What is a Master's of Applied Science Degree? (Plus FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For candidates in the STEM fields, earning a master's degree is often an important prerequisite for employment. Some candidates choose to earn a Master's of Applied Science or an MAS after completing their bachelor's degree. If you are considering a career in the sciences, technology or engineering, it may be helpful to learn more about MAS degrees. In this article, we explain what applied science is, explain the different types of MAS degrees, list the benefits of these degrees and answer some frequently asked questions about earning an MAS degree.

Related: 9 Jobs for Applied Physics Graduates

What is applied science?

Applied science is an area of study that focuses on applying mathematical and scientific principles to practical problems. Applied science includes a variety of subfields and is used in many industries, including manufacturing, engineering, medicine and technology. Students who study applied science focus more on using science to create products and overcome everyday challenges, while traditional science students focus on the theoretical and academic aspects of science.

Related: 10 Types of Applied Sciences: Career Paths and Benefits

What is a Master of Applied Science degree?

A Master's of Applied Science degree is a graduate-level college degree that teaches students to apply scientific principles in the real world. While some institutions have dedicated Master's of Applied Science programs, many universities split their degrees into more specialized areas, like food science, biomedical engineering or applied physics. Unlike pure science graduate degrees, MAS programs focus on preparing students for a career, rather than an academic research path.

Related: Choosing a Master's Degree to Fit Your Career Goals

Areas of focus in a Master of Applied Science degree

The field of applied science includes a wide variety of subfields and many master's degrees in applied science have different names. When looking for an MAS program, these are some of the concentrations you might encounter:

  • Applied biological sciences: Applied biological sciences degrees teach students how to apply the principles of biology to a variety of technical fields. Students in these programs may pursue careers in agriculture, bioengineering, medicine or pharmaceuticals.

  • Applied physics: Applied physics students study the major concepts of academic physics and learn how to use them to solve real-world problems. These students can apply their skills to fields like aerospace engineering, materials science, nuclear energy and renewables.

  • Agriculture: Agriculture students apply principles of chemistry, earth science and biology to food production. They may study a wide variety of subjects, including animal husbandry, genetics and breeding, soil science, horticulture, botany, microbiology, pathology and aquaculture.

  • Computer science: Computer science is a discipline that focuses on information, data structure, computation and automation as well as software and hardware design. Degrees in computer science can prepare students for a wide range of jobs in the technology field.

  • Data science: Data science is a field that applies mathematical and scientific principles to structure, analyze and store electronic information. Data science is closely related to computer science and is an in-demand skill in a wide variety of industries.

  • Applied mathematics: Applied mathematics is a broad field that studies the effect of mathematical methods and principles on practical problems.It has a wide variety of applications in engineering, statistics, economics, social science and technology.

  • Applied statistics: Applied statistics is a branch of applied mathematics that deals with data collection, estimation, inference and analysis. Statistical principles are important for professionals in the social sciences, economics and computer science.

  • Pharmaceutical sciences: Pharmaceutical sciences or pharmacy is a field that combines principles of biology and chemistry to develop and study medications. Graduates of pharmaceutical sciences programs have a wide variety of job opportunities in medicine and the pharmaceutical business.

  • Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology is a field that applies molecular biology, physics, engineering, materials science and chemistry to manufacturing at the molecular level. It is a rapidly growing field, and students who study nanotechnology can obtain a wide variety of research, design and industrial jobs in the tech industry.

  • Applied chemical sciences: Applied chemical sciences is the applied form of chemistry and studies material properties and chemical reactions and how they relate to practical problems. Professionals in medicine, chemical engineering, energy, biotechnology, agriculture, food science and many other fields apply chemical principles to their everyday work.

  • Applied analytics: Applied analytics is closely related to data science and deals with delivering insights through data collection and analysis. Analytics is now a vital part of many businesses and professionals with this degree have a variety of work opportunities in enterprise.

  • Urban science and informatics: Urban science and informatics is an interdisciplinary field that combines data science, statistics, urban planning and social science. These professionals often work to overcome challenges faced by communities in urban centers.

Related: What Is a Master's Degree?

Benefits of earning a Master of Applied Science degree

Earning an MAS can provide many of the same career benefits as other master's degrees. As a STEM degree, it also offers some unique opportunities for employment. These are some of the primary benefits of earning a Master's of Applied Science:

  • Variety: Applied science degrees are available in a wide variety of sub-disciplines which can prepare you for a career in many vital industries. Depending on your choice of program, you could work in fields as diverse as agriculture, nanotechnology, software design, pharmaceuticals or economics.

  • Demand: Applied science degrees fall into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) category, which is one of the most in-demand degree categories in the job market. This is because they focus on hard skills that are important in some of the world's fastest-growing industries, such as software development, information technology and biomedical engineering.

  • Competitiveness: Earning a master's degree is often a huge asset when looking for jobs, especially in competitive industries. An MAS degree can demonstrate your expertise to potential employers and help you compete more effectively with other candidates.

  • Eligibility: Many jobs in STEM fields require candidates to have a graduate-level degree in their discipline. Earning an MAS degree may make you eligible for an increased range of positions within your chosen field.

  • Networking: During graduate school, students often have the opportunity to spend more time with their professors and meet other professionals in their field. This allows them to build a professional network before they leave school, which may provide them with increased opportunities in the future.

  • Work in a growing field: Depending on your chosen concentration, a Master's of Applied Science can prepare you to work in some of the fastest-growing career fields. This includes, technology, data science, pharmaceuticals and biomechanical engineering.

  • Practicality: Unlike some other degrees in the STEM category, applied science degrees focus heavily on practical skills and real-world problems. Because of this, applied science students may have more work opportunities than pure science and mathematics majors.

FAQs about Master's of Applied Science degrees

If you want to know more about applied science master's degrees, you can explore these answers to common questions:

How long does it take to earn a Master's of Applied Science Degree?

Like most other master's degrees, it takes the majority of full-time students two years to complete a master's degree in applied science. This can vary based on what your research requirements are. Some students require one or more extra years, especially if they also hold a job.

If you have an open schedule and are interested in earning your degree quicker, some schools offer accelerated programs that involve summer classes. If you are planning on working while you earn your master's, it may be helpful to find a hybrid or online program. These programs allow you to create a more flexible schedule and study when you're free.

What jobs can you get with a Master's of Applied Science degree?

There are a wide variety of jobs available for Master's of Applied Science degree holders, but your options will differ based on your area of concentration. Before you choose a degree program, it might be helpful to decide which careers you are interested in. This can help you find the right program and plan your research.

For example, if you are interested in a career in the tech industry, you could consider studying computer science, applied statistics, nanotechnology or data science. If you want to work in food science, you could find a program that offers a good applied chemistry or agriculture program. Before you choose a program, consider talking to a professional in the field you're interested in. They may be able to give you a degree recommendation and help you find a good school.

What is the difference between an MAS and an engineering degree?

Applied science and engineering are closely related fields that often overlap. Engineers use scientific and mathematical principles to design solutions to everyday problems, much like professionals in applied science. The main difference is that applied science covers some areas that aren't traditionally covered by engineering, such as pharmaceuticals, statistics and data science. Many applied science degrees also focus slightly more on research, although not as much as pure science degrees.

In many universities, engineering and applied science programs are closely related. Some schools may classify their engineering programs as applied science or administer their applied science degrees through their engineering department. If you are interested in pursuing a career in a traditional engineering discipline like civil engineering, mechanical engineering or chemical engineering, it may be better to earn an engineering degree that an MAS.

What is a PSM degree and how does it relate to an MAS?

PSM stands for Professional Science Master's. These degrees are closely related to MAS degrees and teach students scientific principles that are applicable to the business world. A PSM degree often includes additional material not covered in MAS programs, such as business skills, communications and administrative skills. Because of this, they sometimes have less intensive science requirements. Common focuses for PSM degrees include data science, cybersecurity, sustainability, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and engineering management.

What are the requirements to enter a Master's of Applied Science program?

The entrance requirements for a Master's of Applied Science are very similar to those for other graduate degrees. The most important is a bachelor's degree in a related subject. For applied science students, this could include a major in a pure science like chemistry, physics, or biology, or a degree in engineering. The requirements may vary based on the concentration you want to pursue, and other applicable majors could include computer science, pharmacy or mathematics.

Like other master's students, MAS candidates take the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) and require a passing score for admission. Most master's programs also require candidates to maintain a good GPA during their undergraduate studies, usually a 3.0 or higher. Additional requirements include letters of recommendation, academic transcripts and sometimes professional experience.

What are the requirements to graduate with a Master's of Applied Science degree?

Graduation requirements for Master's of Applied Science students are often similar to those of other master's students. Part of their degree consists of classroom instruction in high-level math and science courses. These courses vary by concentration and the exact number of credits required to graduate can vary by school. Most schools require master's students to earn 30 40 credit hours.

The most important requirement for MAS students is completion of an in-depth research project or thesis. These projects form a unique research contribution to their field and demonstrate the student's expertise in their area of study. A student's thesis often consumes much of their time, especially in the second year of the degree. During their thesis, students work closely with a professor in their department called a thesis advisor. In the student's second year, they write a lengthy research paper summarizing their work, and present it to the faculty of their department for review.

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