If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, you might be considering getting your master’s. But what is a master’s degree? In the hierarchy of higher education, a master’s degree is the next step after finishing your undergraduate studies.

You can earn a master’s degree in many subjects, but sometimes, depending on the subject, the master’s degree abbreviation may be different. For example, the most common master’s abbreviation for education is M.Ed., which is a shortened form Master of Education.

Studying for your master’s degree takes a lot of work. It’s no surprise then that the people want to show it off. So you need to know the correct shortened form of your degree, so you can put your master’s abbreviation after the name on your resume if you want to.

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What Is a Master’s Degree?

After your undergraduate studies, a master’s degree is the lowest form of graduate study. For most master’s programs, you have to already hold a bachelor’s degree in order to apply. However, there are some combined programs that allow you to continue on to a master’s program immediately after you complete your undergraduate studies with the same school, without having to do more applications.

In some fields, like the sciences, earning a master’s degree directly after completing undergraduate studies is the norm, and many people with master’s degrees in the sciences go on to enter Ph.D. programs. In other fields, like library science, it may be difficult to get a job without a master’s degree. And if you want to teach at the university level in almost any subject, you will probably need a Ph.D.

A master’s degree is the next step on the road to a Ph.D. in many subjects. But some people complete a master’s degree and never go on to do more schooling, usually because the Ph.D. is not required to find work in their field. In other areas, like in business or education, a master’s degree is a career booster, but it isn’t required to find work.

What Is the Standard Master’s Degree Abbreviation?

There isn’t just one type of master’s degree, so there isn’t one single abbreviation that you can use for everything. The most common master’s degree, however, is the Master of Arts, and so the most common master’s degree abbreviation is M.A. Another common master’s degree is a Master of Business Administration, which is abbreviated as MBA.

Be careful writing it that way though, because it’s easy to make it grammatically incorrect. For example, you might not know whether to use “a” or “an” before M.A. Do you know which one it is?

If you chose “a,” you’re incorrect. That’s because when you’re choosing between “a” or “an,” you have to go with the way a word or abbreviation is pronounced, not how it’s spelled. M.A. is pronounced “Em-Ay,” so you should use “an” with it, not “a.”

Which Subjects Can You Study for a Master’s Degree?

You can get a master’s degree in almost any subject, from art and history, to nursing, the hard sciences and many other options. When you’re choosing a master’s degree, think about what you want to do with your life. Most master’s degrees will prepare you for a career with specialized courses, internships and hands-on experience.

You can get a Master of Science in Nursing and become a nurse manager who is in charge of the other nurses. Earning a Master of Public Health would give you the skills to work at a government health organization, help create public policy or be on staff at a hospital or other medical facility to aid in patient and public education. With a Mater of Social Work, you could become a social worker and help needy kids, families and individuals.

You can earn a Master of Library Science and run libraries and archives for private companies or for the public good. A Master of Public Administration would give you the background in public policy that you would need to work in government or for a nonprofit. There are also master’s degrees in law, education, music, engineering, business, architecture and any other subject that suits your interest. There are also schools that allow you to create interdisciplinary degrees, so you will always be able to study what you want.

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

How long it takes to earn a master’s degree varies widely depending on your subject, course of study and the program itself. Most master’s degrees take about one to three years to complete. But the degree will take longer to earn if it includes a research or thesis requirement.

Degrees that are meant to teach new subjects will take longer than programs that are designed to add to students’ existing knowledge. Additionally, some courses of study are much more rigorous than others and require more courses to lead to a particular certification.

A Master of Arts in Teaching, for example, usually only takes a year or year and a half, because they are designed to help new teachers complete the requirements to become officially certified to teach the subject of their undergraduate major in their state. A Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Science might take longer, because both usually require research, an extended project or a thesis in order to graduate.

What Do You Call Someone with a Master’s Degree?

Even though getting a master’s degree is a big achievement, it isn’t like earning a doctorate. For the most part, people will still talk to you the same way they do now. In other words, no one is going to call you “master” unless they’re joking.

When you’re referring to someone with a master’s degree, use the level of formality that is suitable for the occasion. If the person with a master’s degree is your professor at a university, you can call them “Professor,” followed by their last name. You can also use their preferred prefix, such as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Mx. and their last name.

Personal preference is important when you’re deciding how to refer to someone. The same is true regarding how you want people to refer to you. Even if you have a Ph.D., you can still ask people to call you by your first name.

Should You Include Your Master’s Abbreviation After Your Name?

Writing your master’s abbreviation after your name on a resume is a simple method you can use to highlight your educational experience, but be careful you don’t go overboard. Overusing your master’s abbreviation, especially if it’s in a field where having a master’s degree is considered the norm, may make you look inexperienced. It can come off as bragging about something that you shouldn’t be bragging about.

You can also include the abbreviation for your master’s degree in your email footer. This may be a good tactic if you want to come off as experienced in a field where fewer people have master’s degrees. However, most of the time it is best to leave your accolades and educational experience in the designated section of your resume or on your business card.

When in doubt, look for examples from people who are farther along in your field. Copy what they do in regards to listing their master’s abbreviation after their name, and you won’t go wrong. You can also ask more experienced people what they think about your degree placement. You might be making mistakes you wouldn’t see otherwise.

What Is the Master’s Abbreviation for Education?

Because there is more than one education master’s degree, there is more than one master’s abbreviation for education. Masters programs in education prepare students to become teachers, curriculum specialists, counselors and administrators. Since there are so many career paths within education, there are many degrees that students can choose from to pave the way toward their future.

The most common degree in education is a Master of Education, and the abbreviation for that degree is M.Ed. Another common type of degree is the standard Master of Arts (M.A.), which could include many of the same classes as a Master of Education. The differences will depend on the school. Other degrees in education include a Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.), a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.), a Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) and various other less common degrees like an M.I.T.

Usually, the pages on your school’s website will have examples of the degree’s abbreviation. If you don’t know how to abbreviate your specific degree, refer to your school’s website. You can also ask your academic advisor for more information.

Other General Education Degree Abbreviations

Other than the common Master of Arts (M.A.), there are several other kinds of master’s degrees that are available in multiple subjects. The second most common is a Master of Science, which schools award in science-related disciplines like biology, engineering, statistics and health. A Master of Science is generally abbreviated as M.S. or M.Sc.

A less common degree is a Master of Research, which is abbreviated as M.Res. Earning a Master of Research will prepare you to become a researcher in a variety of disciplines. The degree is research-oriented (of course) and ideal for students who wish to pursue further higher education in their field of study.

In Europe, other master’s degrees are more common. An M.Phil. is a Master by Research and is designed for students who want to take time to dig deeper into their field of study. Similarly, a Master of Studies (M.St.) is only awarded at certain universities in the UK, such as Oxford and Cambridge. An M.St. is those universities’ version of an M.A. or M.S., and so students in those degree programs will have to fulfill similar requirements as students in M.A. programs in the United States.

Specialized Master’s Degree Abbreviations

Many disciplines offer specialized master's degrees that have titles which correspond to their subject. So instead of a Master of Science in Engineering, you might earn a Master of Engineering while the rest of the degree, like the classes, tests and certifications, is absolutely the same. The master's engineering abbreviation would be M.Eng. Titles of degrees often vary by school, but what you learn to earn that degree usually doesn't change.

Additional master's degrees include but are not limited to the following. Each degree is accompanied by its most common acronyms or abbreviations.

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA)
  • Master of Library Science (M.L.S., M.S.L.S. or M.L.I.S.)
  • Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.)
  • Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)
  • Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)
  • Master of Laws (L.L.M.)
  • Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (M.A.L.S., M.L.A. or A.L.M.)
  • Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
  • Master of Music (M.M. or M.Mus.)
  • Master of Engineering (M.Eng.)
  • Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and college professor from Florida. She loves teaching about literature, and she writes about books for Book Riot, Real Simple, Electric Literature and more.