What Can You Do With a Master of Arts Degree?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A Master of Arts degree can lead you to advancements in your field, help you hone your skills, and set you up to become a lifelong learner. It may also help you if you're interested in careers in fields like education, human services, and journalism.

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A Master of Arts (MA) is a graduate degree that can deepen your knowledge of a subject in the humanities, social sciences, and arts. Through an MA degree program, you can gain important knowledge and skills needed for a variety of careers, including in fields like education, art and design, languages, journalism and communications, and human services. You may also qualify for more senior roles because a growing number of employers prefer advanced education. Outside of your career, you may even experience personal growth and acquire lifelong skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

There are many benefits to pursuing a Master of Arts degree. In this article, we'll go over the different areas you can earn a MA in, the advantages of a graduate degree, and the job outlook for graduates.  

What is a Master of Arts degree?

A Master of Arts degree is a graduate degree that focuses on a specific concentration within the liberal arts or humanities, such as English, philosophy, art, or a foreign language. It usually takes about two to three years to earn your MA. In addition to taking advanced courses in your subject area that may include seminars, discussions, and academic research and writing, your program may also expect you to complete a thesis or capstone project.   

Master of Arts degree fields

Other master's degrees, like certain Master of Science (MS) degrees and the Master of Business Administration (MBA), prepare students to pursue specific career paths or industries. A Master of Arts may also prepare you for a designated career path, but you'll also likely gain valuable—and versatile—transferable skills. For example, the research, language, and critical thinking skills you'll typically gain in a Spanish language master's program can lead to work in translation, interpretation, international relations, and numerous other areas.

Some common subjects that can lead to a Master of Arts degree include:  

  • Art history

  • Journalism and mass communication 

  • Languages (classical languages, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, etc.) 

  • English 

  • Education and various topics within the topic of education, like educational psychology  

  • History

  • Political science

  • Sociology

  • Philosophy

  • Religion 

  • International affairs

  • Comparative literature  

Let's take a closer look at some common MA fields of study and where they might lead you in your career.   

Learn more: 11 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with a Liberal Arts Degree

Education 

Many people who earn a Master of Arts degree often end up working in education. As a matter of fact, many people who are already teachers or working in education will seek a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or education to expand their career choices. It's also a great option for people who have bachelor's degrees in other topics and would like to transition to teaching. People who earn this degree typically work as:  

  • Elementary and secondary school teachers 

  • Special education teachers

  • Principals and school administrators 

  • School or career counselors 

  • Education coordinators at museums, zoos, and aquariums 

  • Educational consultants 

  • Corporate trainers 

  • Curriculum developers

Art and design 

While a Master of Arts degree is more about liberal arts than fine arts, you can earn a Master of Arts degree in subjects that focus on your creative side, like art history, art and design, art therapy, dance, and music. This type of master's degree can help you hone your talents and may lead you to one of these careers:  

  • Art teacher

  • Animator

  • Graphic designer

  • Museum director 

  • Dance instructor 

  • Performing artist 

  • Museum educator 

  • Music teacher 

  • Music therapist

  • Art therapist  

Languages 

Earning a master's degree in a foreign language can open up opportunities in any field where there may be a language barrier that requires communication. You might find jobs in both the public and private sectors such as:  

  • Translator 

  • English as a foreign language teacher  

  • Foreign correspondent  

  • Civil service employee

  • Intelligence specialist 

  • Linguist 

  • Drug enforcement agent

  • Foreign service officer

  • Health care interpreter 

Journalism and communications  

An MA degree in journalism or communications can help you advance your career or lead to opportunities in journalism, advertising, public relations, new media, and mass media. Some potential jobs in these areas might include:  

  • Staff writer 

  • Editor

  • Copywriter

  • Broadcast journalist

  • Political campaign manager 

  • Event manager 

  • Public relations manager 

  • Advertising manager

  • Social media specialist

  • TV or film producer

  • Digital marketer 

Human services  

If you’re interested in serving others, you may choose a Master of Arts that can lead to a career in human services. You might select a degree concentration like sociology, social sciences, counseling, therapy, criminal justice, or human services. This can lead to careers like:  

  • Social worker

  • Health care administrator 

  • Mental health counselor

  • Researcher

  • Education administrator 

  • Marriage and family therapist 

  • Case manager

  • Community outreach worker 

  • Probation officer

  • Occupational therapist 

  • Public policy consultant 

  • Substance abuse counselor

Advantages of a Master of Arts of degree

There are many reasons to get a Master of Arts degree, including career advancement, specialized knowledge, and skills development.

Career advancement 

Many people choose to get a Master of Arts degree to help advance their careers. You may want to strive for a promotion or move into a leadership or management position, and a master’s degree may be a requirement—or a way to help you stand out from other applicants. According to CareerBuilder, 33 percent of employers raised their educational standards between 2016 and 2021, hiring people with master's degrees for positions that were previously held by those with bachelor's degrees [1].

Specialized knowledge in a field

You might want to advance your knowledge in a particular field, not because you're aiming for a promotion, but because you want to be better at your job. You may learn about new technology or methods that are prevalent in your field now compared to when you first started or earned your bachelor's degree. With an MA degree, you may be able to make a greater contribution to your job, or even offer your skills and knowledge as a consultant.

Acquiring skills and lifelong learning  

Perhaps you want to learn more about a subject because it interests you or you'd like to hone your skills, like writing or research. According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners [2]. About 63 percent of working adults take courses or training to improve their job skills or expertise.  

Learn more: Is a Master's Degree Worth It?

Job outlook 

You'll find that many careers that may require a Master of Arts degree are projected to grow between 2020 and 2030. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in social and community services may grow at a rate of 12 percent over the decade [3]. That includes jobs like marriage and family therapists, school counselors, probation officers, social workers, and mental health counselors. 

The BLS also projects that education, training, and library careers may grow at a rate of 10 percent between 2020 and 2030 [4]. That includes careers like museum curators, ESL teachers, special education teachers, and general elementary and secondary education teachers. 

Art and design careers are expected to grow at a rate of 4 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS [5]. Foreign language careers, such as translators and interpreters, may see a growth rate of 24 percent [6]. Media and communications careers may see a growth rate of 14 percent [7]. 

Getting started

Whether you’re interested in new career opportunities or specialized knowledge, learn more about how earning a master’s degree online from a leading university could fit in with your life and goals. 

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Article sources

1. CareerBuilder. “Not enough educated workers–why this matters to you, https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/employers-looking-for-more-educated-workers.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

2. Pew Research Center. “Lifelong Learning and Technology, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/03/22/lifelong-learning-and-technology/.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Community and Social Service Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/home.htm.” Accessed March 3, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Education, Training, and Library Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/home.htm.” Accessed March 3, 2022.

5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Arts and Design Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/home.htm.” Accessed March 3, 2022.

6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Interpreters and Translators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Media and Communication Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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.

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