What Is an MAS Degree?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A Master of Applied Science, or MAS degree, is a graduate-level degree that emphasizes practical applications of knowledge and research. This degree is more common in Canada, Australia, and other parts of the world.

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In the United States, students of science tend to choose graduate degrees that emphasize "pure" sciences like a Master of Science or Master of Engineering. A Master of Applied Science (MAS) degree is a graduate-level degree that emphasizes practical applications of knowledge and research. An MAS may be right for you if you want to build your critical thinking and analysis skills while applying the skills and knowledge to the field you currently work in or plan to pursue. In the United States, you'll find MAS degrees available as professional degrees in agriculture, food, and natural resources. Your course of study should give you valuable insights into your chosen industry as you apply scientific knowledge and undertake research.

MAS degree programs explained 

The purpose of applied sciences is to apply the scientific knowledge available to solve real-world problems and create technological innovations. The purpose differs from pure science, which creates theories and makes discoveries that add to the existing body of knowledge.

MAS degree programs encompass a broad range of fields, including biotechnology, business management, communication, engineering, information management, manufacturing, medicine, and sustainability. In application, this coursework focuses on a specific field, like agronomy, materials engineering, national resources management, or patient safety.

Master of Applied Science vs. Master of Science

Both Master of Applied Science and Master of Science degrees can prepare you for your career. However, the scope of each degree differs. The primary purpose of a MAS degree is to prepare the student for real-world work. The Master of Science tends to be a more versatile degree and can serve as a step between a bachelor's degree and a doctorate.

Components of a MAS degree program include study modules, case studies, and career opportunities. You’ll learn background knowledge and theory in the study modules that you can then apply to the case study. For example, if you're studying forensic applied science, you're not just reading about past cases and the tools used to solve crimes; you also have the opportunity to use those tools in the field on your own.

Benefits of a MAS degree 

One of the most significant benefits of a MAS degree is its practical applications in the field. As you pursue the degree, you learn many transferable skills, such as:

  • Solving problems

  • Observing and applying critical analysis

  • Paying attention to detail

  • Communicating

  • Project management

  • Viewing problems from various perspectives

  • Conducting research

  • Gathering information

  • Organizing data

  • Designing experiments

Best of all, your learning goes beyond merely discussing theory in a classroom and takes place in real-time and in the real world.

Common areas of focus for MAS degrees 

As you begin exploring the differences between MAS and MS degrees, you may notice some overlap. This list of common focus areas for MAS degrees could double as a list of MS degrees. The difference is the type of scientific knowledge being applied to the discipline.

Data science 

When you study applied data science, you explore the ways humans and technology interact. This field of study can build hands-on skills by applying data science to real-world problems. You'll examine critical insight into data collection, computation, and analytics and learn how to present your solutions.

Read more: What Is Data Science? Definition, Examples, Jobs, and More


A Master of Applied Science in Agriculture prepares you for work in fields such as agronomy, animal science, food science, and mechanized systems management. Candidates for this degree may not write a thesis. Instead, they may complete a degree project directly related to their career field.

 Humanitarian health

In a Master of Applied Science in Humanitarian Health, you may focus on public health sectors that need highly skilled professionals. The roles of professionals working in humanitarian fields can change rapidly. This type of degree allows students to explore solutions to public health problems.

Natural science and applied science

Some schools offer MAS degrees that pair applied and pure sciences in a single degree program. In this pairing, you’ll use interdisciplinary studies to create theories and apply them to the world around you. One example of this specialization is at Missouri State University. You can choose biology, chemistry, geography, and more to create a custom curriculum.

Electrical engineering and applied computing 

A MAS in Electrical Engineering and Applied Computer prepares you for later study and work in various fields, including biomedical technology, computer and software systems, and energy systems. In this degree work, you will typically design systems people use in their everyday lives and have a significant impact on society.

Getting started in applied sciences 

If earning a degree in applied sciences appeals to you, start by choosing a discipline. Then, look for a school that offers a MAS in that field. If your school does not offer an MAS degree in the discipline you want, you may be able to create a similar experience using a different type of degree.

For example, you may start working on a Master of Science in Biology and sign up for extra labs or an independent study in which you can test the theories you develop as you work through the course materials.

If you don't know which discipline to choose, you can explore different fields through courses available on Coursera. On Coursera, you have access to programs from schools around the world. You can take your time exploring your study options until you find the right discipline for you.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.