Do You Need a Second Master’s Degree?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Choosing to earn a second master's degree may be useful when you're interested in starting a new career. Learn more about what it takes and whether it's right for your goals.

[Featured image] A woman in a yellow top sits at home researching second master's degrees on her laptop.

Education can be a powerful tool when you’d like to advance your career or pursue a new one entirely. While many people choose to earn one degree at each level—bachelor’s, master’s, and beyond—there are some who pursue a second master’s degree in an effort to strengthen their subject knowledge, develop new skills, and earn a credential that may be useful for their career goals

In this article, we’ll go over the reasons to earn a second master’s degree, the benefits of doing so, and other educational options worth considering when another graduate program may not be the best fit for your goals. 

What is a second master’s degree?

A second master’s degree is a graduate degree you earn in a related or completely different subject than your first master’s degree. There’s no exact timeline for when to earn a second master’s degree: some students may choose to jump straight from one master’s program to another, while others enter the workforce for a period of time before deciding to go back to school. 

There’s also no one reason to earn a second master’s degree, but it can be particularly useful for those interested in making a career change, which more people in the United States have become interested in exploring since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 [1]. Successfully changing careers may entail additional education and skills development, and a master’s degree program provides an extended opportunity to learn important subject knowledge, build in-demand skills, and network. 

Learn more: Should You Go Back to School? 7 Things to Consider

Second master’s degree requirements

Unlike a second bachelor’s degree, which often takes less time to complete because you don’t need to work through any general education requirements, a second master’s degree tends to involve the same amount of coursework and time as your first master’s degree. 

Depending on the program, you’ll need to complete between 30 and 60 credit hours to qualify for graduation. In that case, master’s degrees take around two years to complete when you’re able to attend full-time, though a range of online master’s degrees now offer self-pacing and greater flexibility so you can either speed up or slow down as needed. 

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Reasons to earn a second master’s degree

People pursue second master’s degrees for a few different reasons. Let’s go over three of the more common ones below. 

Deepen your knowledge.

Whether you’ve become interested in a new subject or you want to further your knowledge—in a new way—about something you’ve previously studied, a formal master’s degree program can be a more in-depth way to gain both theoretical and practical knowledge. 

Change careers. 

You don’t need a master’s degree to change careers, but some people like the formal knowledge they gain from a master’s program and the credential they can add to their resume when applying for jobs. A second master’s degree may signal to potential employers that you’ve committed to your new career path by seeking out additional education to help you make the pivot. 

Learn more: Career Change at 30: Building on Your Skills

Stay competitive as a candidate.

Holding a master’s degree can be a lucrative way to stand out from other candidates, especially when you feature that kind of education on your resume. Having two master’s degrees shows that you’ve taken extra steps to gain advanced knowledge and can add to the overall story you tell about your career on your resume

Benefits of earning a second master’s degree

Although it takes time and money to earn a second master’s degree, there are benefits that may come with this extra education. 

Subject knowledge

Often certificate programs emphasize practical skills, but if you’re curious about the “why” behind certain practices, then a master’s degree may be a good opportunity for you. Not only will you gain practical skills, but you can expect to learn about the theory behind your field.  

Skills development

As we mentioned, you will develop important practical skills when earning your second master’s degree, but the advanced nature of study also emphasizes important workplace skills, like critical thinking and problem-solving. These skills remain in demand from employees at all levels, according to the World Economic Forum [2].

Formal credential

Even if you already have a master’s degree, earning a second can be a useful credential to feature on your resume, and add to the overall story you’re telling as a professional. Whether you’re interested in exploring a complementary subject or moving in an entirely new direction, a second master’s degree can be a useful educational “refresh.” 


Master’s degree programs often provide opportunities to network with your peers and interact with important faculty members. In both instances, you’ll get a chance to expand your professional network. 

Applying to a second master’s degree program

When you apply to a second master’s program, you can expect to submit many of the same materials you did when you applied to your first. This can include: 

As part of your letter of intent (sometimes called a personal statement), you’ll want to explain your interest in pursuing a second master’s degree. If you’ve chosen a complementary subject, explain how it builds on what you’ve previously learned. If it differs from what you’ve already studied, spend time explaining how you developed the interest, what you hope to do in your new field, and what you’ve done (if anything) to build skills, experience, or knowledge in the area. In both cases, it’s important to explain your goals in earning a second master’s degree.

On Coursera, many master’s programs feature performance-based admission, meaning you don’t need to submit a formal application with the materials we’ve noted above. Instead, you’ll take and pass three pathway courses in a foundational subject in order to gain full admission. What’s more, the credits you receive as part of those three courses will count toward your full program requirements.


Do you need a second master’s degree?

The answer to that question depends on your larger goals as well as your resources. Compared to other types of education, like massive open online courses (MOOCs) and Professional Certificates, second master’s degrees require a greater investment of both your time and money. Learn more about the cost of a master’s degree and whether that type of education can be worth it.

As a starting point, answer the following three questions:  

  • What is your goal? In other words, what is the outcome you’d like to achieve with this type of education? Besides a second master’s degree, what other types of education are available for achieving a similar outcome? Compare those options to ensure that earning another master’s degree makes sense for you.

  • What kinds of education are standard within the profession or industry? This question is especially important when you want to pivot careers. Try to conduct some research into your new field to get a sense of the kind of education many people have. Zippia can be a great resource for this point of comparison. Is a master’s degree necessary to achieve the job you’d like to hold? 

  • How much time and money do you have to dedicate to your education? Consider your schedule and resources, including what it will cost to earn another master’s degree, to assess whether it’s a worthwhile option for your career goals. Also, if you’re set on earning a second master’s degree, does it make sense to attend an in-person program or would you benefit from the flexibility of an online degree? 

It’s also worth noting that in the US, when it comes to financing your education through federal student loans, there are limits on the amount you can borrow for your graduate education: $138,500. If you have already borrowed a significant amount for your first master’s degree and plan to take out loans to finance your second master’s degree, then you’ll want to calculate how much you’ve already borrowed and compare it to the amount you may need. 

Explore flexible degree programs on Coursera

Earn your second master’s degree through one of Coursera’s esteemed university partners, many of which offer performance-based admission so you don’t need to submit a formal application but can instead show what you know by taking and passing a set number of courses.

What’s more, online master’s degrees offered via Coursera feature flexible, self-paced learning, ways to connect with peers around the world, and are often more affordable than what you might find from an in-person program. 

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Article sources


Zippia. “21 Crucial Career Change Statistics,” Accessed October 30, 2023.

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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.