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MS in US – 1, 2 or 3 Years?

Here’s a question from Sohil that inquires about the time required to complete a master’s degree in the U.S.

Basic start of an M.S. program begins in fall and then the next semester starts in spring, i.e., January. If I go there in a fall semester, when would I finish my degree? In two years or  1.5 years?

Duration of Master’s Programs

You can complete a master’s program anywhere from 1 to 3 years. It all depends on the type of program you decide to study.

  • Thesis track
  • Non-thesis (course only) track
  • Internship (thesis or non-thesis)
  • Thesis to non-thesis

A typical student will take 3 courses per semester and usually doesn’t take any courses during summer.

Thesis Track (Master’s)

A thesis program usually includes 8 courses + thesis. If you can complete 4 courses in 2 semesters and 1 semester for thesis, you should choose this.

If you start in a Fall semester, this is how an M.S. program will look like:

  • Fall – 4 Courses
  • Spring – 4 Courses + Thesis
  • Summer – Thesis

Non-Thesis (Master’s)

A course-only program will require a student to complete around 36 credits (12 courses). If you have some pre-requisite courses, then it will take longer to complete a master’s program.

  • Fall – 3 Courses
  • Spring – 3 Courses
  • Summer – Break or internship (1 year)
  • Fall – 3 Courses
  • Spring – 3 Courses (1 year and 9 months)

MS with Internship

It’s very likely that many students can do 2 semesters of internship with thesis or non-thesis option. If so, you can run into the following timeline. We will use spring as the beginning semester.

  • Spring – 3 Courses
  • Summer – Break
  • Fall – 3 Courses
  • Spring – 3 Courses
  • Summer – Break
  • Fall – Internship
  • Spring – Internship
  • Summer – 3 Courses

Most U.S. universities will allow you to take courses while working as intern. This can reduce the time to complete the required course work.

As you can see, there are numerous combinations that you can use. It will completely depend on your situation and what you select to study.

You might start with the thesis option and 1 semester into thesis, if you decide to change your mind into non-thesis and so on.

So it’s best to plan to spend at least 2 years to study a master’s program as a full time student. We are posting GRE questions for you to solve and other interesting discussion.


  1. Indumathi on May 2, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    Hi, I would like to know what are all the universities do provide one year master program in Computer Science or IT.

  2. Pius on March 17, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Hello, my name is Pius, I graduated four years ago with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, i wish to take up professional master program pricisely in the field of chemical technology. Please can you direct me on the credible schools that i can get admission and obtain credible training program.

  3. Agatha on April 22, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Hi, my name is Agatha, a graduate of Chemical Engineering. I want to apply for masters in us university for a masters degree in engineering courses but my CGPA. Is 2.69 from my first degree. Please, I want to know the schools that I can apply in and the basic requirements. Thank You

  4. swathi on December 8, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Hi HSB,
    In MS with intership, Is it like all univerisities allow for interships? or it is a student can as a intern on CPT only?

    • HSB on December 8, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      Internship requires CTP.

  5. nikita on January 26, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    i am doing btech now in instrumentations and control..i am going to give gre exam.can i opt for any course in humanities or marketing rather than mtech or management through gmat?

  6. swarnendu chatterjee on December 17, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    what kind of masters program(thesis or non thesis) is preffered to opt for a proffesional (not academic) master degree course in a state university/college?

  7. Gautam Chopra on September 10, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    People say that getting admission into MS with thesis into a univ. is easier than MS – non theses…….. But in thesis plan internship is more difficult…….. I wanna know if we can change our MS thesis plan to non thesis plan after goint to university and talking to graduate advisor………

  8. Rajni on July 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM


    I am planning to take GRE by August end, so would i be having enough time to apply for spring 2011.

    • Raman on August 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

      hello rajni me also wanna go abroad for masters so pls guide me if u can…. thans…!!

  9. guru on June 2, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    well where is winter season and is the entire winter season a holiday and how many maximum courses can we take in fall season

  10. krunal shimpi on April 18, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    i have heard that you can complete the course of 2 years in 1.5 years by taking extra subjects?

    assuming if you have enough finances for living expenses so that you dont have to work part-time to make up the fees, is this a feasible option?

    do students usually do this?

    taking extra subjects in the first 2 semester might reduce your weight in the last semester, which could help you gain more time for thesis work and job search, (my opinion)

    besides you havent mentioned anywhere about class system in the us, i mean what is the pattern of class-sessions in terms of 'how many hrs a day and how many days a week'. (atleast i havent come across such an article, anyways great work, keep up , god bless you)

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