The 5 most popular graduate degrees

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Higher education enrollments continue to grow year by year. As more jobs require the technical training that comes with a college degree, more people are returning to school. And more of these people are working adults: The population of students older than 25 is expected to grow at a faster rate through 2017 than the population of “traditional” college students aged 18 to 24. Many of these adult learners are professionals looking to earn a master’s degree.

Master’s degree programs in any field of study offer specialized professional training, and usually can be completed in two to three years. In addition to gaining workplace-relevant knowledge, master’s degree students develop potentially useful secondary competencies, such as advanced research, writing and presentation skills.

Wondering which subjects most master’s degree students are tackling? In 2006 to 2007, the last year for which statistics are available, institutions of higher learning in the United States awarded nearly 605,000 master’s degrees. The vast majority of those awards were concentrated in five subject areas. Here are the most popular fields of study among master’s degree recipients:

1. Education (176,572 degrees awarded)

2. Business (150,211)

3. Health sciences (54,531)

4. Public administration and social services (31,131)

5. Engineering (29,472)

Master degrees in education

Education is the single most popular field of study for master’s degree students. There are three different types of education degrees at the master level: master of education (M.Ed.), master of arts in education (MA) and the master of arts in teaching (MAT).

Experienced and licensed education professionals will usually choose a master of education or master of arts degree program. M.Ed. degree programs generally offer specialized concentrations, such as curriculum and assessment or leadership and administration. It’s possible to pursue your M.Ed degree entirely online nowadays, although you will need to maintain your licensing separately.

Those who aim to move into teaching from another profession, or drastically change their focus as an educator (for example, a high school music teacher moving to kindergarten), usually opt for a master of arts in teaching degree program (MAT). This involves student teaching, or even full-time teaching as part of an “emergency credentialing” program, along with classroom work. While some portions of an MAT can be completed online, this degree usually requires students to attend a local university for mentoring, and to be observed while teaching.

Master’s degrees in business

After education, the second most popular field of study for master’s degree recipients is business. Graduate education in business can take the form of a master of science in management degree, or the more familiar master of business administration degree (MBA).

Master’s programs in both of these areas are sometimes designed to accept students with or without prior education in business, owing to the fact that business management and organizational skills are applicable across a broad range of organizations. However, depending upon which concentration you choose, you may be required to take prerequisite courses, particularly if your degree program has a concentration such as accounting or finance.

For professionals who need or want to earn while they learn, MBA and master of science in management degrees are among the most popular online degree programs. Many schools also offer an “Executive MBA“, which offers accelerated learning to experienced business professionals.

Health sciences

In a distant third place, health sciences degrees, including nursing, physical therapy and other related disciplines, require clinical practice and physical classroom attendance, in addition to licensing independent of completing your degree.

While it’s possible to “trade up” from an associate degree in nursing to a bachelor of science in nursing online, a master’s degree course usually requires some time at a bricks-and-mortar school.

Public administration and social services

This field of study heading through the Department of Education actually covers two different subjects. Public administration degrees are for those who plan to pursue upper-level careers in government work. A master of public administration (MPA) teaches the finer points of creating and implementing policy within the context of a non-profit organization, or a local, state or federal government office.

“Social services” refers to social work. A master of social work (MSW) degree is necessary for those who want to pursue careers as social workers.


Upper-level careers in engineering require at least a master’s degree. The most elite engineering professionals will move on to a Ph.D. program in order to pursue specialized research in their fields.

While chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and other forms of engineering require students to spend time in a lab environment, some computer engineering and systems engineering degrees can be pursued online.

Information in this article was provided by Colorado Technical University. Contact CTU today if you’re interested in developing marketable knowledge and career-relevant skills with an industry-current degree program. (CTU does not guarantee employment or salary.)

Courtesy of ARAcontent