dcsimg

What is the Difference Between a Terminal Degree and a Master's Degree?

Within academia, there are a variety of terms used to describe the various degrees an individual can earn. However, two types of degrees that are often confused with one another are "terminal degrees" and "master's degrees." Although the terms can sometimes be interchangeable, it's important to note that there are true differences. So, what is a master's degree? And, what is a terminal degree? How are they different? And, how are they the same?

What is a master's degree?

The term "master's degree" refers to the academic degree that can be obtained after earning your bachelor's degree. Students working toward a master's degree typically do so in order to increase their income potential or obtain advanced positions within their industry. To earn a master's degree, students traditionally must complete one to three additional years of study depending on the courses taken and how quickly they are completed. A master's degree may be beneficial for students who want to work in the highest ranking positions in their field.

What is a terminal degree?

When you hear "terminal degree," this typically refers to the highest level of education available for a specific academic subject. For instance, the terminal degree in academic fields is generally a Doctor of Philosophy. However, the term may also be used to distinguish the highest level of education that needs to be obtained to gain employment in a certain field. For instance, many would consider a bachelor's degree the terminal degree for teachers since it's the level of education that students are likely to stop at while trying to gain employment. Using that definition, earning a terminal degree may be the best move for students who want to transition out of college and into their chosen career as quickly as possible.

How do they compare?

Although a master's degree may sometimes be the terminal degree in a field of study, this is not always the case. It's important to note the differences between the two terms. In many cases, higher levels of education are available and neccesary to gain employment in certain fields. In academia, for instance, doctorates and Ph.D.s are generally considered to be terminal degrees. If a school has only an master's degree program for a field that requires a Ph.D., their master's degree is considered terminal. Many schools conduct master's and Ph.D. programs sequentially, as in a Master of Arts (M.A.)/Ph.D.

The fact that the terms are often used interchangeably is because master's degrees are often the terminal degree in certain fields of study. Due to rigorous standards and the length of time it takes to attain a master's degree, it is not unusual for a master's degree to be the highest level of education required to gain employment.

Why is it so confusing?

The fact that the term "terminal degree" can be used several different ways makes it easy to become confused. However, it's important to remember that the terms "terminal degree" and "master's degree" may or may not be interchangeable. When reading about terminal degrees or master's degrees, make sure to note how terminology is being used. Ask yourself, "is the author referring to the highest level of education available?" You may also want to consider whether the term "terminal degree" is being used as a way to convey the highest level of education needed for a particular career. If you are able to distinguish between the term's multiple meanings, you should be able to determine how it's being used.

Sources
wiseGEEK, "What is a Master's Degree?," http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-masters-degree.htm

Schools
Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            HVAC Technician (11-month diploma program)
            UEI College , Fresno
            • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
            • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
            • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
            • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
            • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
            • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            Aviation Maintenance Technician
            • Designated as a 2017 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Offers several aviation maintenance programs, including engineering, electronics, helicopter, and avionics technology.
            • Tutoring and advising services are available to students at no additional cost.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • 11 campuses across the United States, with locations in California, Virginia, Texas, Indianapolis, Florida, and more.
            Show more [+]
            Bachelor of Science, Graphic Design (Online)
            • Located in Hollywood, CA, offering degrees in film, music production, business, animation and more.
            • Scholarship, financial aid and military benefits are available for students who qualify.
            • Programs taught by award-winning industry professionals in real-world working environments.
            • Features industry-standard facilities including recording studios, soundstages, green screen, movie theatres and more.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            Holistic Health Practitioner

            Why Brightwood?

            Real-World Training

            We keep education relevant by employing instructors with real-world experience in the field, who bring their career backgrounds to the classroom. Our programs are continually assessed by faculty, staff and members of the business and education communities to help ensure your studies align with your career goals. Programs offered by Brightwood College focus on local employment needs, in areas such as allied health, nursing and technical and professional programs.

            MBA - Information Systems & Business Analytics
            • Ranked #20 in the Top Public Schools in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
            • Ranked among the Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs in 2014 by The Princeton Review.
            • Ranked among America’s Top Colleges in 2013 by Forbes.
            • Offers over 90 undergraduate majors across 10 colleges, with numerous programs ranked among the top programs by U.S. News & World Report.
            • Has famous alumni such as Sergey Brin the co-founder of Google, Kevin Blank the Founder of Under Armour Athletic Gear, and more.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis

            George Mason University is Virginia's largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 33,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.  George Mason University is an innovative and inclusive academic community committed to creating a more just, free, and prosperous world. 

             

            • Online Courses
            Veterinary Technology Alternate Route - Certificate
            Platt College , Alhambra
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
            • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
            • 3 campuses in Southern California.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Doctor of Education: Community Care & Counseling: Marriage & Family
            • Liberty University's online programs ranked in the top 5 of more than 2,100 online colleges and universities for academic quality, affordability, and accessibility*
            • 100% online programs at associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level**
            • No standardized testing if you meet admission requirements
            • Transfer up to 90 credits into an undergraduate degree program
            • Up to 50% of your master’s degree can be transferred in to help you get the most out of your hard work and maximize the credit you previously earned
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Nursing Assistant
            • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
            • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
            • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
            • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
            Show more [+]
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            HVAC Technician
            Intercoast Colleges , West Covina
            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
            Show more [+]
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid