Flowchart – Masters Degree Course Plan and Path

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Masters degree in US Universities takes one to two years to complete depending on your degree plan.

Here is an overview of 3 possible degree path that available based on the program structure offered by the university.

Some schools offer Thesis and Course Based option. Some schools offer all 3 program structure. Most Universities offer Thesis and Course Work only plan. Project option is offered only in few universities.  Here’s the three program structure

  1. Thesis  Option
  2. Non-Thesis – Course Work Only ( or Structured Option)
  3. Non-Thesis – Project Option

Before you read about Masters Degree course path, here is  an in-depth overview about Study in USA – Timeline.

Masters Degree Program Structure


Masters Degree Plan
Masters Degree Plan

Masters Degree – Thesis Option

  • Students usually start working on Thesis after 1st year.
  • Professor will assign a research problem
  • Takes 2 or more semesters to solve the research problem.
  • Defend thesis in front of a panel and you graduate.

Non-Thesis – Course Only

  • Complete required number of courses ( or credits)
  • Complete all the required courses with GPA above 3.0
  • Optional : 1 or 2 semesters of internship

Non-thesis – Project

  • Some Universities have an option to complete a project.
  • Project runs for 1 semester or so.
  • You have to meet the GPA requirements.
  • Optional : 1 or 2 semesters of internship


  • Some schools require 3 months of Internship in addition to above 3 degree plan.
  • When Internship is optional, you can work as an intern for 1 or 2 semesters.

Best Option?

  • Depends on your interests and plans.
  • Thesis – If you plan to do PhD later or inclined to do research.
  • Non-Thesis – If you just need to improve your skills and find a job after M.S.
  • Internship – If  you are in Thesis or Non-thesis, try to do at least 1 semester internship.
  • Internship increases your chances to get job.
  • Internship is a MUST for students without work experience.

Financial Aid

Chances of getting Financial Aid is high when you are in Thesis or Project track.

Also, RA would be available from other departments within the university.

Next : What does it take to Complete PhD Degree?

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