A Master of
(Latin: Magister Artium; abbreviated MA; also Latin:
Artium Magister, abbreviated AM) is a person who was admitted to a
type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and
the degree is also named Master of
in colloquial speech. The
degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those
admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history,
communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political
science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and
social sciences; however, different universities have different
conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically
considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can
be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing
examinations, research, or a combination of the two.
The Master of
traces its origin to the teaching license or
Licentia docendi of the
1.4 Nordic countries
1.5 United Kingdom and Ireland
1.5.1 Most universities
1.5.3 Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin (conferred)
1.5.4 Oxford, Cambridge (earned)
2 North America
In Germany, the traditional equivalent of the postgraduate Master of
Arts was the Magister Artium. This degree, which usually required 5
years of studies, did exist in former
West Germany and in reunited
Germany, but not in former
East Germany where all degree courses led
Diplom degrees. Traditional Magister degrees were granted in social
sciences and most of the humanities (International Business, Affairs,
European Studies and
Economics included), with the exception of visual
and performing arts such as music and theatre.
The Magister Artium was either a double major degree or a combination
of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of
Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the
new Master of
Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees existed side by
side until the phase out of the old degrees since 2010; Magister
Artium degrees are still awarded (as of 2014). The new Bachelor of
Arts and Master of
Arts degrees together also require 5 years of
studies, which is the reason why the new Master of
Arts and the old
Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.
MA degree can be obtained after completion of 120 credits and 2 years
of studies at the
University of Hamburg.
In the Netherlands, the Master of
Arts and the Master of Science
degrees were introduced in 2002. Until that time, a single program
that led to the doctorandus degree (or the ingenieur degree in the
case of technical subjects) was in effect, which comprised the same
course load as the Bachelor and Master programs put together. Those
who had already started the doctorandus program could, upon completing
it, opt for the doctorandus degree (before their name, abbreviated to
'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or simply use
the master's degree (behind their name) in accordance with the new
standard (so, 'MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not have a
separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect –
incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first
The Polish equivalent of Master of
Arts is "magister" (its
abbreviation "mgr" is placed before one's name, like dr). At the
technical universities, one is awarded with inżynier (engineer) after
three years and then with "magister" after completing another two
years of study and graduating. Such persons use titles "mgr inż". In
the 1990s, the MA programs usually lasting 5 years were replaced by
separate 3-year bachelor's and 2-year master's programs. The degree is
awarded in the arts (literature, foreign languages, filmmaking,
theatre etc.), natural sciences, mathematics, computer science fields,
and economics. The completion of a research thesis is required. All
master's degrees in Poland qualify for a doctorate program.
In Finland, Denmark and Norway, the master's degree is a combined
taught/research degree, awarded after 2 years of studies after
completing the bachelor's degree. The student is required to write a
In Finland, this master's degree is called a filosofian maisteri
(Finnish) or filosofie magister (Swedish) degree, and it is
abbreviated as FM or "fil.mag.".
In Sweden, there is still an intermediate degree between the Bachelor
(kandidat) and Master called magister which only requires one year of
studies, including a scientific thesis after completing the bachelor's
degree. This fourth year typically constitutes the first half of
Master programme. If not, it may be supplemented by a fifth year and a
Master's thesis to obtain a master's degree in the field of study.
United Kingdom and Ireland
The MA is typically a "taught" postgraduate degree, involving
lectures, examination, and a dissertation based on independent
research. Taught master's programs involve one or two years of
full-time study. Many can be done part-time as well. Until recently,
both the undergraduate and postgraduate master's degrees were awarded
without grade or class (like the class of an honours degree).
Nowadays, however, master's degrees are normally classified into the
categories of Fail, Pass, Pass with Merit, or Pass with Distinction.
This education pattern in the United Kingdom is followed in India and
many Commonwealth Nations.
Master of Laws
Master of Laws (LLM) is the standard degree taught for law, but
certain courses may lead to MA, MLitt,
Master of Studies (MSt), and
Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) at Oxford. All of these degrees are
considered substitutes to one another and are thus generally
In the ancient universities of Scotland, the degree of Master of Arts
is awarded in universities as a four-year undergraduate degree, see
The Master of
Arts is awarded in arts, humanities, theology, and
social sciences. However, some universities—particularly those in
Master of Letters (MLitt) to students in the
arts, humanities, divinity, and social sciences.
Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin (conferred)
Main article: Master of
Arts (Oxbridge and Dublin)
At Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin, the MA is conferred after a certain
number of years without further examination to those who are Bachelors
The title of Master of
Arts may also be awarded, in the case of the
oldest British universities only, without further examination to those
who have graduated as Bachelor of
Arts and who have the requisite
years' standing as members of the university or as graduates. This
happens, in England, only at the universities of Oxford, four years
after completing a bachelor's degree, and Cambridge, six years after
the first term of study. It is also the case at the
Dublin in Ireland. The abbreviated name of the university (Oxon,
Cantab or Dubl) is therefore almost always appended in parentheses to
the initials "MA" in the same way that it is to higher degrees, e.g.
"John Smith, MA (Cantab), PhD (Lond)", principally so that it is clear
(to those who are aware of the system) that these are nominal and
The MLitt is a research degree at the
University of Cambridge, where
Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is the name given to the standard
one-year taught degree with a unique research element, in contrast to
the use of MPhil at other institutions for a research degree.
In February 2011, Labour MP for Nottingham East, Chris Leslie,
sponsored a private member's bill in Parliament, the master's degrees
(Minimum Standards) Bill 2010–12, in order to "prohibit universities
awarding Master’s degrees unless certain standards of study and
assessment are met". The Bill's supporters described the practice as a
"historical anachronism” and argued that unearned qualifications
should be discontinued in order to preserve the academic integrity of
the taught MA. Further, they warned that the title gave Oxbridge
graduates an unfair advantage in the job market.
Research by the universities watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency
for Higher Education, in 2000, showed that two-thirds of employers
were unaware that the Cambridge MA did not represent any kind of
post-graduate achievement involving study.
On 21 October 2011, the master's degrees (Minimum Standards) Bill
2010–12 received its second reading. The Bill failed to complete its
passage through Parliament before the end of the session, meaning it
made no further progress.
Oxford, Cambridge (earned)
A number of different master's degrees may be earned at Oxford and
Cambridge. The most common, the
Master of Philosophy (MPhil), is a
two-year research degree. The
Master of Science
Master of Science (MSc) and the Master
of Studies (MSt) degrees each take one year. They often combine some
coursework with research. The
Master of Letters (MLitt) is a pure
research master's degree. More recently, Oxford and Cambridge offer a
Masters of Business Administration. Master's degrees are generally
offered without classification, though the top five percent may be
deemed worthy of Distinction. Both universities also offer a
variety of four-year undergraduate integrated master's degrees such as
MEng or MMath.
Main article: List of master's degrees in North America
In Canada and the United States, the Master of
Arts (Magister Artium)
Master of Science
Master of Science (Magister Scientiæ) are the basic
graduate-level degrees in most subjects and may be course-based,
research-based, or, more typically, a combination of the two.
Admission to a master's program is normally contingent upon holding a
bachelor's degree. Some programs provide for a joint bachelor's and
master's after about five years. Some universities use the Latin
degree names, such as Artium Magister (AM) or Scientiæ Magister (SM).
For example, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the
Chicago, MIT, the
University of Pennsylvania, and Brown
the abbreviations AM and SM for some of their master's
degrees. A Master of
Arts may be given in a scientific
discipline, common at
Ivy League universities.
Many universities offer Master of
Arts programs, which are
differentiated either as
Thesis or Non-
Thesis programs. Usually, the
duration for a Non-
Thesis option is one to two years of full-time
study. The period for a
Thesis option may last longer, depending also
on the required level of courses and complexity of the thesis.
Sometimes, qualified students who are admitted to a "very high
research" Master of
Arts might have to earn credits also at the PhD
level, and they may need to complete their program in about three
years of full-time candidature e.g. at the universities Harvard in the
US and McGill in Canada.
A thesis must be a distinct contribution to knowledge. It must
demonstrate ability to plan and carry out research, organize results,
and defend the approach and conclusions in a scholarly manner. The
research presented must meet current standards of the discipline.
Finally, the thesis must clearly demonstrate how the research advances
knowledge in the field.
^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Master of Arts". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
^ Debretts Correct Form (2013 edn) - Academics
^ "Oxbridge students' MA 'degrees' under threat". Daily Telegraph.
Retrieved 2 January 2013.
^ "Parliamentary business". http://www.parliament.uk/. Retrieved 2
January 2013. External link in publisher= (help)
^ "Graduate courses A-Z listing -
University of Oxford".
^ "The structure of undergraduate courses at the
University of Cambridge. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
University of Oxford. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
^ "Engineering Science".
University of Oxford. Retrieved 28 May
^ Structure of the U.S. Education System: Master's Degrees,
International Affairs Office, U.S. Department of Education, February
2008, retrieved 2010-02-25
^ See, for example, the program run by Claremont Graduate University
for graduates of the Claremont Colleges
^ "Degree Programs - The Graduate School of
Arts and Sciences".
Harvard University. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
^ "Degree Abbreviations - Harvard University". Harvard University.
Retrieved 3 October