Masters Of Professional Studies Vs. Masters Of Science: Key Differences

When researching graduate programs, you may come across both Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) and Masters of Science (MS or MSc) options. But what’s the difference between these two advanced degree paths?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: MPS programs focus on practical skills and experience for careers, while MS degrees concentrate more on research and theoretical knowledge.

This guide examines the curriculum, careers, cost, and other factors to help you choose between a Masters of Professional Studies or Masters of Science degree.

Curriculum and Focus

MPS emphasizes applied knowledge and hands-on training

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree program focuses on providing students with practical skills and applied knowledge that can be directly applied to their chosen profession. The curriculum is designed to equip students with the necessary tools and techniques to excel in their respective fields.

MPS programs often include internships, practicums, and real-world projects to give students hands-on experience in applying their learning. This emphasis on practicality and real-world application makes MPS graduates highly sought after by employers.

MS built around research and thesis project

On the other hand, the Master of Science (MS) degree program is typically built around research and a thesis project. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a deep understanding of the theoretical foundations and scientific principles in their field of study.

MS programs often require students to conduct independent research, analyze data, and present their findings in the form of a thesis. This research-focused approach allows MS graduates to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field and pursue careers in academia or research.

MPS aims to build professional competencies

The primary goal of the MPS degree program is to build professional competencies and skills that are directly applicable to the workplace. The curriculum is tailored to meet the specific needs and demands of the industry.

MPS programs often collaborate closely with industry partners to ensure that the coursework is relevant and up-to-date. Students in MPS programs gain practical skills in areas such as project management, leadership, communication, and problem-solving.

This focus on building professional competencies prepares MPS graduates to hit the ground running in their careers.

MS teaches broader scientific principles

On the other hand, the Master of Science (MS) degree program aims to provide students with a broader understanding of scientific principles and theories. The curriculum is designed to cover a wide range of topics within the field of study, allowing students to explore different areas of interest and gain a comprehensive knowledge base.

MS programs often delve deep into theoretical concepts, experimental design, and data analysis. This broader scientific education prepares MS graduates for careers in research, academia, or other specialized fields where a strong theoretical foundation is essential.

Ideal Candidate Backgrounds

MPS suited to experienced career changers

The Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) degree is ideal for individuals who are looking to make a career change and have already gained significant work experience in their current field. This degree is designed to build upon their existing knowledge and skills, providing them with the necessary expertise to transition into a new profession.

The MPS program values the practical experience that candidates bring to the table, recognizing that their real-world knowledge can be just as valuable as a traditional academic background. Therefore, professionals with several years of experience who are seeking to switch careers can find the MPS degree a perfect fit.

MS best for recent undergrads in science fields

On the other hand, the Masters of Science (MS) degree is more suitable for recent undergraduate students who have majored in science-related fields. This degree focuses on providing a deeper understanding of scientific principles and theories, preparing students for advanced research or academic careers in their chosen field.

While the MPS degree may prioritize practical experience, the MS degree places a greater emphasis on academic knowledge and research skills. It is ideal for those who wish to pursue further education or pursue careers in scientific research, development, or academia.

MPS values relevant work experience

One key difference between the MPS and MS programs is the emphasis on work experience. The MPS degree recognizes the value of relevant work experience and seeks candidates who have a solid foundation in their chosen field.

This experience can be from a variety of industries and sectors, as long as it is relevant to the program of study.

Having work experience allows MPS candidates to bring real-world examples and insights into the classroom, creating a more practical and applied learning environment. This also enables them to apply their newfound knowledge directly to their current or future professional roles.

MS requires solid scientific foundation

Unlike the MPS degree, the Masters of Science program typically requires candidates to have a solid scientific foundation. This means that applicants should have a strong academic background in science-related subjects, such as biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering.

The MS program delves deeper into scientific theories and concepts, often requiring students to conduct independent research and experiments. Therefore, a strong scientific foundation is crucial for success in this program.

Time Commitment

Full-time MPS 1-2 years typically

The Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) program is designed to be completed in a relatively short amount of time, typically within 1-2 years. This is because the MPS program focuses on providing practical skills and knowledge that can be immediately applied in the professional world.

Students in this program often have the option to take classes on a full-time basis, allowing them to complete their degree more quickly.

MS often takes 2+ years to complete

On the other hand, the Masters of Science (MS) program usually takes longer to complete, often requiring 2 or more years of study. This is because the MS program typically involves more in-depth research and theoretical coursework.

Students in the MS program are often expected to delve into a specific area of study and contribute original research to the field.

MPS has more flexible scheduling options

The MPS program typically offers more flexible scheduling options compared to the MS program. This is because the MPS program is designed for working professionals who may need to balance their studies with their professional commitments.

Many MPS programs offer evening, weekend, or online classes, allowing students to choose a schedule that works best for them.

MS thesis requires extended original research

One of the key differences between the MPS and MS programs is the requirement for a thesis. In the MS program, students are often required to complete a thesis, which involves conducting extended original research in their field of study.

This can be a time-consuming process, adding to the overall time commitment of the program.

Career Prospects

MPS prepares for leadership in chosen profession

One of the key differences between a Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) and a Masters of Science (MS) degree is the focus of the programs. MPS programs are designed to equip students with the practical skills and knowledge needed to excel in their chosen profession and take on leadership roles.

These programs often emphasize real-world applications and practical experiences, allowing students to develop expertise in their field. With an MPS degree, graduates are well-prepared to step into management positions and lead teams in their respective industries.

This can lead to exciting career opportunities and the ability to make a significant impact in their chosen profession.

MS readies students for scientific research roles

On the other hand, MS programs are typically geared towards students who are interested in pursuing careers in scientific research. These programs emphasize theoretical knowledge, research methodologies, and critical thinking skills.

Graduates with an MS degree are well-equipped to contribute to scientific advancements and conduct independent research in their field. They may find employment in research institutions, academic settings, or government agencies where their expertise can be applied to solve complex problems and make scientific discoveries.

MPS leads to promotions and career advancement

For individuals looking to advance their careers and move up the professional ladder, an MPS degree can be a valuable asset. The practical skills and knowledge gained through an MPS program can make graduates stand out in the job market and open up opportunities for promotions and career advancement.

With their specialized expertise and leadership capabilities, MPS graduates are often sought after for management and executive positions within their industries. Additionally, the networking opportunities and connections made during an MPS program can further enhance career prospects and open doors to new and exciting opportunities.

MS qualifies graduates for PhD programs

While an MPS degree focuses on professional development, an MS degree is often seen as a stepping stone towards further academic pursuits. Graduates with an MS degree are well-qualified to pursue a Ph.D. program in their field of study.

The research experience and in-depth knowledge gained through an MS program provide a strong foundation for further academic research and scholarly pursuits. Many universities and research institutions require an MS degree as a prerequisite for admission into Ph.D. programs, making it an essential qualification for those interested in pursuing a career in academia or conducting advanced research.

Cost Considerations

MPS may have lower tuition than MS in some cases

When it comes to choosing between a Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) and a Masters of Science (MS) degree, one of the key considerations is the cost. In some cases, MPS programs may have lower tuition fees compared to MS programs.

This is because MPS programs are often designed to be more affordable and accessible to a wider range of students. Universities offering MPS degrees understand that many professionals who pursue this degree are already working and may not have the financial means to invest heavily in their education.

Therefore, they strive to keep the tuition fees reasonable and competitive.

MS costs can be offset by teaching assistantships

On the other hand, Masters of Science (MS) programs may have higher tuition fees compared to MPS programs. However, it is important to note that many MS programs offer opportunities for teaching assistantships, which can offset the cost of tuition.

Teaching assistantships provide students with the chance to work closely with professors, gain valuable teaching experience, and earn a stipend or tuition waiver. This can be a great way for students to reduce their financial burden while pursuing an MS degree.

Earnings boost from both degrees often justifies investment

Regardless of the cost differences between MPS and MS programs, it is important to consider the potential return on investment. Both degrees can lead to increased earning potential and career advancement opportunities.

According to a study conducted by PayScale, individuals with a master’s degree earn an average of 20% higher salaries compared to those with only a bachelor’s degree. This means that the initial investment in a postgraduate degree can often be recouped over time through higher salaries and better job prospects.

Furthermore, the specific skills and knowledge gained through both MPS and MS programs can make individuals more competitive in their respective fields. Employers often value advanced degrees and are willing to compensate professionals accordingly.

Therefore, it is essential to consider the long-term benefits and potential earnings boost that both degrees can offer when making a decision based on cost considerations.


MPS and MS degrees offer two distinct paths to specialized graduate studies. An MPS prioritizes real-world skills for current professionals, while an MS provides research expertise to new scientists.

By weighing your background, interests, career goals, and budget, you can choose the right advanced degree for your needs. Either an MPS or MS will take your education and earnings potential to the next level.

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