Learn how many classes you’ll need to take to earn your master’s degree.
As a full-time student in college getting your undergrad degree, 4-5 classes was the norm.
However, if decide to take your education to the next level and attend graduate school for a master’s degree, you can expect to take less classes in exchange for more time studying, doing research, or teaching.
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In this blog post, we will discuss how many classes do master’s students take and some deciding factors for planning and scheduling your path to earning your master’s degree.
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How many classes do you take as a full-time master’s student?
Most full-time master’s students take 2-3 classes a semester, with each class being 3 credit hours.
These students can expect to graduate in 1.5 to 2 years after completing a total of 36 to 54 credit hours (12 to 18 classes in total) to earn their degree. Some programs though, can be completed in under the 1.5 year mark.
For example, for my Applied Statistics master’s program, I take 3 courses (9 credit hours) per semester because I am a graduate teaching assistant. By taking 3 courses, I can expect to graduate in 4 semesters (2 years) without needing to take summer courses.
However, if I was not a teaching assistant, I could take 2 classes a semester and still be considered a full-time student in my program.
How many classes do you take as a part-time master’s student?
If you plan to go to grad school part-time for a master’s degree, you are likely to take 1 class a semester. And therefore, it may take you 2 to 4 years to complete your degree requirements depending on how your program is structured.
But luckily, most programs give you a generous amount of time to complete their program: 6 to 7 years.
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For example, my twin sister works full-time and is getting a Juris Master’s degree. She takes 2 classes per semester (1 class every 7 weeks) and is expected to graduate in 2 years. If she reduced down to 1 class per semester, she would graduate in 4 years.
Should I go to graduate school full-time or part-time?
When deciding whether to attend grad school full-time or part-time it is important to consider your current situation personally and professionally.
For instance, ask yourself:
- Can I quit my job to attend graduate school full-time?
- Can I get enough financial aid to go to graduate school full-time?
- Would I be better able to balance work and family going to school full-time or part-time?
- How many graduate school classes can I personally handle?
- Would I be able to receive a stipend from my school?
- Is my current job relevant to my degree?
Consider doing your master’s degree full-time if…
- You are able to financially live off of a stipend or students loans
- You have a significant other who can financially help
- Don’t have children
- Can quit your job to attend graduate school
For example, I purposely quit my job to attend graduate school full-time.
I am able to make it work by:
- Taking out student loans
- Being a graduate teaching assistant, which I earn a small stipend from
- Splitting bills with my long-term boyfriend
By going to graduate school full-time you can focus 100% on your school work and finish your degree on time or ahead of time.
Consider doing your master’s degree part-time if…
- You work full-time
- You have children or family members who need care
- It is not financially possible for you to quit your job
- You can’t temporarily live off of students loans/a stipend
- Your job is highly relevant to the degree you are earning
- Your job offers you great benefits that would be difficult to step away from
Going to grad school part-time will give you a nice work school life balance, but as a consequence, you will finish your degree slower.
For example, my twin sister did not want to quit her job to get her master’s degree because her job was highly relevant to her degree and she received benefits from her job. She is also married and has several financial obligations that would make quitting her job to attend grad school full-time not financially possible.
Other factors to consider when planning your graduate school schedule
Whether you are completing your master’s degree as a full-time or part-time student, you need to consider the following before committing to grad school life:
- Most master’s degree programs have classes in the evening
- Class format (online, in-person, hybrid)
- Your desire to teach or do research
- Internship requirement or interest
Many master’s programs have evening classes once a week to allow those who work full-time the opportunity to attend class after work.
If you work non-traditional hours you will probably need to adjust your work hours to fit your course schedule each semester or opt to do a fully online program that’s flexible with your schedule.
Similar to undergraduate programs, you can attend class and receive your coursework in a variety of formats: online, in-person, or hybrid.
Online class formats are great for students who work full-time, need flexibility to work on their coursework when they can, and don’t mind teaching themselves a bulk of the course material.
Taking online classes can also be an opportunity to take a full course load while still being able to work full-time. However, you will need to have good time management skills and be willing to make personal sacrifices to make it work.
In-class formats work for students who can attend graduate school full-time, are able to get off of work to attend class, need that in-person instruction and guidance, and wants or enjoys real-time interaction with their classmates and professors.
The hybrid format is a good in-between solution for students who want the best of both worlds (online and in-person). However, not all programs design hybrid classes the same way. It’s best to do your research before committing to an hybrid format program or course.
Teaching or doing research
If you plan on or have the desire to obtain teaching or research experience as a graduate student you may need to consider going to school full-time in order to be a viable candidate for these two opportunities.
Most teaching or research assistants are hired by the university they attend and are expected to take a full-load of classes in conjunction to their teaching or research work.
However, you receive a stipend for the work you do as a TA or RA, which can pay for most of your living expenses or at least ease the burden of taking out student loans.
Personally, I had to quit my job to work as a graduate teaching assistant because the work and training as a TA was 15-hours per week. Making full-time work not feasible in my schedule. However, I have no regrets and love being a TA.
An internship can be a great way to get your foot in the door of the industry you are going to graduate school for, but that may require you to quit your job.
Also, some degree programs require you to do an internship or field experience in order to graduate.
If you do want to do an internship while in graduate school, consider supplementing your income with:
- Teaching or research assistantship (with a stipend)
- Part-time work
- Side-hustle (UberEats, dog walking, reselling thrift store finds, mowing lawns, house sitting, etc.).
Concluding thoughts on how many classes do master’s students take
Earning a master’s degree takes a lot of time, dedication, and commitment.
With that being said, knowing how long your master’s degree program will be can help you set expectations and goals for yourself.
I hope this brief, but informative blog post has helped you determine if going to graduate school full-time or part-time is best for you and how long, on average, you can expect to complete your degree.
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