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Counting Credits: How Many Do I Need for a Master’s Degree?
Earning a Master’s degree is part guts, part perseverance, and all smarts. Fitting the work within a busy life can be a challenge, and that’s why you’ll want to start with a plan.
Two primary points of focus for most graduate candidates are:
- Price - How much will it cost?
- Time to completion - How soon can I be done?
But you can’t talk about either price or time to completion in a vacuum. You must also discuss one other crucial element: credit hours.
The Credit Question
A credit hour is a unit used to measure educational achievement. Some courses deliver more credit hours than others, typically determined by the advanced nature of the material. The more advanced the course, the more hours are awarded for completion of the course.
How Many Credits Does It Take To Graduate
Most Master’s degree programs require 40 hours of credit.
A few schools do not require as many hours. For example, the curriculum at Franklin University is efficient enough to meet accredited educational standards with only 36 hours; that enables many students to finish their Master’s in as few as 14 months, a good time savings.
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So, How Many Classes Will I Need to Take?
That number will vary significantly by both program and individual circumstances.
For example, you may transfer credit in to reduce the amount of credits you’ll need to graduate. In that event, you’ll likely be required to take less of the fundamental courses in the program.
But, let’s say you will need to earn the full 40 hours or credits. At an average of 4 hours per class, that typically equals about 9 classes at Franklin University and 10 classes at most other schools. It is important to note is that each school makes its own curriculum choices.
What Type of Classes Will I Take
Program requirements differ by degree and, as you’ll see below, are powerfully tailored just to meet the specific needs of the students.
Typically, a Master’s sequence begins with foundations and essentials and then ramps up to other more complex subjects like strategy, law, critical thinking, ethics, and leadership. These are the types of courses that build your academic experience from one of memorization to one of thoughtful contribution to an industry. It can be transformative.
The makeup of each degree can be significantly different, as it should be tailored to the program and not to a general framework. The image below shows how the curriculum differs for three common degrees:
According to Dr. Bruce Campbell, MBA Program Chair at Franklin University, “In the coursework, a lack of duplication is important. Keep in mind that, as much as possible, your school should provide integrated curriculum that is relevant to the current workplace."
For example, an MBA should be combining theory and practice that is relevant to this world's business. A new graduate should be able to use their degree the very next day. “The Franklin University model is: Content consistent with any MBA program, delivered by practitioners who know how the world works.”
How Fast Can I Complete My Master’s Degree?
Typically, most students earn a Master’s degree in 2-3 years.
Most traditional Master’s degree candidates take about 24 months to complete their degree from beginning to end. However, time for breaks between semesters or trimesters and vacations can extend the real timeline by a few months.
Some innovative programs enable students to complete a Master’s in as little as 14 months—giving students the option to earn the degree they want in under two years. These programs can help students save both time and money, and achieve the outcomes they want from their degree (such as a raise or promotion) in a faster timeframe.
Why Do Some Programs Say It Takes Longer?
If you spend much time researching online, you’ll find that there seem to be dramatic differences in the amount of required credits between programs.
Why is that? In truth, could be a variety of reasons.
Traditional schools typically required more general, or prep, courses in line with their historic institutional standards. Other options may have more rigid scheduling options, forcing students to go through the program at a slower pace. And other schools may require in-person sessions that may be cumbersome for student’s schedules.
It’s important to note that there are fast options that are credible programs. In the age of online diploma mills, some equate a faster degree to a less-reputable degree. That is not always the case. Many accredited schools are offering innovative online programs designed around today’s busy professionals. That can be a huge difference maker if you’re looking to earn your degree.
PRO TIP: Don’t take a school’s claims on completion timeframe at face value. Ask the Admission’s office if there are former students you can speak to in order to understand the learning pace at the school. Be sure to ask those references specific questions about the time it took them to complete, and if they have any advice for what to look out for.
How Can I Get a Master’s Degree Faster?
The time it takes to complete a degree may be influenced by several key factors.
- Flexible Scheduling: Some programs allow students to enroll in courses of varying lengths or at alternative start dates to allow students complete coursework around the demands of a busy schedule.
- Pace Preference: Some students prefer to take as many courses as possible in each block of time. Others prefer to take a smaller amount of courses to reduce the workload. And others still like to take one class at a time to accommodate a more intentional learning pace.
- Semester vs Trimester System: Trimesters can help a student complete more courses within the year, as compared to traditional semesters.
PRO TIP: Some schools have class schedules that are particularly valuable for working adults. At Franklin University, for example, students can earn their Master’s degree “Full Time—1 Class at a Time.” (Provide link to Franklin site.) The intent is to give you different speeds of options so you can get to your degree at the pace you want—whether it’s full-time, part-time, or one course at a time.
Graduate Faster Without Cutting Corners
A Master’s degree requires a significant amount of time, energy, and commitment. There’s no room to cut corners there. Well, maybe there’s a little room to cut. Let’s take some time to learn about course credits and some options that just might help cut the time for you to earn your degree.
Now that you know how to earn those Master’s degree credits at a pace that works for you, what’s holding you back? Now is the time to find your pace—at a place that’s going to change your life. For information on how to plan your Master’s curriculum, you can start right here, right now.