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A Master of Arts (Latin: Magister Artium or Artium Magister; abbreviated MA or AM) is a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

The Master of Arts traces its origin to the teaching license or Licentia docendi of the University of Paris.[1]

Europe

Germany

In Germany, the traditional equivalent of the postgraduate Master of Arts was the Magister Artium. This degree, which usually required 5 years of studies, did exist in former West Germany and in reunited Germany, but not in former East Germany where all degree courses led to Diplom degrees. Traditional Magister degrees were granted in social sciences and most of the humanities (International Business, Affairs, European Studies and Economics included), with the exception of visual and performing arts such as music and theatre.

The Magister Artium was either a double major degree or a combination of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of Arts and Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees existed side by side until the phase out of the old degrees since 2010; Magister Artium degrees are still awarded (as of 2014). The new Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees together also require 5 years of studies, which is the reason why the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees were introduced in 2002. Until that time, a single program that led to the doctorandus degree (or the ingenieur degree in the case of technical subjects) was in effect, which comprised the same course load as the Bachelor and Master programs put together. Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, upon completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (before their name, abbreviated to 'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or simply use the master's degree (behind their name) in accordance with the new standard (so, 'MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not have a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree.

Poland

The Polish equivalent of Master of Arts is "magister" (its abbreviation "mgr" is placed before one's name, like dr). At the technical universities, one is awarded with inżynier (engineer) after three years and then with "magister" after completing another two years of study and graduating. Such persons use titles "mgr inż". In the 1990s, the MA programs usually lasting 5 years were replaced by separate 3-year bachelor's and 2-year master's programs. The degree is awarded in the arts (literature, foreign languages, filmmaking, theatre etc.), natural sciences, mathematics, computer science fields, and economics. The completion of a research thesis is required. All master's degrees in Poland qualify for a doctorate program.

Nordic countries

In Finland, Denmark and Norway, the master's degree is a combined taught/research degree, awarded after 2 years of studies after completing the bachelor's degree. The student is required to write a scientific thesis.

In Finland, this master's degree is called a filosofian maisteri (Finnish) or filosofie magister (Swedish) degree, and it is abbreviated as FM or "fil.mag.".

In Sweden, there is still an intermediate degree between the Bachelor (kandidat) and Master called magister which only requires one year of studies, including a scientific thesis after completing the bachelor's degree. This fourth year typically constitutes the first half of Master programme. If not, it may be supplemented by a fifth year and a Master's thesis to obtain a master's degree in the field of study.

United Kingdom and Ireland

Most universities

The MA is typically a "taught" postgraduate degree, involving lectures, examination, and a dissertation based on independent research. Taught master's programs involve one or two years of full-time study. Many can be done part-time as well. Until recently, both the undergraduate and postgraduate master's degrees were awarded without grade or class (like the class of an honours degree). Nowadays, however, master's degrees are normally classified into the categories of Fail, Pass, Pass with Merit, or Pass with Distinction. This education pattern in the United Kingdom is followed in India and many Commonwealth Nations.

The Master of Laws (LLM) is the standard degree taught for law, but certain courses may lead to MA, MLitt, Master of Studies (MSt), and the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) at Oxford. All of these degrees are considered substitutes to one another and are thus generally equivalent.

Scotland

In the ancient universities of Scotland, the degree of Master of Arts is awarded in universities as a four-year undergraduate degree, see Master of Arts (Scotland).

The Master of Arts is awarded in arts, humanities, theology, and social sciences. However, some universities—particularly those in Scotland—award the Master of Letters (MLitt) to students in the arts, humanities, divinity, and Licentia docendi of the University of Paris.[1]

In Germany, the traditional equivalent of the postgraduate Master of Arts was the Magister Artium. This degree, which usually required 5 years of studies, did exist in former West Germany and in reunited Germany, but not in former East Germany where all degree courses led to Diplom degrees. Traditional Magister degrees were granted in social sciences and most of the humanities (International Business, Affairs, European Studies and Economics included), with the exception of visual and performing arts such as music and theatre.

The Magister Artium was either a double major degree or a combination of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of Arts and Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees existed side by side until the phase out of the old degrees since 2010; Magister Artium degrees are still awarded (as of 2014). The new Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees together also require 5 years of studies, which is the reason why the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees were introduced in 2002. Until that time, a single program that led to the doctorandus degree (or the ingenieur degree in the case of technical subjects) was in effect, which comprised the same course load as the Bachelor and Master programs put together. Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, upon completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (before their name, abbreviated to 'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or simply use the master's degree (behind their name) in accordance with the new standard (so, 'MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not have a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree.

Poland

The Polish equivalent of Master of Arts is "magister" (its abbreviation "mgr" is placed before one's name, like dr). At the technical universities, one is awarded with inżynier (engineer) after three years and then with "magister" after completing another two years of study and graduating. Such persons use titles "mgr inż". In the 1990s, the MA programs usually lasting 5 years were replaced by separate 3-year bachelor's and 2-year master's programs. The degree is awarded in the arts (literature, foreign languages, filmmaking, theatre etc.), natural sciences, mathematics, computer science fields, and economics. The completion of a research thesis is required. All master's degrees in Poland qualify for a doctorate program.

The Magister Artium was either a double major degree or a combination of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of Arts and Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees existed side by side until the phase out of the old degrees since 2010; Magister Artium degrees are still awarded (as of 2014). The new Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees together also require 5 years of studies, which is the reason why the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.

In the Netherlands, the Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees were introduced in 2002. Until that time, a single program that led to the doctorandus degree (or the ingenieur degree in the case of technical subjects) was in effect, which comprised the same course load as the Bachelor and Master programs put together. Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, upon completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (before their name, abbreviated to 'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or simply use the master's degree (behind their name) in accordance with the new standard (so, 'MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not have a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree.

Poland

The Polish e

The Polish equivalent of Master of Arts is "magister" (its abbreviation "mgr" is placed before one's name, like dr). At the technical universities, one is awarded with inżynier (engineer) after three years and then with "magister" after completing another two years of study and graduating. Such persons use titles "mgr inż". In the 1990s, the MA programs usually lasting 5 years were replaced by separate 3-year bachelor's and 2-year master's programs. The degree is awarded in the arts (literature, foreign languages, filmmaking, theatre etc.), natural sciences, mathematics, computer science fields, and economics. The completion of a research thesis is required. All master's degrees in Poland qualify for a doctorate program.

Nordic countries