What does a master’s degree mean

Master's degree in Germany

The master’s degree

For several years now there has been the option of enrolling at many universities for master’s degrees. This means that the Master’s degree is to be abolished by 2010. As an academic degree that provides university graduates with a second academic education, the Masters also viewed abroad. A characteristic of this course is that you have to study around 3-5 semesters to complete your basic course, which ends with a bachelor's degree. Accordingly, the prerequisite for studying is that you have a bachelor's degree or already have a traditional, single-stage academic course such as a master's degree, diploma, first state examination in law or a teaching degree and a degree in medicine. Depending on which subject you choose, the master’s degree can either deepen your previous studies or deal with completely new areas of knowledge.

How long has the master’s been around?

Only since 1999 there was the idea of ​​creating a unified European higher education area. In the so-called Bologna Declaration, 29 European nations agreed to offer standardized courses from now on, which include both the master's and the bachelor's degree. However, it took some time before universities were able to introduce the new course. It is therefore not surprising that until recently some universities still offered master's and diploma courses.

What is the master?

The master’s degree is the middle academic degree between the bachelor’s and the doctorate. In terms of recognition, this course corresponds to the Magister, the diploma (university diploma II) or the first state examination in teaching. It is important to know that you cannot just take up a master’s degree, but must be preceded by a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent degree. Then the master’s course is designed for a period of two years or four to five semesters. Since you complete this course in either one or two subjects, it can be the case that you want to scientifically deepen these subjects and thus the knowledge you have already acquired in the bachelor’s degree or you want to open up completely new areas of knowledge.

Basically, one can distinguish between three different forms of the Master. The first form represents the consecutive master’s degree. This means that the content is based on the bachelor’s degree. Another form, on the other hand, is the non-consecutive Master, which, according to the name, does not build on the content of the Bachelor. Examples are the Master of Business Administration or the Master of Journalism after the BA Political Science. The third form is called a master's degree and requires not only the first university degree but also practical work experience.

The advantages of the master’s degree

Although some students still have difficulties with the new study system, the experts nevertheless agree that the advantages clearly outweigh the advantages. In just a few semesters, you have the opportunity to choose a personal specialization in a master’s degree and thus prepare yourself even better for professional life. In addition, this course does not have to take place immediately after the bachelor's degree, but can also be started at a later point in time, for example when you have completed a few internships.

One advantage that entrepreneurs in particular appreciate is that the master’s degree teaches market-oriented skills. During the course of study, the focus is primarily on strategic marketing management, but also on communication. Through various special modules, the master’s students have the opportunity to acquire and deepen specific specialist knowledge. For many, however, it is also extremely interesting that once they have completed their master’s degree, they have a better chance of gaining a foothold in the job market. In addition, once you have acquired the second academic degree, you can undoubtedly expect a higher salary.

What is characteristic of a master’s degree?

With the introduction of this new form of study, a lot has changed for students. For example, the degree is now in Modules divided into a subdivision of the respective subject. For example, a business degree can be divided into the modules organization and personnel management, marketing and business administration. The student then has the task of achieving certain achievements within each of these modules. These are essential for the module grade, which then flows into the overall grade of the master’s degree.

Another novelty of the master’s degree are credit points, which are supposed to represent a kind of reward. Whenever the student has completed work and exams satisfactorily, he receives together. The number of credit points also represents the effort for a lecture or seminar. However, not only the actual seminar time is taken into account here, but also the time required to write texts for the seminar, to work on a term paper or prepare for the exam. Here is one credit point for 30 hours of work. It is important for the student to know that he can only complete his master’s degree if he has achieved a certain number of credit points.

Another characteristic of the master’s degree is that the new degrees represent transparency. The universities in Germany as well as those in the whole of Europe should from now on enable a comparison of the performance. The fact that everyone who has decided on the master’s degree has the same requirements for obtaining credit points ensures that a comparison can be made. This gives the student the advantage of changing courses within Europe and having the credit points already earned credited to the new university, provided that the subjects are not completely different.

When the master’s program was conceived, it was also important to emphasize internationality. So that the degrees within the European educational area can be better compared, you not only receive a certificate with the master’s degree, but also an English version, as well as the "diploma supplement". There you will not only find information about the degree and the subject, but also the status of the university and the program of your studies. All courses attended are listed with the associated grades.

The keyword accreditation is no less important in connection with the master’s degree. As a result of the Bologna Process, the universities had the task of developing new courses of study and the associated examination regulations for Bachelor's and Master's degrees. However, they did not have a completely free hand, because in order to comply with international standards, a special accreditation council was founded, which is supposed to ensure that the examination regulations and the orientation of the study programs correspond to the specifications. The university only had permission to offer this course once the new course had been checked and received accreditation. When choosing a university, it is therefore important to ensure that the respective degree programs have been accredited.

The different titles at the Masters

In the meantime, the master’s degree programs have been developed quite well, so that everyone who wants to acquire the second academic degree after completing the bachelor’s degree now has various titles and thus study options available. A master’s degree with the titles Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (M.Sc.), Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Master of Laws (LL.M.), Master of Fine Arts ( MFA), Master of Music (M.Mus.), As well as Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Most of the postgraduate master’s degree programs end with the title Master of Arts, which is due to the fact that many subjects can be classified in this area. This title can be acquired if one decides to study in the areas of social sciences, linguistics and cultural sciences, and economics.

As a replacement for the designation Dipl.-Ing. The title Master of Science (M.Sc.) applies from now on. All subjects that are offered here belong in the field of Natural sciencesn, most frequently subjects from the fields of information, physics and mathematics are offered here.

As with the Master of Science will also be at Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) a reference to the Engineering produced, with the content at M.Eng. are a little more pronounced. As a rule, with this title, you can choose between an engineering area or a technical area. The admission requirements here are that you have completed your bachelor's degree in a scientific field with a minimum number clausus, and tests are not infrequently held before enrollment.

Legal courses were adapted to the new degree system in the course of the Bologna process Master of Laws rearranged. Literally translated, the abbreviation LL.M. for Legum Magister, whereby the double L. should indicate the plural. Translated, after this degree you are a "master of law". If you are toying with the idea of ​​attending this course, you should already be prepared for the fact that most universities have introduced a numerus clausus for this.

The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) deals with the creative professions and provides a second possible university degree in the artistic field of activity. As a student, this gives you the opportunity to both develop and refine your own artistic position. There is a mixture of theory and practice during the course, but more emphasis is placed on practical work.
In order to advance in the field of music, one can make do with the Master of Music. The degree M.Mus. is offered in different forms, so that you should know beforehand what you want. The subject with a focus on theory as well as on the scientific orientation is possible, and it is also possible to acquire this title through a practical course. However, it is not uncommon that you have to achieve special achievements during the bachelor's degree.

Who in the future Want to become a teacher, must see the Master of Education (M.Ed.) as compulsory. In contrast to other courses, this master’s degree is not a further possibility for qualification, but is a compulsory program if you want to become a teacher. After you have obtained this qualification, you can start a traineeship at the chosen type of school. This makes the Master of Education comparable to the first state examination. During the master’s degree, however, the type of school that was chosen in the third or fourth semester of the bachelor’s degree must be retained.

The final possible degree is that M.aster of Business Administration (MBA). Right now this title is the one that is most widely used and known. It is intended for working university graduates who want to take advantage of the changes in the labor market and take further training measures in the course of it. A special feature here is that graduates from non-scientific subjects, such as those in the natural sciences and technology, are preferred. During this master’s degree, you will be prepared for demanding management tasks and you will be able to use your opportunities in the world of work in a wide variety of ways.

Admission requirements for the master’s degree:

In contrast to the bachelor's degree, it takes a little more to be admitted to a master's degree. As already mentioned, a master’s degree is an option after a bachelor’s degree, but this degree alone is usually not enough. In general, you always have to observe the admission requirements of the respective university. The first requirement, however, is always that you have a first professional academic degree, such as a bachelor's, master's degree, diploma or state examination. In order to be able to do the advanced master’s degree (MBA), you generally need to have gained at least one year of professional experience.

The respective university then determines which further qualifications are required. That is why it is important to find out as early as possible which requirements you have to meet for admission. It may be the case that an employment test is required at some universities. The type, subjects, profile and final grade of the previously attended course are just as decisive. In order to be able to register for a course that ends with a master’s degree, it is increasingly required to achieve a numerus clausus. Only if you have successfully completed your bachelor's degree can you attend the particularly coveted master’s degree. How high the NC is is determined individually by each university. As a rule, however, this is 2.5, while other universities require an NC of at least 2.0. The fulfillment of an NC is therefore mandatory depending on the course and the respective university. In addition to NC courses, there are also a number of master's courses without an NC. This is particularly the rule with distance or evening studies.

Many students will be happy to hear that there are also master’s courses that have low admission requirements. This means that in some cases there is no written application (letter of motivation), and in some cases immediate enrollment at the desired start of the course is possible at any time.

The master's thesis

The master's thesis, which is also called a master's thesis, represents the last written work / scientific work of the master’s degree. This is exactly when it becomes apparent who is able to work scientifically, to research and cite correctly, and to pose and answer a certain question. The lecturers check whether the student is able to apply the theoretical knowledge from the course and the models dealt with there to a concrete practical example.

As far as the scope and workload of the master’s thesis is concerned, one can orientate oneself here on the requirements of the diploma or master’s thesis. This also guarantees that the master’s degree can be equated with these two previous degrees. The length of a master's thesis is between 70 and 90 pages, from registration to submission of the master's thesis it usually takes three months. However, the respective university / technical college usually has appropriate guidelines for this. In the last instance, it is up to the respective supervisor of the master’s thesis not only to accompany you during the preparation of the master’s thesis but also to explain the formal framework to you.

In order to find a good topic for the master’s thesis, you should make sure that this topic actually addresses you so that you don't have the urge to give up prematurely. It is just as important to pay attention to the specified scope and to make the master's thesis neither too short nor too long. In addition, every student who does the master's thesis has the obligation to look for a supervisor. After the master's thesis has been completed and submitted to the examination office, the lecturer usually has four weeks to review the work and to agree on a grade. So that subjective evaluations can be excluded, the master's thesis is read by a second independent proofreader, who also submits a suggestion for the grade. Both then jointly commit to a grade, whereby the assessment of the first lecturer has greater weight. However, should it happen that the two lecturers cannot agree, a third corrector will be called in.

You can find detailed information on the master's thesis in the FAQs section

Career outlook

If you have decided to do a master’s degree after completing your bachelor’s degree, even if you have acquired this title, the path does not end there. The further stage that follows after the master’s degree is the doctorate. If you choose this path, you are entitled to accept a scientific position at a university or a research institution.

Ultimately, however, it is not just the university degree that is decisive for how you get on the job market. Personality, hard work, motivation and experience also count. What salary you can expect after completing your master’s degree is not just a question of the title. Above all, the subject of study and the future branch of employment determine the salary prospects. Independent studies have shown that the average starting salary of a bachelor's degree is just below that of a university of applied sciences diploma student, but after 2-5 years of professional experience, master's graduates in particular have a good chance of earning a very good salary. The average income of a master’s starting salary, which is around 40,000 euros per year, can have maximized to more than 50,000 euros after 2-5 years.

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