A master's degree is an academic degree that can be obtained from an accredited college or university right after a bachelor's degree. A master's degree can take anything from a year up to three to complete, depending on the courses and practical training require to complete it. In the United Kingdom, master's degrees are sometimes given to undergraduate students whose careers include a sizeable research assignment on the last year. Certain British universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, and St. Andrews offer Masters of Arts (MA or Magister Artium) instead of Bachelors after four years of regular study. A Master of Science (MS or Magister Scientiæ) is sometimes more difficult to obtain, although in some cases it can be obtained entirely through research projects rather than through conventional classes.
Most people that get into a Master's Degree program cite higher salaries as their main reason for wanting to pursue the degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, a worker holding a Master's Degree makes an average of $11,000 US Dollars more than a person holding a Bachelor's degree on the same field.
To get into a Master's degree program, a person must hold first a bachelor's degree, not necessarily in the same field, but in one at least closely related or where the coursework can be somehow linked. In some universities, it is now possible to obtain a combination Bachelor's/Master's Degree, which requires a period of study of five years, making the combined degree at least one year shorter than coursing both degrees consecutively.
Master's degrees have become more popular over the last decade, and now account for one of every four university degrees obtained in the US. The areas of business, education, and health professions make up more than half of all master's degrees obtained in the US in the year 2006. Other popular areas include public administration and library science. In certain areas such as physical therapy, a master's degree is now considered as the minimum requirement to obtain a full-time job in the field.