete a master’s degree program varies widely, from 18 months to several years. How long it will take for you to earn your master’s degree will depend on several factors:

  • Full-time or part-time student – If you are able to devote yourself full time, it may be possible to earn your master’s degree in 1 to 1.5 years. If you are one of the growing number of adult students with full-time jobs, pursuing a master’s degree, by necessity, must be a part-time effort and will naturally take longer to complete.

  • Master’s degree requirements – Credit-hour requirements for master’s programs can vary from 30 credit hours (e.g., MS in Marketing degree) to 50 credit hours (e.g., MS in Health Education and Promotion degree). The average requirement for a master’s degree program is 36 credit hours.

  • On-campus or online master’s degree program – Although traditional on-campus programs offer face-to-face interaction with other students and faculty, they lack the flexibility afforded by online options. By design, an online graduate degree program gives you the flexibility to get your master’s degree faster and more conveniently from the comfort of your home. You have the freedom to fit your study times into your busy schedule while avoiding the hassle of commuting back and forth to classes.

  • Transfer of credits – Graduate program admission specialists review credits you’ve previously acquired and determine how many credits are transferrable. Additionally, your bachelor’s degree may have included the opportunity to simultaneously take certain graduate-level courses. Now those courses can be transferred as credits toward your master’s degree.

  • Transfer of work experience – Progressive universities and colleges review your life, work, and job training experiences, as well as your military education and training experiences. Known as a master’s degree acceleration program, this important process determines how much of what you’ve accomplished can be transferred as academic credits toward completion of your master’s degree. Degree acceleration is the quickest way to get a master’s degree.

  • Graduate certificates – Some master’s degree programs enable you to earn a graduate certificate once you’ve completed a portion (12–20 credits on average) of your master’s coursework, giving you a valuable credential to show your current employer and add to your résumé for job interviews.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s Degree?

It’s a matter of taking advantage of all the available opportunities that will help pave the way for you to get your master’s degree faster.

Is It Worth It to Get a Master’s Degree?

Certain professions require a master’s degree, including physician assistants, school and career counselors, social workers, school administrators, and marriage or family therapists. A master’s degree is optional for other professionals, but having one can give you a solid competitive edge over job candidates without a master’s. This additional credential can position you to land the job of your dreams and accelerate your career advancement.

Additionally, your graduate degree will empower you with advanced-level knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to become a more effective professional, manage people and projects successfully, and develop into an important change-making force for your organization.

Financial Impact of a Master’s Degree on Salary

There is a direct correlation between a master’s degree and a substantial, often dramatic, increase in salary. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2012 the median earnings for young adults with a master's degree or higher was $59,600, which is 27% more than the median for young adults with bachelor's degrees.*

Specifically in the field of education, NCES reports that in 2012 teachers with a bachelor’s degree in education earned a median salary of $40,030, while those with a master’s degree earned $45,880.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the salary differences for specific professions in 2012:

Join an Elite Group of Americans

Only 3% of Americans earn a master’s degree, and you can be part of that highly educated and well compensated group.§ Whether you are seeking advanced education and skills, a better understanding of your field of study, a competitive edge in the marketplace, or a career boost with a higher salary and increased financial stability, a master’s degree program could be exactly what you need to accomplish your goals.

How Walden University Helps You Get Your Master’s Degree Faster

Walden University offers a wide range of online master’s degree programs created specifically for working adults. Walden is an online university that provides more flexibility for adult students to fit master’s degree studies into their busy schedules.

Walden University’s hands-on education provides students with real-world field experience related to their area of study. This helps students achieve a more holistic understanding of their profession so they can solve critical challenges and become an effective practitioner within their field.

A small sampling of Walden’s online master’s degree programs includes:

Click here for a complete list of Walden’s master’s degree programs.

Walden University, an accredited online university, has been serving the higher education needs of adult learners for 45 years. Today, more than 47,800 students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees or certificates online at Walden.

Explore Walden University's master’s degree programs and specialized certificate programs that fit your career goals. Earn your degree at a pace that fits your life and schedule.


*National Center for Education Statistics, “Annual Earnings of Young Adults,” on the Internet at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cba.asp (viewed online May 5, 2015).

†Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/ (viewed online May 5, 2015).

‡Houston Chronicle, “Average Salary for a Master’s of Public Administration,” on the Internet at http://work.chron.com/average-salary-masters-public-administration-6476.html (viewed online May 5, 2015).

§CareerBuilder, “Bachelor’s vs. Master’s: How Does Your Salary Stack Up?” on the Internet at www.careerbuilder.com/article/cb-1152-getting-ahead-bachelors-vs-masters-how-does-your-salary-stack-up (viewed online May 5, 2015).

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