Difference between a MA / MS degree.

I was wondering what the difference is between a MA and a MS degree (in the US and countries with a similar bachelor/master system). Especially if one degree is considered “more” than the other (in terms of prestige and salary).

It depends on the field. You (usually) get a Master of Arts in one of the liberal arts fields, and a Master of Science in the science fields. I.e., you would get an MA in History, but an MS in Chemistry.

Hope this helps.

The only difference is MA stands for Master of Art and MS stands for Master of Science. They are equally difficult to acquire. One may be considered more appropriate for a given profession than the other, but they are equally prestigious. Salaries are dependent on the field in which one works. So, Arts fields (writing, painting, teaching, etc.) being notoriously underpaid, an MS is more likely to lead to a well-paid profession, but it isn’t a guarantee. In all cases, it depends on what you do with it and how good you are at what you do.

Doesn’t it just depend on the “major” the degree is given in-- roughly humanities/ “soft-sciences” versus sciences? English lit will always be a MA, and a Astrophysics degree will always be an MS (but there are probably a couple in the middle where it depends on your emphasis). MS probably has higher perceived prestige (does it?) and salary (likely, onaverage) because of the fields it is associated with. “I am a ROCKET SCIENTIST!” “Oh, yeah, well, I’m an art historian. . . oh, wait. . .”
MBA of course is business and MFA “fine arts”-- a studio degree.
Any other ideas?

Uh. . . what they said. Damn near-simul-posts.

I would add that one is not “higher” than the other although MS degrees may be seen to be more rigorous because of the nature of the disciplines that offer them. It is probably easier to get a higher paying job with an MS also but that is just because there are more demaqnd in industry for chemists than for say, experts on Victorian literature but that assumes that you get a job strictly related to your degree. Many people with MA’s in liberal arts subjects do wuite well in business but it may require some creativity and flexibility to apply the skills learned.

You can’t always tell whether the degree granted by a particular subject will be an MA or an MS just by guessing. Some psychology programs, for example, may grant MS degrees while others give MA degrees. This is sometimes even divided among subtypes of programs at the same school (experimental psych vs counseling psych for example).

I don’t know if the hard/soft science divide between Arts and Sciences still exists. Looking around at different grad school programs, it seems that you can often get either an MA or an MS in the same field, although it does seem like the applied sciences offer MS programs and theoretical sciences offer MAs. For instance, one school I looked at offered an MA in math, an MS in applied mathematics, and an MA in statistical mathematics.

From Binghamton University:

It’s nice to know we’re all alert and in research mode at this hour on a Saturday morning, isn’t it?

And then of course there are some subjects in which you can earn either an MA or an MS. Psychology comes to mind as one example, where you can receive an MS instead of an MA for completing a more scientifically-oriented course of study (which require more math, bio, etc). Which one you pursue depends of course on what career path you’re pursuing.

Actually, I have my MS in English - this document talks about the difference at Illinois State. Basically, it’s the same requirements except the MA requires foreign language proficiency, and is recommended if you’re going for your doctorate.

A degree from Mississippi is definitely worth more than one from Massachusetts.


*Originally posted by peepthis *

Likewise for geography - in some departments you can earn either an MA or MS depending on one’s field of specialization. At Ohio State (where I attended graduate school), people working towards MA’s were involved in the urban and regional, cartography, GIS, or quantitative methods/techniques tract. Those working towards MS’s were in the atmospheric science/climatology tract. Although both MA and MS tracts involved completing a fair amount of math, statistical/quantitative methods/techniques courses (MS tract had a couple more math/stat class requirements - for example, upper level calculus - than the MA tract).

The school at which I teach offers both an MA in mathematics and an MS in applied mathematics. The MS is somewhat more rigorous in that it requires more classwork and also requires a thesis, where the MA has the option of an oral exam in place of a thesis.

The gist of all of these comments seems to be that usage varies by discipline and school.

I was told that with a MA, you can get a job almost anywhere. Well, I am pretty much qualified to work at Burger King with no other usable skills.

My degree is in Vocal Performance. I can teach private lessons and that is about it. I must have an MS to teach in grammer or hightschool.

A doctorate is usually needed for teaching college.

A person needs to know concretely what they can actually do with their major before persuing it. The blanket statement that a person with an MA can get any job is simply not true.

MA vs MS, and BA vs BS for that matter, is mostly a matter of the peripheral requirements of the college/program. For instance I’m in the BA/MA program for Cognitive Psychology at my university and the main reason why I’m not receiving a BA/MS or BS/MS is that the core requirements of the school are highly slanted towards the liberal arts. At least twice as many of the required credits are from liberal arts than from hard science. From my understanding of my university however departments it seems sort themselves based on the credit distribuition of the required courses. Of course it is so insane here that you can be awarded majors without degrees and other bizarre events.

While schools vary of course I have noticed in other programs I’ve looked at that it seems mostly the same sort of issue if expressed slightly differently. That is the balance of required courses is the deciding factor. I definitely don’t think an MA is accurate for the program. As a result of the program I know far more about “crunchy” subjects (computer science, neurophysiology, neural network modeling, data analysis/statistics, etc) than about what most people think of as liberal arts (literature, history, art, etc). I think the whole distinction is fairly arbitrary and non-sensical. Of course that’s the case with everything in academia.

Two observations:

Most MA’s did their research in the library; most MS’s did their research in the laboratory.

I know a guy who has an MS in political science, f’r god’s sake. He got the MS instead of the MA by taking calculus. :rolleyes: No, I am not kidding.

I recently read a guy’s biographical tale of working at an evil Silicon Valley startup in which there was a scene where he informed his new boss that he had gotten a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science. I wondered how the requirements for that differed from a BS…

chorpler, perhaps more electives in liberal arts than in sciences/maths. The core courses were probably the same.

Actually, there are some colleges chartered to give BA degrees, and nothing else. My own college, UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science, grants only BA degrees. Confuses the hell out of some people when they hear about my BA in Biophysics…

So how does the general BA degree with all of its balances to all arts, prepare someone better for a job than a BS? The BS concentrates itself more on the true subject. The BA concentrates less on the major in order to make a well rounded person.

Obviously my BA has not served me well. It basically gave me no skill, unless I persued it on to a doctorate. My MA does not provide much in the way of skills either. It seems that it is doctorate or nothing and then the doctorate doesn’t even need to be in a related field. (However, that would be helpful.)