How to Choose a Master’s Degree in the United States and Canada

A lot of time and effort goes into researching and selecting a master’s degree. Students must consider their interests, educational background, and career aspirations before making this choice. According to Erudera College News, Canada and the United States are two of the most popular study abroad destinations for international students. If you plan to pursue a master’s degree in either of these countries but aren’t sure where to begin or what you want to study, we’ve outlined some key information to make this decision easier for you.

A photo of Marshall University campus.

Courtesy of Marshall University.

Educational Background

Whether you choose to study in Canada or the US, your undergraduate degree doesn’t always have to be in the same field as what you study in graduate school. Often, fields of study are complementary. For example, a student with a bachelor’s degree in history might pursue a master’s in architecture.

However, if there’s little relation between your bachelor’s degree and prospective master’s program, the university may require you to complete prerequisite courses or provide documentation of related work experience. 

Many choose to pursue a master’s degree to advance or switch careers. Suppose you’re a financial analyst with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and are looking to move into a role as a finance manager. You may want to consider pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to support your career progression. 

Due to the time spent working in their field, many students will have a gap of one or more years between their undergraduate and master’s degree. Before applying to a master’s program, these students should be prepared to provide the university with their work experience documented on a resume and an explanation for the gap. 

Interest (Field of Work)

When selecting a master’s degree in Canada and the US, it’s crucial to align your interests and career aspirations to ensure the best study path for you.

Many students change their minds when picking a career, which can lead them to change their area of study. A student shouldn’t shy away from changing their career path because of their undergraduate degree. Say you’ve completed an undergraduate program in fine arts, but then realize that you have a growing interest in English. In that case, you shouldn’t let your previous education hold you back from pursuing a master’s in English. Being passionate about the field of work you enter is crucial, and your choice of master’s program should reflect your interests.

The master’s degrees offered in Canada and the US cater to a range of interests and are designed to set you up for success in your chosen field of work—whatever that may be.

How to Choose a Master’s Degree in the UK


Canada and the US offer international students flexibility when it comes to admission requirements for master’s programs. 

Many Canadian and US universities are relaxing standardized testing requirements to incentivize international students to apply to their institutions. This means that the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has become an optional application step at many universities. The GRE is no longer an admission requirement, but rather a way for students to strengthen their applications. 

Like the GRE, many academic institutions require students to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as part of their application process for programs like an MBA. However, more and more Canadian and US universities have removed this test from their admissions requirements. 

Both of these countries’ commitment to putting international students first and providing flexibility wherever possible makes them attractive study abroad destinations.

Program Duration

When choosing a master’s degree, it’s important to consider the duration of each program and the benefits of its length. 

Typically, master’s programs in Canada and the US are two years in duration. This is similar to Australian programs but longer than in the UK, where a master’s program is usually one year. Two-year programs generally offer students more practical experience, which gives them a competitive edge when applying for jobs. 

Many academic institutions in Canada and the US offer international students the option of pursuing an accelerated master’s degree. Students who apply for an accelerated master’s program can start taking courses toward their master’s in their first or second year of undergraduate studies and receive dual course credit for both their undergraduate and master’s degree. Accelerated master’s degrees save students the cost and time of application fees, extra courses, and graduate admission tests. Also, due to the compressed academic schedule, they often reduce the student’s cost of living and tuition expenses.

Different course durations offer their own sets of benefits, so consider your needs and goals carefully when making this choice.

University of Ottawa

Courtesy of the University of Ottawa.

Work Experience

Many US and Canadian academic institutions offer international students the opportunity to gain industry experience in their field.

If you want to pursue a master’s in the US and gaining work experience is a priority, choose a degree that qualifies for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

OPT can occur before or after an international student’s program ends. It provides them with the opportunity to work anywhere in the US that directly relates to their field of study and at every level of study the student will receive an extra 12 months of practical training. Conversely, CPT occurs during an international student’s master’s program, and allows them to gain off-campus work experience in their field of study. This experience is usually through an internship or practicum and must be directly related to their program​​typically students will receive course credit.

Students studying a master’s degree in Canada have many opportunities to gain practical experience. Typically a master’s program will offer students hands-on experience through a co-op placement, internship, or work experience. Although these are all slightly different by definition, each gives students the chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world work experiences. International students can also take advantage of Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), which allows eligible applicants to live and work in Canada for up to three years.

a-photo-of trine-university

Courtesy of Trine University.

Canada and the US are currently open to international students, and most schools are accepting applications for January, May, and September 2022 intakes. However, spots are filling up quickly due to COVID-19, so apply soon to hold your spot.

Explore exciting master’s degrees in Canada and the United States on ApplyBoard!