MS (Master of Science) degree is awarded in the fields of Science and Engineering. Some business schools offer MS programs in Finance, Accounting, Marketing and Management.Some Universities award an MS degree even in Liberal Arts, Political Science, Public Policy and other areas.
At US Universities the program duration is determined by certain credit hours and not by a fixed duration. One can take courses at a slow pace or at a fast pace leading to varied program duration. MS degree can take anywhere between 9 months to 3 years. 1.5 to 2 years is the usual completion period.
In terms of emphasis on coursework verses research, MS degree can be of three types:
1. MS with research/thesis. A typical program involves one or two semesters of research followed by one year of coursework.
2. MS with project. A typical program involves one project followed by one year of coursework.
3. MS with coursework only. A typical program involves one to one and a half year of coursework.
MS with research is more challenging, stimulating and valued in the market place as well as for future PhD admissions. One should always go for research option if available. For departmental funding, students with research based option are preferred.