Most universities in the US offer two types of MS degrees: Thesis Masters and Non-thesis Masters. Choosing one over the other is a crucial decision that students are faced with at the time of application. Let us explain both in detail so that you know which one you should go for.
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Thesis Masters involves a large research project that spans over several semesters. It culminates in a thesis that is likely to be published. The thesis option is ideal for students who plan to pursue a PhD in the future or wish to work in research-intensive job roles.
In this type of master’s, you are expected to conduct original research under a faculty advisor and make your contribution to the already available body of work. You will be asked to present your thesis and defend your work in front of a committee of up to three advisors. Naturally, Thesis Masters requires in-depth research on a subject, so if you are an inquisitive person by nature and like to delve deep into a particular subject, you should find it interesting.
Be advised that this type of master’s degree may take you anywhere between 2 to 5 years to complete. An average student takes up to 2.5 years to complete his or her Thesis Masters. Usually, in a course of 45 credits, a minimum of 9 credits are allocated to the thesis and the rest are for regular course-work. Credit systems vary in the US, so it’s best to check credit allocation on a university’s official website.
Also known as Taught, Professional, or Course-work Masters, this type of master’s degree involves classroom-based studies for a pre-defined set of core subjects every semester. Each core subject (and elective) ends in an exam. You will also be expected to do some project work involving a bit of research and writing, but it will probably not be published.
Thus, the non-thesis version of master’s is ideal for you if you are a generalist and enjoy learning about a variety of fields. This type of course structure is focused on laying the groundwork for a professional career—teamwork, leadership skills, creativity, etc. An average student takes up to 2 years to complete the necessary coursework and earn his or her master’s.
Summing it up, if you intend to do a Ph.D. in the future and are good at pursuing a problem with determination and focus, you should go for Thesis Masters. On the other hand, if you don’t care much about research and want to join the professional workforce, you should pursue Non-thesis Masters.