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Masters Degree / MS in USA eligibility and basic requirements

A Master’s degree is a graduate program of study in the US, the most popular destination sought by international students for higher and professional education. Students opt for a Master’s degree for one of many reasons.

One, it is a gateway to a doctoral degree sought by anyone who intends to carve a career in academia.

Two, a Master’s degree can significantly improve your career prospects in the corporate world, as your enhanced qualifications will probably earn you a promotion or get you into a higher pay grade.

The third reason some seek a Master’s degree is that some jobs, like that of a school principal, require the degree as an entry-level qualification, leaving you with no choice but to sign up for a graduate program.

Typically, a Master’s program lasts 18-24 months and there is a wide palette to choose from, unlike undergraduate programs, which are more limited.

This also means many Master’s courses are niche. This is a boon for individuals interested in deepening their knowledge and expertise in a limited area, like, say, Non-Profit Management, Public Policy, Dispute Resolution or, believe it or not, Divinity!

Most Popular Master’s Degrees in USA

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is by far the most sought-after Master’s program in the U.S. and in other countries as well, while a plain Master’s or MS in domains such as Accounting, Finance, Management, Economics and Mathematics are hotly pursued too. Master’s programs in Information Technology, Engineering, and Law are also among the top choices.

Breaking down these domains reveals some interesting, niche areas that are trending in 2015.

According to careers site, PayScale, a Master’s in the following areas are most popular: Biostatistics, Human Computer Interaction, Telecom Engineering, Applied Math, Statistics, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Business Administration and Information Science.

Before we discuss the U.S. MS degree in further detail, let us touch upon the difference between a Master’s degree and a Master of Science program. While both are graduate programs, the Master of Science (MS) degree is a research-based course that requires students to write a thesis as opposed to a Master’s program, which is more course-work oriented.

Eligibility For Master’s / MS Programs In USA

As an international student, before you apply for a Master’s degree in an American university, you should study the application process before jumping right in. So what are the basic requirements you have to meet?

Same specialisation as Bachelor’s?

Not necessarily. Usually, students elect to do a Master’s in the same area as the one that gave them their Bachelor’s degree but switching domains is not unusual.

Test Scores

Proficiency in English is another basic requirement and the two most oft-used tests to assess candidates are: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing Service).

You would also have to take one of the following exams to qualify for a Master’s program: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). There are other, more specific standardised tests for the legal and medical domains.

Read more on what’s a good GRE score for the top Masters courses in USA.

Sixteen Years of education?

Most American universities demand 16 years of formal education to be eligible for a Master’s program. Since a Bachelor’s degree in India is a three-year program (B.Sc, B.Com, B.A etc), that adds up to 15 years (including 10 years of schooling plus 2 years’ junior college).

Here’s some good news, though. Lately, some American universities, including some elite business schools, have begun to accept 15 years of formal education, instead of 16, if the rest of your application package is especially strong.

That’s because they view each applicant in their entirety, as a whole package, when they evaluate applications. Thus, while some students play safe by doing a year’s Master’s course in India, to tot up 16 years of education, you could save a year and work extra hard on getting excellent GRE/GMAT scores that would be hard for any university to resist.

For this reason, it’s best if you check the website first to see if the university has clearly mentioned their stand. If there’s is some uncertainty about it, reach out to the admissions team and find out directly.
Universities in USA and Canada accepting 3 years undergraduate degree
Business Schools in USA accepting 15 years education

Practical Experience

Many Master’s programs, especially in the fields of medicine, education and technology, require practical experience or internships. So, apart from group discussions, writing a thesis and, of course, attending lectures, you may be required to have actual professional experience.

If you are an international student signing up for a Master’s course, you will not be employed while studying, and a student internship will suffice.
Graduate School MS funding options
Graduate Assistantship: Teaching and Research Assistantship

Other Requirements

Some of the other parameters a U.S. university will judge you on are your academic record; the college/university you attended; your recommendations; research work and published work; extracurricular activities and work experience, if any.

You’d need to submit a Statement of Purpose (SoP) as well, which is among the most important parts of your Master’s application. Read this post on how to write a good SoP.

Finally, it is imperative that you draw up a shortlist of universities that maximises your chances of securing admission to a good college. It’s a complex and delicate yet scientific process.

Get this. If your application package is really good but you’ve applied only to mediocre universities, you could be in for a shock. Just when you thought getting admission was a cinch – you didn’t apply to the top universities in case the competition was too stiff and you didn’t make the grade – you could end up with rejections all around.

So, unless you have a profile that can command a red-carpet treatment from an American university, you might want to consider getting professional help to navigate the admission process.

Also, here’s another perspective to think about. Just as you are anxious about securing admission, universities too want to close the deal on sure-shot candidates. They don’t have the time and resources to invest in accepting a candidates who will eventually reject them for a better option!

Be aware of your strengths and highlight them well in your application.

Happy pitching!

Read these related articles:
Guide to an international MS degree
MS in US cost in Indian Rupees | Masters in USA
Average cost of studying abroad: Masters in Europe vs America comparison
Average GPA for top graduate schools

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

27 thoughts on “Masters Degree / MS in USA eligibility and basic requirements”

  1. hi sameer,

    i am ishita, completing my third year of BMS. i wish to pursue masters from universities abroad. For this i require 4 years of education.
    so for the fourth year, is MCOM or MMS better? i do not have any work experience. is there any other course i can pursue other than these?

  2. Sir I’m in btech 3rd year at present.and thinking about prepare for GMAT but as you say in your blogs that wrking experience is mostly needed thn what should i do for get a high placed salary job? By which overseas course i get a huge package.i also want that i can continue my study after btech. I don’t want to take a break for a job if i placed in my engineering college.

  3. @Ishita: Best to choose a masters degree that’s aligned with what you want to do later. Don’t do it just to meet the admissions criteria. Btw, there are programs that accept 15 years of education too.

    @Raman: It’s tough to get a high paying job immediately after graduation. Aim for better exposure and skills instead.

  4. Hi Sameer,

    I have 7 years of experience automotive hardware and now I want to switch to software, was working in an automotive MNC, and left for the preparation of GRE and IELTS. I want to opt for MS computer science, and really want to be a hardcore after so much experience in hardware,will it be helpful MS IN US and then getting job there? Please advise.

  5. Hi Sameer,
    You are doing great work by providing proper guidance to us people. I really appreciate your work.
    Currently I am a student of Chemical Engineering completing my B tech. Degree from Nirma University Ahmedabad. I just want to know that Except for GRE score and work experience what other factors plays important role for a good Profile?? Do I need to publish at least one research paper on any topic or publishing no research paper doesn,t affect much in preparing good Profile?
    Waiting for your response. Thank you..!!

  6. @Gayatri: Most MS students join in relatively junior roles and work their way up the hierarchy. If you are ok with that, go ahead.

    @Sarthak: The post above has the details. Also check the official websites of universities for more specific admission requirements.

    • Sir..I was completed my junior college in only one year.and remaining things(10th+bsc(3yrs) are done as correctly. Am I eligible to do ms in USA sir

  7. Hi Sameer, I have a bachelors in mechanical engineering from a reputed govt univ in India and over 11 years of experience in IT (currently a software architect). My career decision thus far has been to remain technical – would you recommend any MS courses in the US that I could pursue and not be an under kill? Are there other programs that I could possibly look at? Please advise.


  8. Hi sameer,

    I have completed my B.TECH in computer science and 2014 passed out. Now am having experience as Testing consultantof 1.3 years working in CMMI level 5 company. I’m planning to do M.S. Can you guide me how can i proceed further with my job experience.

  9. Hi sameer,im studying in tybca i wish to study MS in US ,as we need 16 years of education what should i do next.Please help .

  10. Hi Sameer,

    Am 28 yrs, age does matter for eligibility? Currently am working as a software engineer already I completed my master degree, but I had break in my education between my UG and PG am eligible to apply for MS?

  11. Hiii,
    i am sumithra i completed my computer science engineering in the year 2012. i dont have experience in IT. i am planing to do MS in 2017. is it really worth to go for MS.

  12. Hi

    I am working in hospital industry with 7 years exp, I completed 15 years , I want to do masters in USA , wat I can do ? Which university accept 15 years ?? Help me pls

  13. Hi Sameer,
    I am Dheeraj. I have completed my undergraduate study in ECE.I have been working in IT company ( WIPRO ) since 1 year. Now I am planning to study MS in CS in US.Is it a good idea to pursue Ms after gaining 2 years of work experience.And will this experience be useful for my university admits and job opportunity in US.

  14. Hello Sir
    I wanted to know, what all must a strong research paper contain for pursuing MS in USA.
    I’m currently pursuing BTech in Computer Science.

  15. Hi Sameer,

    May Son Rajath Bhandarkar studying in 3rd year B.E. (Mech) at NIE, Mysore, I need your guidance for his M.S. in US. Kindly get back to me on this

  16. Hello Sir Im complete my BE civil and im 6.15 CGPA and im learn coaching class of GRE now how much score require for usa in GRE?
    plz suggest me for this

    • Hi sir am poovarasi, I have completed MBA in Hospital management, 4 years experience also, now can I do MS, it’s really worth

  17. Hi Sameer,
    I will be applying for fall 2018 in the US for MS Computer Science. I am a BCA grad so I have 12+3 years of education. I have heard some elite schools accept students with 15 years of education. Can you tell me which ones?

    Also, I will have two years work experience by then. Will that count too? Do MS students get a full scholarship?

  18. Hi Sir I’m doing a 3 year diploma in Architecture. I’ve completed high school+ PU + have done a 1 year diploma in interior designing… I want to study further abroad..
    Can I do MS after diploma! Or do I’ve to do a degree!?

  19. Can you also tell us a little bit about the financial requirements, I have heard that US needs us to keep some amount of cash in our account before entering US. How is it determined?


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