What Does "MS" After Your Name Mean?

Why You Might Pursue a Master of Science Degree

Students throwing caps at graduation
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

 College degrees can be confusing because of all the acronyms involved. If you meet someone with "MS" behind their name, it means they have a obtained a Master of Science degree. It is a graduate level degree, between a bachelor's and doctorate.

As you might expect, this degree involves study in an area related to the sciences, such as chemistry, biology, or engineering. Another type of master's degree is a Master of Arts, or MA, which involves study in topics such as English, the fine arts, or history.

A master's degree in psychology, for example, is one step below a doctorate and you don't necessarily need a master's to go for a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Typically, a student can choose between an MS or an MA in psychology, depending on your particular interest and career goals.

Why Do People Complete a Master's?

In order to get a master's degree, you need to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and skill within your chosen field. Those who obtain a master's in one of the sciences will generally first hold a bachelor's degree before being accepted into a master's program. 

In addition, some programs allow students to complete a joint bachelor's and master's degree. After completing a master's degree, some will proceed on to a doctoral program.

People choose to complete a master's degree for many reasons. You might decide to pursue one if:

  • You have a passion for that field of study.
  • You are looking for career advancement.
  • You have a desire to participate in research.
  • You want to change to a different field of study.
  • You are interested in networking opportunities.
  • You have a desire for a greater challenge.
  • Your job requirements or goals depend on a master's.
  • You want to teach at the college level.

What Does It Take to Get an MS?

Work towards a master's degree may involve coursework or research alone or a combination of the two.

Often, it involves writing and defending a thesis or doing some sort of research project. These are intended to be a representation of everything you learned in the program.

Generally, it takes about two years to complete a master's degree if you attend classes on a full-time basis. However, most students are a bit older than their undergraduate counterparts and may already be in the workforce. Due to this, master's programs tend to be quite flexible and may take longer to complete. Many programs offer online and part-time courses as well as evening and weekend classes.


Internal Affairs Office. Structure of the U.S. Education System: Master's Degrees (.doc). U.S. Department of Education. 2008.

American Psychological Association. Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate School. 2017.