Traditionally, doctoral programs were only intended to last three to four years and, in some disciplines (primarily the natural sciences), with a helpful advisor, and a light teaching load, it is possible for the degree to be completed in that amount of time. However, increasingly many disciplines, including most humanities, set their requirements for coursework, languages and the expected extent of thesis research by the assumption that students will take five years minimum or six to seven years on average; competition for jobs within these fields also raises expectations on the length and quality of theses considerably.
In 1983, the Engineering Council issued a "'Statement on enhanced and extended undergraduate engineering degree courses", proposing the establishment of a four-year first degree (Master of Engineering).[37][38] These were up and running by the mid 1980s and were followed in the early 1990s by the MPhys for physicists and since then integrated master's degrees in other sciences such as MChem, MMath, and MGeol, and in some institutions general or specific MSci (Master in Science) and MArts (Master in Arts) degrees. This development was noted by the Dearing Report into UK Higher Education in 1997, which called for the establishment of a national framework of qualifications and identified five different routes to master's degrees:[39]
A French diplôme d'ingénieur (postgraduate degree in engineering) is also the equivalent of a master's degree, provided the diploma is recognised by the Commission des titres d'ingénieur, as are qualifications recognised at Level I of the répertoire national des certifications professionnelles (national register of professional certificates).[81][82]
Students study interdisciplinary knowledge and problem-solving skills in the rapidly emerging areas of information technology applications. They cover the general theories of information and systems, major techniques of information retrieval and management, and practical skills of communication, problem solving, and project management that information professionals and system analyst should possess.
Additionally, doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy but not filed a dissertation ("ABD," for "all but dissertation") often receive master's degrees and an additional master's called a Master of Philosophy, or M.Phil., or C.Phil. "Candidate in Philosophy" degree. The master's component of a doctorate program often requires one or two years, and some students, because doctoral programs are sometimes better-funded, apply for doctoral programs while only intending to earn a master's degree. This is generally not acceptable and, if a student's advisor learns of the student's plans, can result in early termination.
The form "Master in ..." is also sometimes used, particularly where a faculty title is used for an integrated master's in addition to its use in a traditional postgraduate master's, e.g. Master in Science (MSci) and Master in Arts (MArts). This form is also sometimes used with other integrated master's degrees,[50] and occasionally for postgraduate master's degrees (e.g. Master's in Accounting).[51] Some universities use Latin degree names; because of the flexibility of syntax in Latin, the Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees may be known in these institutions as Magister artium and Magister scientiæ or reversed from the English order to Artium magister and Scientiæ magister. Examples of the reversed usage include Harvard University, the University of Chicago and MIT, leading to the abbreviations A.M. and S.M. for these degrees. The forms "Master of Science" and "Master in Science" are indistinguishable in Latin, thus MSci is "Master of Natural Sciences" at the University of Cambridge.
Many graduate programs require students to pass one or several examinations in order to demonstrate their competence as scholars.[36] In some departments, a comprehensive examination is often required in the first year of doctoral study, and is designed to test a student's background undergraduate-level knowledge. Examinations of this type are more common in the sciences and some social sciences, and relatively unknown in most humanities disciplines.
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