Graduate school may be the place to go to earn an advanced degree, but not all master’s degrees are equally challenging. Some programs require students to take fewer classes and earn fewer credits in order to graduate. In other programs, the coursework itself is easier and more fun. Certain master’s degree programs have a reputation for being easy because there’s no thesis required, or simply because they don’t carry much weight in the job market.

Some master’s degrees are easy in a good way. They can improve your career prospects or earning potential without requiring a great deal of time, effort or financial investment. Other degrees viewed as easy might not be worth the hassle needed to earn them. Of course, individual students may have different viewpoints when it comes to how easy a given subject is to study, especially at the graduate level.

1. Liberal Studies

Liberal Studies

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A Master of Liberal Studies or Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree is perhaps the graduate degree with the broadest possible focus. This interdisciplinary graduate degree program requires students to complete core studies in subjects such as culture, religion, science, ethics, media studies and social science and social issues. In many liberal arts degree programs, elective courses make up half of a students’ curriculum, if not more. Often, students are encouraged to use their electives to pursue a concentration or emphasis area, such as science and nature, religion, writing, culture or gender. A graduate degree in liberal studies may not require students to complete a full-fledged thesis – a lengthy paper containing your own original or personal research. However, master’s degree programs in liberal studies often do require that students complete some sort of culminating experience or applied project. When earning a degree in liberal studies, you’re completing a well-rounded curriculum that focuses on developing versatile skills such as writing, research and critical thinking as well as acquiring graduate-level knowledge about a range of topics.

At the associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels, liberal arts or liberal studies is viewed as one of the easiest degrees a student can earn. It’s no surprise that the graduate version of the degree is also perceived as easy. The degree’s broad focus and its emphasis on developing general soft skills – however valuable those skills may be – make the program seem far easier than a graduate degree that requires advanced technical skills in math, science or technology. The wealth of electives also works to make the degree program easier and more fun than many other graduate programs which offer students less freedom to choose classes merely because they seem interesting. Additionally, while the skills students develop while earning a degree in liberal studies are important for success in a variety of careers, few jobs call for this degree specifically. Students and graduates of liberal studies degree programs are likely to get sick of hearing the question, “What can you do with a master’s degree in liberal studies?”

What Makes It Easy: A broad curriculum, plenty of electives, a focus on developing soft skills, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, a lack of focus on career preparation 

The Hardest Part: Cultivating analytical thinking and communication skills, completing a major project as part of a culminating experience

Career Opportunities: Journalist, editor, publicist, manager, politician, policy analyst, manager and many more

2. Teaching and Education

Teaching and Education

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While the vocation of teaching is certainly a demanding one, earning a graduate degree in the subject is far less so. Two popular graduate programs are the Master of Arts in Teaching degree and the Master of Education degree. A graduate teaching degree is a master’s degree meant to prepare students with a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education for a teaching career. Coursework often includes teaching fundamentals and methods, tests and measurements, educational psychology, curriculum instruction, child and adolescent development and classroom behavior management, according to U.S. News & World Report. While Master of Arts in Teaching degree programs typically don’t require a thesis, they do require in-person student teaching experience, which means they can’t be completed fully online. On the other hand, the Master of Education degree is for licensed teachers who want to develop further expertise in educational leadership, instruction, theory and goal setting, according to U.S. News & World Report. Both degree programs often require just 30 credits and can often be earned in as little as 18 months, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Whether right or wrong, education has a reputation for being an easy degree path at all levels of study due to factors like high average GPAs among graduates and a focus on fun and creative courses. At the graduate level, the program is perceived as easy for other reasons, too. Earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree allows students to attain their teaching certification in far less time than it would take to start over at the undergraduate level and earn an entirely new bachelor’s degree. Master of Education degrees, too, often seem easy. The rigor of a Master of Education degree program varies significantly from one school to another, yet earning this degree – even from a program known for its easy curriculum – can lead to a significant boost in salary. While a few states do require teachers to attain a master’s degree to maintain their teaching license, most students in a Master of Education degree choose to advance their education for the salary bump. The quick completion time of these degrees adds to their easiness.

What Makes It Easy: A fast degree program, variations in how rigorous the coursework is, non-thesis options for completion, popularity due to opportunity for a quick salary boost

The Hardest Part: Completing face-to-face student teaching requirements, completing a research project or portfolio

Career Opportunities: Elementary school teacher, middle school teacher or high school teacher

3. Business Administration

Business Administration

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A Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree is a graduate degree in business. The M.B.A. has long been considered one of the most in-demand and marketable master’s degrees in business, in part due to its versatility, making the degree program very popular among both online and traditional students. The coursework in an online M.B.A. degree program includes studies in finance, accounting, management, business strategy, operations, information systems and marketing, according to U.S. News & World Report. Most online M.B.A. degree programs take one to two years to complete, though part-time students may take considerably longer to earn their degrees. Many M.B.A. degree programs are designed for working professionals and may require students to have a minimum number of years of experience working in the business world before they apply. By the time students graduate from an online M.B.A. degree program, they should have the leadership skills to manage projects and people, a solid understanding of supply chain management and management information systems and the analytical skills to make sound strategic, marketing and management decisions.

Having an M.B.A. degree can improve candidates’ career prospects and earning potential, but the degree path can still come across as easy for several reasons. For one thing, while some programs require applicants to have a certain score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), other degree programs have no such requirement, according to U.S. News & World Report. The curriculum of an M.B.A. degree program is broader than that of more specialized graduate business programs, such as Master of Accounting or Master of Finance degrees, and it requires less technical knowledge and in-depth studies of individual subjects. A thesis is typically only required in M.B.A. degree programs that are meant to prepare students to eventually earn a doctoral degree, a research degree that is more academic than professional in nature. While an M.B.A. degree still provides value, its popularity has led experts to fear that the job market will soon become oversaturated with M.B.A. degree holders, and that the degree won’t be as prestigious or lucrative as it once was.

What Makes It Easy: A broad curriculum, a focus on developing soft skills in business, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, the fear of market oversaturation

The Hardest Part: Cultivating a broad range of business skills

Career Opportunities: Human resources specialist, human resources manager, financial analyst, financial manager, management analyst, marketing manager or computer and information systems manager

4. Health Care Administration

Health Care AdministrationIMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

Health care administration is the discipline that focuses on the business operations needed to effectively run a health care facility like a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. When pursuing a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree online, students take courses in a variety of business subjects, such as management, marketing, human resources and finance, all with a focus on applying these concepts and practices to the field of health care. Core coursework typically includes health care financial management, health care law and compliance, leadership in health care administration epidemiology and health planning, health care ethics and decision making, health care information systems, health care strategies in competitive markets, global health and medical supply chains, according to U.S. News & World Report. Students in an online health care administration degree program may have to complete in-person practicum courses and a thesis or capstone project, though not all schools have this requirement. Some programs give students the opportunity to specialize in a topic such as health informatics, health care ethics, acute care or maternal and child health.

Some graduate health care administration degrees are easy to earn, while others are challenging. There’s a great deal of variation among health care administration degree programs from one school to another. An online health care administration degree program can require anywhere from 32 credits to 60 credits to complete, which means students could be looking at a two-year program or a four-year program, according to U.S. News & World Report. Admissions requirements, too, differ from one school to another. Some online health care administration degree programs require applicants to have years of experience working in the field of health care already as well as a competitive score on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) standardized test. Other online health care administration degree programs admit students with no prior health care work experience and don’t require applicants to take the GRE test at all. Students who are interested in a master’s degree in health care administration should look carefully at the program’s curriculum and admissions requirements before they select a school so that they can choose the program that best fits their needs.

What Makes It Easy: The lack of required test scores and work experience for admission into some programs, the opportunity for a quick salary boost in some degree programs that require fewer credits to graduate

The Hardest Part: The face-to-face practicum course requirements in some programs, the length of some extensive degree programs

Career Opportunities: Medical and health services manager, health care social worker, medical records and health information technician or administrative services manager

5. Corporate Communications

Corporate Communications

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For students who have – or simply value – strong communication skills and want to put those skills to work in a marketable field like business, a Master of Corporate Communication degree can be a great choice. Similar degrees include the Master of Arts in Public Relations and Master of Science in Communication Management. Coursework in a corporate communications program might include digital marketing and advertising management, public speaking and communication abilities, strategic marketing, internal communication and change management, reputation management, external communications, branding, social media management, crisis communications, research methods in communication, visual communication and media relations. Basically, earning an online master’s degree in corporate communications or a similar field will equip students with all of the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the communication aspects of business. In a role in corporate communications, employees may be responsible for everything from developing marketing and advertising plans for improving consumer sales to overseeing communications practices within the company and from handling stockholder messages to managing the company’s public image.

Despite the importance of developing skills in research, reading, writing and critical thinking – for just about any career path, in the business world or otherwise – degree programs that focus on building communication skills are often perceived as easy. They tend not to require much in the way of science or mathematics coursework or studies in quantitative research. The soft skills students cultivate through their studies in corporate communication, while important, tend not to command as much respect as technical skills would. However, attaining these isn’t a quick or easy process. Developing strong communication skills often takes a great deal of time-consuming practice. The workload of a graduate course in corporate communications, public relations or a similar subject is likely to be writing-intensive, so students should plan accordingly. However, the programs themselves are generally quick, with many taking two years to complete and some requiring as little as 10 months of study.

What Makes It Easy: Quick to complete, a focus on developing versatile communication skills rather than technical knowledge

The Hardest Part: A curriculum full of writing-intensive courses that can be time-consuming

Career Opportunities: Marketing manager, public relations manager, advertising manager, internal communications manager, external communications manager and corporate communication officer (CCO)

6. Mass Communication

Mass Communication

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Studying mass communication means studying the strategies used in sending out mass messages through print and broadcast media as well as other forms of communication. In a graduate degree program in mass communication, students complete core classes in subjects like mass communication theory, history of mass communication, multimedia journalism, strategic communication, international mass communication, media and communication law, qualitative and quantitative research methods in mass communication, advertising, journalism studies, emerging technologies and communication management. Many master’s degree programs in mass communication allow students to pursue a specialization in a subject of their choice. Popular specializations include digital strategy, political communication, health communication, social media, online communication, global strategic communications, communication studies, public relations management, public interest communication, marketing communication research and audience analytics. Some mass communication degree programs require students to complete a thesis that contains their own original work and research, but many schools offer non-thesis tracks that don’t require this lengthy project.

Most master’s degree programs in mass communications require 30 to 36 semester hours of study, so the degree can be completed in just two years. A program that requires students to write a thesis is, naturally, more work-intensive than a non-thesis degree program is – and many outsiders fail to realize that a thesis is mandatory for some mass communication degrees. Even without considering the time it takes to earn the degree or any thesis requirements, studying communications at the graduate level has a reputation for being easy. At least a master’s degree in corporate communications is viewed as marketable due to its connection to the field of business. Without the focus on corporate principles and practices, a graduate degree in communication tends to command less prestige and come across as an easier field of study – even when there’s a great deal of overlap in the actual coursework students complete. Regardless of its appearance as an easy degree, students considering a graduate program in mass communication should be prepared to spend a great deal of time on research and writing.

What Makes It Easy: A focus on developing versatile communication skills, a short time to graduation, non-thesis tracks in many degree programs

The Hardest Part: A curriculum full of writing-intensive courses that can be time-consuming, developing communication skills for challenging situations, cultivating in-depth knowledge in a mass media specialization

Career Opportunities: Journalist, public relations specialist, public relations manager, press secretary, media relations consultant, political campaign consultant or speechwriter

7. Art Education

Art Education

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In an online Master of Arts in Art Education degree program, students develop their knowledge of art concepts and history as well as their practical skills in using artistic techniques and their leadership abilities. Graduate students in an art history degree program often take classes such as art history, the history of teaching art, curriculum in teaching art, issues in art education, research methods, globalization of art and art education, artistic development, art education in alternative settings, digital images and videos, color theory and design thinking. Master’s degree programs in art education often have to complete hands-on studio courses, as well, either on campus or as online courses that require the use of real-world skills. Studio courses may include work in various media, such as sketching and drawing, painting and ceramics. Art education graduate degree programs typically require around 30 to 36 college credits, and full-time students can complete their degrees in as little as two years.

Perhaps it’s only natural that art education would get a reputation for being an easy master’s degree program. After all, education is often considered an easy program of study, and not only at the graduate level. Art tends to come across as a fuzzy discipline, particularly to outsiders who base their perceptions of difficulty on how many laboratory science classes a curriculum requires or how many advanced mathematical formulas are needed in the work. Combined, these to fields create a degree program that doesn’t call for the same level of extensive studio experience students might find in a Master of Fine Arts program or the same level of focus on classroom management and student evaluation. However, it can certainly be challenging for a student whose focus historically has been developing their own artistic style to learn how to teach the fundamentals of art, nurture artistic development in students who have a different style and develop the skills to evaluate such subjective work. All the while, art education graduate students need to keep building their own skills, too, so that they can demonstrate artistic techniques to their students.

What Makes It Easy: A subjective field of study, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, fewer required studio courses compared to fine arts degree programs

The Hardest Part: Completing required studio work (possibly on campus), developing teaching skills in addition to art skills

Career Opportunities: Art teacher, art professor, museum curator or art gallery director 

8. Music Education

Music education

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Like an art education degree program, a Master of Music in Music Education degree program prepares students to work in specialized educator roles. Coursework typically consists of a combination of music education foundation classes, music core courses and supplemental courses in music and music education. Students might take classes such as music education philosophy, history of music education, psychology of music, research in music education, instructional design in music education, musical learning assessment, technology in musical learning, theoretical analysis in music education, creative thinking in music, music of the world and American vernacular music. Students in a Master of Music in Music Education degree program might also have to complete a capstone course or project. Often, a capstone project for a graduate music education degree program requires a student to work independently, although under the supervision of a faculty advisor, to develop their own collection of music education materials and resources.

Music education tends to seem like an easy subject to earn a master’s degree in for many of the same reasons as art education. The field of music is seen as a fun and creative discipline. Though success in playing or teaching music requires a great deal of discipline and practice, the work comes across as less rigorous than a degree program that has a science- or math-heavy curriculum. The challenges of evaluating performance in such a subjective field of study only makes music education seem less rigorous, rather than more so. Additionally, graduate degree programs in music education can seem easier to get into as well as to complete. Many such programs don’t require applicants to even take the GRE test, much less achieve a minimum grade on the exam. Master of Music in Music Education degree programs are often short in length, requiring just 30 to 39 credits, or two full-time years, of study.

What Makes It Easy: A subjective field of study, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, the perception of being a fun field of study

The Hardest Part: Having the dedication to succeed in students’ own musical development, studying the complex theories of music and music education

Career Opportunities: Music teacher, college music professor, conductor, band director or nonprofit music program director

 9. Family, Youth and Community Sciences

Family, Youth and Community Sciences

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Family, youth and community sciences is one example of a master’s degree that seems fairly specific but that still has a reputation as an easy subject of study. When students pursue studies in counseling or social work in the context of youth and family situations or nonprofit community organizations, they learn skills that give them a real opportunity to make a difference. A master’s degree program in youth and family services typically includes coursework in youth development theory, theories of family development, youth and family relationships, adolescent problematic behavior and program planning and evaluation. A program that focuses more narrowly on leadership of nonprofit community organizations, on the other hand, is likely to include studies of governance and leadership, nonprofit management, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, public relations, volunteer development, ethics and risk management. Graduates from a Master of Science degree program in a field like family, youth and community sciences work in nonprofit organizations, especially those that focus on serving youth, as well as human services, community development and counseling services.

As a Master of Science degree program that often requires coursework in research, scientific reasoning and research design, students might be surprised to see a degree in family, youth and community sciences on the list of easiest master’s degree programs. As an interdisciplinary degree program, the study of family, youth and community sciences may seem like less of a “real” science compared to disciplines like biology or chemistry, which often require a great deal of mathematics and laboratory courses. Though the degree program does include some research, master’s degrees in family, youth and community sciences are often non-thesis programs that don’t require extensive research studies. Job prospects with a master’s degree in family, youth and community sciences can seem somewhat fuzzy. Some of the jobs a degree like this can prepare students for, such as marriage and family therapist, are on the low-paying side considering the level of education they require, which adds to the perception that this degree must be easy to earn.

What Makes It Easy: Non-thesis options, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, an interdisciplinary program of study

The Hardest Part: Learning to design and conduct research in the field

Career Opportunities: Counselor, family therapist or community development leader

 10. Health Education and Behavior

Health Education and Behavior

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There’s no question that earning an advanced degree in the field of health care can be difficult. However, some programs of study related to the health care industry are easier than others. A graduate degree program that focuses on health education has a reputation for being one of the easier health-related programs of study. Students often complete core coursework in health education principles, health education philosophy, planning health education programs, theories of health behavior and practice, principles of epidemiology in public health and methods of evaluating health education programs. Elective courses such as medical terminology for health professionals, social marketing in health, health communication, health promotion programs for priority populations, women’s health issues, drug education and patient health education round out the curriculum of a master’s degree program in health education. Students who graduate from a health education degree program have the skills to become advocates for healthy behavior and to develop, implement and evaluate health education programs.

Unlike earning an advanced degree in medicine, nursing or physician assistant studies, attaining a master’s degree in health education and behavior doesn’t prepare you for a role providing direct patient care in the setting of a health care facility. Health educators can look forward to a positive job outlook, with the BLS predicting a faster than average growth rate of 13 percent over a decade. However, health educators make considerably less than other health care professionals with a master’s degree, like nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Even diagnostic medical sonographers, who can start their work with only an associate’s degree, earn tens of thousands of dollars more per year than health educators do, according to the BLS. One reason why is that health educators are considered part of the community and social service industry rather than the health care industry. However, there are definite challenges involved in a degree program in health education. For example, some programs require students to complete professional exams such as the Certified Health Education Specialist exam prior to graduating.

What Makes It Easy: A focus on education and advocacy rather than direct patient care, fewer advanced laboratory science courses than other health care degree programs, non-thesis options

The Hardest Part: Learning medical terminology, meeting graduation requirements such as passing professional certification exams

Career Opportunities: Community health educator, health promotion specialist or worksite wellness manager

 11. Reading and Literacy Education

Reading and Literacy Education

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Reading is an essential skill, but as a subject of study at the graduate level, it seems like an easy degree program. Often, a Master of Education degree in the subject of reading or literacy education requires coursework in subjects such as teaching reading in elementary school, teaching reading in secondary school, trends in reading, classroom literacy assessment and instruction, diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties, teaching strategies for non-native speakers of English, children’s literature, media literacy, composition theory and practice, literacy and culture and digital storytelling. Some online reading and literacy education master’s degree programs require students to complete an in-person practicum experience in which they attain hands-on skills in diagnosing reading difficulties and working with students to address these difficulties. Some master’s degree programs in reading or literacy education are non-thesis options, while others require either a thesis or some sort of final research project. Graduates of a reading and literacy education program have the skills to assist preschool to high school students in developing their reading skills.

Since most states don’t require a master’s degree to attain a teaching license, going to graduate school for reading and literacy education can seem almost frivolous to outsiders. While teachers who earn a graduate degree do see that salary bump, focusing narrowly on reading and literacy education means spending less time during their graduate studies on broader – and potentially more versatile – advanced skills in classroom management and instruction. Educators often manage to teach students to read and write without earning a specialized degree in the subject of literacy. However, it’s hard to understate the importance of having the skills to help students develop a solid foundation when it comes to reading and writing. After all, they will need to use these skills throughout their lives – regardless of whether they go to college or trade school and whether they work in senior-level roles or unskilled labor positions. Reading and writing may seem easy once you know how to do it, but for students who are struggling with their first attempts at literacy, having a teacher with specialized knowledge in the subject can be invaluable.

What Makes It Easy: Non-thesis options, what comes across to critics as too narrow a specialization

The Hardest Part: Learning techniques to help students who struggle with reading and writing

Career Opportunities: Preschool teacher, elementary school teacher, middle school teacher or high school teacher

 12. English Literature

English Literature

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At the graduate level, most English or English literature degree programs typically award a Master of Arts degree. Coursework in a master’s degree program in English literature might include an introductory course such as graduate studies in English language, which covers the fundamentals of linguistics for students who aspire to teach English or to write effectively in the language. Other core classes might cover composition theory, literary theory at the graduate level, methods of teaching writing, American literature, British literature and global literature. Often, students choose electives that focus on specific works of English literature classified by time period, style or cultural perspective. Some Master of Arts degree programs in English literature require students to write a thesis based on their research and analysis of literature, while others offer non-thesis options that instead allow students to take additional courses in lieu of developing this lengthy paper. Non-thesis English degree programs may still require students to complete some sort of capstone project or experience.

Studying English or English literature has a reputation for being easy at many different levels of study, and a master’s degree program is no exception. For one thing, students who have grown up speaking, reading and writing English are essentially dedicating two more years to the study of a language they have already known all their lives – often, after studying English at the undergraduate degree level, too. No wonder outsiders, who at the graduate degree level are delving into complex new classes in advanced coursework, see the discipline as an easy one. Even if that wasn’t the case, most students who pursue a master’s degree in English literature naturally enjoy reading for fun, so they are essentially earning a degree in a favorite hobby. If you really want an easy degree program, then look for a non-thesis option. There are plenty such programs available, which again adds to the perception that English literature is one of the easiest online master’s degrees.

What Makes It Easy: A lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, many non-thesis program options, a fun topic to study, familiarity with students’ own native language

The Hardest Part: Learning complicated linguistic concepts as they relate to the English language, analyzing complex works of literature

Career Opportunities: Writer, teacher, editor, communications director or public relations manager

13. Library Science

Library science

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A Master of Library Science (MLS) degree prepares students for careers in which they assist others in finding resources and research. The library science degree programs offered at some graduate schools go by slightly different names, such as Master of Information Studies and Master of Library and Information Studies. Over one to two years of study, library science students learn research strategies, the selection of library materials, online reference systems, information organization and Internet search methods, according to the BLS. Library and information studies degree programs often offer specialties such as information systems, digital librarianship, law librarianship, health librarianship, archives and preservation, school library media and services for children and youth, according to U.S. News & World Report. The profession of librarian is seeing slower than average job growth, but choosing a degree program accredited by the American Library Association and developing the skills needed to work in a specialized library can improve job prospects for MLS graduates.

Much of what makes a library science degree program seem easy is a matter of perception. A librarian does more than pick out books that would be fun for library visitors to read and check library materials in and out. Research isn’t easy, and neither is developing the skills to accomplish it effectively, especially as technology keeps evolving. However, since people don’t typically see the research work that goes on behind the scenes, the role may seem far simpler than it is. Additionally, earning a master’s degree in library science may not be enough to attain a job in a specialized type of library. Students might need a law degree to work in a law library or a medical degree to attain a position in a medical library, according to the BLS. This factor can make a standard Master of Library Science degree seem both easier and less valuable, even though the skills it helps students cultivate are just as essential in special libraries as they are in school and public libraries. However, learning to work with data and conduct research efficiently can be challenging, as can meeting the thesis requirements that exist in some online MLS degree programs.

What Makes It Easy: Non-thesis options, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, a perception that the career is easy, quick degree completion time

The Hardest Part: Learning research and data management skills, keeping up with changing technologies, needing additional degrees for specialized work opportunities

Career Opportunities: Librarian, media curator, archivist or archival consultant, data manager or analyst, research or technology coordinator or project manager 

14. Education Leadership and Administration

Education Leadership and Administration

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A master’s degree in education leadership and administration is the degree that’s typically required to become a school principal. Graduate students in an educational leadership and administration degree program typically complete coursework in subjects such as teacher leadership, teacher development, a principal’s role in curriculum development, school law and finance, finance and resources management, effective instruction, program evaluation, ethics in education, school improvement, technology and communication in schools, multicultural education and leadership in urban, rural and suburban settings, according to U.S. News & World Report. Before a student can apply to an online master’s degree program in education leadership and administration, he or she must typically have a teaching license as well as direct experience educating students in the classroom. The curriculum at some master’s degree programs in education leadership and administration may require students to complete supervised in-person fieldwork in school settings, according to U.S. News & World Report.

A master’s degree program in education leadership and administration tends to come across as an easy degree program for many of the same reasons other education degrees seem easy. Many master’s degree programs in education leadership and administration offer a non-thesis track, which means completing the program is more a matter of checking off a list of courses than conducting independent research. A graduate degree in education leadership and administration typically takes two years to complete, but some accelerated programs allow students to earn their degrees in as little as 14 months. Students in an education leadership and administration degree program don’t have to take a great deal of science and math courses. Despite this reputation, being a school principal is a somewhat demanding job, and the degree programs that prepare aspiring principals for this work have to cover a variety of skills that the leader of a school or school district must possess.

What Makes It Easy: Non-thesis options, quick degree completion time, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses

The Hardest Part: Developing a broad range of school leadership skills

Career Opportunities: School principal, assistant principal, department chair or instructional coordinator

15. Human Services

Human services

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A master’s degree in human services is a graduate-level program that prepares students for an occupation in which they serve others. The field of human services encompasses various roles in mental and physical health care, foster care, community services and social services. Both Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees are awarded in the discipline of human services, though neither type of program typically requires a great deal of studies in the hard sciences or mathematics. Required core coursework typically includes studies of subjects such as human services theory, research in the field of human services, scope of human services, policy issues in human services, skills for human service professionals, social inequality and social change professional ethics in human services and human service management and development, according to U.S. News & World Report. Because human services is such a broad and varied field, many online programs that award a master’s degree in human services allow students the opportunity to pursue an academic concentration or specialization. Specialized tracks that are popular with students include studies in criminal justice, leadership, public health, social and community services, global services, human services administration, gerontology and family studies and intervention, according to U.S. News & World Report.

A part of what makes a master’s degree in human services seem easy is the fuzzy understanding outsiders often have of what exactly “human services” actually means. The broad nature of the field of study may make it seem easy, but students enrolled in human services graduate degree programs face the pressure to succeed in studying every aspect of the field. There may be few complex mathematical equations or laboratory science requirements in a master’s degree program in human services, but learning how to serve a wide range of different types of communities presents challenges of its own. While many online human services degree programs offer a non-thesis track, graduate students in this field may still have to do some sort of capstone project that showcases what they have learned. Additionally, earning potential in the field of human services varies a great deal. While some human services workers earn wages well above the median, the association between the field of study and the low rates of pay reported for some positions can make the degree program seem like it must be an easy one.

What Makes It Easy: A broad field of study, non-thesis degree options, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, a reputation as a low-paying career field

The Hardest Part: Learning human services policy and skills as they relate to many different communities, completing a capstone project

Career Opportunities: Social services case manager, foster care program coordinator, mental health counselor, grant writer, wellness director, social and community service manager, nursing home administrator or medical and health services manager

16. Public Administration

Public Administration

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A Master of Public Administration degree is the graduate degree used to prepare candidates for work in government entities and agencies. Just as business professionals in the private sector need an education – like an MBA program – to learn how to run the daily operations of a business, civil servants, too, need training to manage the operations of public programs. Public administration degree programs typically include coursework in subjects such as public administration theory, policy analysis, administrative law, government fiscal decision-making, research and strategic planning, homeland security defense practices, human resources, effective city management, management information systems for public and health administration, leadership and organizational management theory and finance in public administration, according to U.S. News & World Report. Often, students pursue a specialization such as emergency management, human resources management, nonprofit management, homeland defense, public affairs administration or health care administration. Some programs require students to complete an in-person internship, especially if they don’t have prior experience working in the public sector or in nonprofit administrative roles.

Despite its focus on doing good – such as facilitating programs that help people across the United States – the career field of public service doesn’t have a reputation for being among the most prestigious or exciting professional paths. Yet the job can certainly be demanding. Administrators and leaders in the public sector have to excel at the same management and operations skills that their private sector counterparts must cultivate. A public administration is, in many ways, similar to the more respected Master of Business Administration degree. Of course, that also means that the graduate degree program has many of the same characteristics that can make an M.B.A. degree seem easy, including a broad range of subjects of study, a short time to degree completion and plenty of non-thesis program options. However, even non-thesis tracks may require students to complete some sort of applied policy research and analysis project during their studies. A number of online Master of Public Administration degree programs consider applicants who haven’t taken graduate tests like the GRE or GMAT.

What Makes It Easy: A broad curriculum, a focus on developing soft skills in management and operations, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, non-thesis program options, admittance without graduate test scores

The Hardest Part: Developing a broad range of administrative and management skills, completing an internship or professional development requirement

Career Opportunities: Nonprofit organization program manager, contract administrator, policy analyst, public health administrator, government program analyst, city manager, executive director or director of operations

17. Leadership and Management

Leadership and Management

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What exactly does it mean to earn graduate degree in leadership? When you study organizational leadership and management at the graduate level, you typically graduate with a Master of Science or Master of Professional Studies degree in the subject. Students of an online organizational and management degree program focus less on the analytical aspects of organizational management and more on developing personal and creative skills needed to be an effective leader, according to U.S. News & World Report. Graduates of a master’s degree program in leadership and management build the communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills necessary to work well with others and to help workers at every level succeed. A master’s degree program in leadership often requires students to take core courses in strategic organizational behavior, conflict management, collaborative communication, strategic thinking and change, ethics and social responsibility and, of course, leadership more generally. Students might also pursue a specialization such as project management, human resource management, nonprofit management, health care management or organizational and leadership coaching, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Does a student need to spend an additional two years studying at the graduate level to be a good leader? Many excellent managers seem to have natural leadership skills, which can make a master’s degree in organizational leadership and management seem somewhat superfluous. However, not every ambitious business professional who aspires to move into a management position naturally knows how to inspire and motivate others effectively, and even students who do have innate leadership skills can improve their abilities through practice. It isn’t always easy stepping out of your comfort zone and learning to take the reins. Leadership requires students to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Another reason the degree is considered easy is because many online master’s degree programs in leadership offer non-thesis options. However, even students who select a non-thesis track may need to complete a capstone project that ties together what they have learned throughout the degree program and requires them to apply that knowledge to finding solutions to real-world management problems.

What Makes It Easy: A focus on building soft skills in leadership, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses, a broad curriculum in management, non-thesis program options

The Hardest Part: Developing skills outside a student’s comfort zone, completing a required capstone experience or thesis

Career Opportunities: Management analyst, training and development manager, human resources manager, medical and health services manager, computer and information systems manager or top executive  

18. Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

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Criminal justice is the study of government institutions and practices as they relate to deterring and punishing crime. At the graduate level, studies in criminal justice may culminate in a degree in criminology, homeland security or forensics. Different graduate criminal justice degree programs view the field through different lenses and prepare students for different roles in the career field. A criminology master’s degree explores the sociological and psychological factors that contribute to criminal behavior through coursework in crime and justice public policy, criminal behavior and social problems, legal institutions and society, correctional theory and practice and specific types of crime, according to U.S. News & World Report. Graduate degrees in homeland security prepare students specifically for roles protecting the nation from terroristic crimes and threats and include coursework in national security and intelligence, emergency management, crisis and disaster communication, critical infrastructure and cybersecurity, network management, risk management, strategic planning, negotiation and domestic and international terrorism, according to U.S. News & World Report. A forensic science master’s degree program equips students with the skills to study crime scene evidence, requiring courses such as forensic analysis, forensic chemistry, forensic biology and toxicology, according to U.S. News & World Report.

While these individual degree programs may be grueling, as a whole, graduate degree programs that fall under the umbrella of criminal justice tend to be seen as easy fields of study. In part, this may be due to a perception that the degree simply isn’t that valuable. Forbes ranked criminal justice as “the worst master’s degree for jobs,” citing mediocre job satisfaction rates and growth predictions as well as a relatively low median mid-career salary for candidates who hold a master’s degree. Of course, that doesn’t mean that either work in the field of criminal justice or graduate-level studies of the discipline won’t be fulfilling or worthwhile for the right student. Criminal justice remains a popular field of study. Additionally, certain master’s degree programs in criminal justice, like the interdisciplinary study of criminology, may seem less than demanding due to their lack of focus on the hard sciences and technology.

What Makes It Easy: Interdisciplinary focus and lack of required science courses in some programs, non-thesis program options

The Hardest Part: Courses in research and forensic science

Career Opportunities: Crime scene investigator, criminologist, intelligence analyst, forensic scientist, security manager or detective

19. Sports Management

Sports Management

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What exactly is a degree in sports management? A Master of Science in Sports Management degree is a graduate business degree with an emphasis on the sports industry. Though the degree program focuses on how business concepts and practices are applied to the sports industry specifically, the interdisciplinary curriculum of a master’s degree in sports management introduces students to a broad range of management topics, including sales, marketing, public relations, finance, economics, research methods and organization management. Students in a graduate sports management degree program take classes such as sport and society, research methods in sport management, sport marketing and media, internationalization of sport business and finance and economics of sport. While many master’s degree programs in sport management are non-thesis programs, these degree programs may still require students to complete a capstone course, an internship or both. Students may also get to choose elective courses in the field of sports management or in other disciplines that complement their program of study.

You might expect the specialized nature of a graduate degree program in sports management to challenge the perception that the degree is an easy field of study. However, the focus on sports means students are essentially devoting their studies to a recreational activity and entertainment industry. Even though the specialization may not seem “serious,” it makes sense, particularly given the lucrative nature of the professional sports industry. A master’s degree program in sports management still includes a breadth of studies in general business topics, even if students are learning to apply them specifically to the sports industry. Like an M.B.A. program, this degree program focuses on helping students build versatile business soft skills – even if the emphasis is on how to use those skills in the sports industry – rather than technical skills and knowledge. Additionally, Forbes ranked sports management as the second worst master’s degree for jobs, which gives critics even more of an excuse to lump this degree in with easy programs of study.

What Makes It Easy: An interdisciplinary curriculum, a focus on developing soft skills for business, a broad focus on varied business subjects and applications, a lack of required advanced science and mathematics courses

The Hardest Part: Completing required capstone experiences and internships, developing a broad range of business skills while still focusing on the sports industry

Career Opportunities: Sports team manager, sports marketer, recruiter, agent or athletic director

20. Law (LLM)

Law

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A Master of Laws (LLM) degree is a graduate degree, typically offered at law schools, which equips attorneys with more specialized knowledge in a particular subfield of law. Most Master of Laws students are practicing attorneys who have already earned their traditional law school degree and attained a license to practice law in one or more states, according to U.S. News & World Report. However, the LLM degree program is also an option for lawyers who were educated in foreign nations and need to supplement their equivalent of the United States law degree with studies into the workings of U.S. law in order to become licensed to practice law in America, according to U.S. News & World Report. LLM programs are specialized programs of study. Popular specializations for Master of Laws students include tax law, estate planning, health law and policy, human rights law, real property development, international law and information technology and privacy law, according to U.S. News & World Report.

You may be surprised to find the Master of Laws degree on the list of the easiest master’s degrees. An LLM is not the same as a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which is the degree that accredited law schools in the United States award graduates and that puts candidates on the path to careers as attorneys. Because the Master of Laws degree isn’t essential to begin practicing law, critics may question if there’s a point to studying this field. Practically speaking, completing an LLM degree program doesn’t give candidates much of an edge in the job market. Typically, earning a Master of Laws degree has little effect on salary, according to U.S. News & World Report, which is another reason why many people might not see much of a point to earning this advanced degree. However, the highly specialized knowledge that students gain in their LLM studies, and the networking opportunities they enjoy even when studying online, can combine to help improve long-term job opportunities.

What Makes It Easy: A lack of required science and mathematics courses, little impact of the degree on salary, not required to begin practicing law

The Hardest Part: Meeting admissions requirements such as having a Juris Doctor degree and a license to practice law

Career Opportunities: Attorney

Editor’s Note: Any prospective student who is contemplating graduate school should have realistic expectations about the ease of a master’s degree program. Any graduate degree program entails advanced studies into one or more disciplines and will require a great deal of work, even if it has a reputation for being an easy program of study.