Difference Between Academic Masters and Professional Masters

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are actually two types of Masters degree programmes: “professional master’s degree” and “academic master’s degree“. So in this article, we are going to explore the differences between academic masters and professional masters.

If you intend to further your programme, you need to choose carefully and distinctively between academic or professional masters. The two are postgraduate programmes but they offer different career potentials.



What is Academic Masters?

An academic master’s programme is a very broad-based knowledge training with an emphasis on research work. The main focus of the academic masters is on the principles of the field of study. The major aim is to provide training for graduates who would undertake further research work and also teach in the same discipline.

Academic master’s degree may be terminal in nature or may also provide an introduction to research and advanced study at the doctoral level. Such programs emphasize theory and are not primarily designed as preparation for professional careers.

Characteristics of an Academic Masters Degree

1. Academic masters programs consist of advanced studies in an academic discipline.

2. They provide an introduction to research and advanced study at the doctoral level.

3. This degree is suitable for people who wish to know more theoretical research concerning their field and work towards a PhD in their area of specialty.

4. MSc/MA/MEd is 100% research and academic work. Great for people who want to be lecturers and researchers.

What is a Professional Masters?

A professional master’s programme is defined as one that provides advanced knowledge training with an emphasis on the principles and practices of business administration or professional practice.

The programme focuses on building and strengthening job skills of top management officers. Graduate students are trained to design strategies and policies for implementation into the business world.

The aim of a professional master’s degree is to address the current needs of the economy as well as the needs of its student by providing both fundamental knowledge and specialized skills.

The fundamental knowledge is the foundation on which students build throughout their working lives whereas specialized skills help advance their careers immediately by enabling them to smoothly transition into the workplace upon graduation.

Characteristics of a Professional Masters Degree

1. Professional masters degree are most times terminal in nature. That is, you cannot further with the degree.

2. They teach career-oriented skills and people who earn professional degrees usually move higher the ladder after graduation.

3. If you want to use it for a doctorate, you will have to go back and do an M.phil or MSc.

4. Professional courses are great if you want to make More money fast – easy to gain employment with these type of courses

5. They are industry-driven courses like MBA, MPIA, MPH, MGIS etc

6. Professional courses are great if your path is fieldwork/practical skills is important to you.

7. You cannot use your professional course for lecturing, you must do MSC for that.


8. It is good to have one professional course on your resume, more relevant and respected by companies, especially if you are in the Computer, Business and Engineering fields.

9. Generally, a professional masters degree is more expensive than academic masters.

13. Professional masters are great if you are an Entrepreneur.

Academic Masters Degree Vs Professional Masters Degree

What are the differences between an academic masters degree and a professional masters degree? Having looked at what each of them entails, let’s elucidate on their differences.

1. Graduates of academic masters programme are expected to make significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge of business practices through applied research, teaching and consulting while graduates of professional masters programme are trained with managerial and decision-making skills.

2. Graduates of academic masters can proceed to obtain a terminal degree (PhD), however, a professional master is considered a terminal degree itself. As such, graduates of professional masters programme cannot obtain a PhD degree with it.

3. Examples of academic masters degree include; MSc, MA, M.Ed MSt, MRes, Mphil etc.

4. Examples of professional masters degree include; MBA, MLS, MPA, MPH, MSW, LLM etc.


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