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A Master of Arts (Latin : Magister Artium or Artium Magister; abbreviated MA or AM) is the holder of a master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is usually contrasted with that of Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree have typically studied subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences, such as history, literature, languages, linguistics, public administration, political science, communication studies, law or diplomacy; 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 degree of Master of Arts traces its origins to the teaching license or Licentia docendi of the University of Paris, designed to produce "masters" who were graduate teachers of their subjects.
In Germany, the Master of Arts degree was called in Latin Magister Artium. This degree, which usually required five years of studies, existed in the Holy Roman Empire and its successors, including the German Empire and the Federal Republic of Germany, but not in the former East Germany where all degree courses led to a Diplom . Traditional Magister degrees are 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 held either a double major degree or a combination of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of Arts and Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees have existed side by side, since 2010; Magister Artium degrees are still awarded by some universities, as of 2020. The new Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees together also require five years of studies, which is the reason why the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.
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, which gave the title “Doctorandus” before their name, abbreviated to 'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or else opt for a master's degree as postnominals behind their name, in accordance with the new standard ('MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not hold a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree.
The Polish equivalent of Master of Arts is "magister" (its abbreviation "mgr" is placed before one's name, like the title Dr). At the technical universities, a student 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 five years were replaced by separate three-year bachelor's and two-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 two years of studies after completing the bachelor's degree. The student is required to write a scientific thesis.
In Finland, this master's degree is called a filosofian maisteri (in Finnish) or filosofie magister (in Swedish), 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 a Master's 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.
Except at Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin (see below) 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.
The Master of Laws (LLM) is the standard degree taught for law, but certain courses may lead to MA, MLitt, Master of Studies (MSt), and the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) at Oxford. All of these degrees are considered substitutes to one another and are thus generally equivalent.
In the ancient universities of Scotland, the degree of Master of Arts is awarded in universities as a four-year undergraduate degree, see Master of Arts (Scotland).
The degree of Master of Arts is the first degree awarded in arts, humanities, theology, and social sciences. However, some universities in Scotland award the degree of Master of Letters (MLitt) to students in the arts, humanities, divinity, and social sciences.
At Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Dublin, the title of Master of Arts is conferred after a certain number of years, 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 University of Dublin. 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 unexamined degrees.
The MLitt is a research degree at the University of Cambridge, where the 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.
Research in 2000 by the universities watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, showed that two-thirds of employers were unaware that the Oxford and Cambridge MA did not represent any kind of post-graduate achievement.
In February 2011, the Labour Member of Parliament Chris Leslie sponsored a private member's bill in Parliament, the Master's Degrees (Minimum Standards) Bill, 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. On 21 October 2011, the bill received its second reading, but it failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session, meaning it fell.
A number of different master's degrees may be earned at Oxford and Cambridge. The most common, the Master of Philosophy degree (MPhil), is a two-year research degree. To prepare to graduate as a Master of Science (MSc) or a Master of Studies (MSt) takes only one year, both courses often combining some coursework with research. A Master of Letters (MLitt) is the holder of a pure research master's degree. More recently, Oxford and Cambridge offer the degree of Master of Business Administration. Master's degrees are generally offered without classification, although 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.
In Canada and the United States, the Master of Arts (Magister Artium) and 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 University of Chicago, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University use 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.
Postgraduate education involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees, academic or professional certificates, academic or professional diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor's degree generally is required, and it is normally considered to be part of higher education. In North America, this level is typically referred to as graduate school.
Bachelor of Arts is the holder of a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate program in the arts. A Bachelor of Arts degree course is generally completed in three or four years, depending on the country and institution.
An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including bachelor's, master's and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees and higher level.
A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.
A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six years. The two most common bachelor's degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate educations after a first degree has been completed, although more commonly the successful completion of a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for further courses such as a master's or a doctorate.
A doctorate or doctor's degree or doctoral degree is an academic degree awarded by universities, derived from the ancient formalism licentia docendi. In most countries, a research degree qualifies the holder to teach at university level in the degree's field or work in a specific profession. There are a number of doctoral degrees; the most common is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), awarded in many different fields, ranging from the humanities to scientific disciplines.
A Master of Science is a master's degree in the field of science awarded by universities in many countries or a person holding such a degree. In contrast to the Master of Arts degree, the Master of Science degree is typically granted for studies in sciences, engineering and medicine and is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the humanities and social sciences. While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, earning a Master of Science degree typically includes writing a thesis.
Degree abbreviations are used as an alternative way to specify an academic degree instead of spelling out the title in full, such as in reference books such as Who's Who and on business cards. Many degree titles have more than one possible abbreviation, with the abbreviation used varying between different universities. In the UK it is normal not to punctuate abbreviations for degrees with full stops, although this is done at some universities.
The system of academic degrees at the University of Oxford can be confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (medieval) BD, BM, BCL, etc. are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc. are undergraduate degrees.
A licentiate is a degree similar to master's degree given by universities in some countries of the European Union and Latin America. The term is also used for a person who holds this degree. The term derives from Latin licentia, "freedom", which is applied in the phrases licentia docendi meaning permission to teach and licentia ad practicandum signifying someone who holds a certificate of competence to practise a profession. Many countries have degrees with this title, but they may represent different educational levels.
A Master of Engineering is either an academic or professional master's degree in the field of engineering.
In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts of these universities are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years' seniority as members of the university. As such, it is an academic rank, and not a postgraduate qualification. No further examination or study is required for this promotion.
Bachelor of Philosophy is the title of an academic degree that usually involves considerable research, either through a thesis or supervised research projects. Unlike many other bachelors degrees, the BPhil is typically a postgraduate degree awarded to individuals who have already completed a traditional undergraduate degree.
The Master of Philosophy is a postgraduate degree. An MPhil typically includes a taught portion and a significant research portion, during which a thesis project is conducted under supervision. An MPhil may be awarded to postgraduate students after completing taught coursework and one to two years of original research, which may also serve as a provisional enrollment for a PhD programme.
The Master of Letters degree is a postgraduate degree.
A Master of Research degree is an internationally recognised advanced postgraduate research degree. In most cases, the degree is designed to prepare students for doctoral research. Increasingly, the degree may be useful for students considering careers outside of academia, where high-level research skills are valued but a doctoral qualification is not required.
The degree of Master of Arts in Scotland typically refers to an undergraduate degree. The degree can be either a three-year general or four-year Honours degree in humanities or social sciences, awarded by one of several institutions.
The Master of Sciences of Pharmacy (MPharm) is the standard master's degree program in Pharmacy. It is the oldest honourable Diploma (Degree) authorized from the European Faculties of Pharmacy as it takes five years to complete. It is based on a credit system higher than the normal Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. It is different from the American Pharmaceutical Diploma, Doctor of Pharmacy,(PharmD), that takes 4 years to complete. The Faculty is a member of the Association of European Faculties of Pharmacy and its graduates meet all the requirements for the profession as defined by the European Union. In the initial three years students revise and broaden their knowledge of elementary natural and medical subjects to the level required for understanding specific subjects from the field of Pharmacy. Students attend lectures and seminars and take part in practical pharmacy placements. During the last year of study they work on their thesis. The programme is concluded by defending the thesis and taking the final state examination. Then the students are awarded the master's degree. The study programme is compliant with EU directive 2005/36/EC. Graduates awarded the master's degree can later sit for a thorough state exam including an advanced thesis defence. After passing they are awarded the "Testing Board" degree . Graduates can apply for postgraduate after studying several branches of Pharmacy in the five accredited years. After defending their dissertation, submit their researches in their selected branches of Pharmacy and passing the final state examination they are awarded the degree. The master's program is offered in different specialized areas, one major being Clinical Pharmacy. Clinical pharmacy specialization enables pharmacists to deliver higher levels of clinical services. In some countries these specializations are happening with residency programs.
A magister degree is an academic degree used in various systems of higher education.
The Bologna process for standardisation of European higher education specified an undergraduate degree of at least three years called the "licence" or bachelor's degree, followed by a two-year diploma called the master's degree, then a doctorate, meant to be obtained in at least three years. Because of these indicated schedules, the reform is sometimes (erroneously) referred to as "3-5-8". The system applies to the European Higher Education Area.