If you’re thinking of getting your master’s degree in an arts field, you may have two choices. You can either pursue a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). Here are some of the similarities as well as the differences in an MA vs. MFA, enabling you to choose the right master’s-level degree program for you.

How the Two Graduate Degree Programs are Similar

Both an MA and MFA provide a master’s degree for professions within the arts field. Each one can also help you advance in your desired role, which can help further your career. The more you learn, the better your ability to perform your work-related tasks with efficiency and clarity. This helps you grow while also sometimes preparing you for higher-level positions. So, how are these degree programs different?

Differences in a Master of Arts vs. Master of Fine Arts

One of the major differences between an MA vs. MFA is their scope of focus. An MA degree program tends to provide a rather broad focus on liberal arts and humanities careers, whereas an MFA program is generally narrower in focus, providing more detailed instruction about a specific discipline.

For example, if you want to learn more about the different ways we communicate, you may decide to pursue a Master of Arts in communication. But if you’re more interested in learning how to better communicate via the written word, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing may provide more information for this specific type of medium. Other fine arts specialties include painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture.

Another difference between a Master of Arts vs. Master of Fine Arts is how these programs help you progress. In an MA program, you can expect to be exposed to a lot of theories. This provides a stronger foundational understanding of certain topics, generally through reading about ideas and concepts developed by recognized experts in that field. Students in MA degree programs are also often encouraged to come up with their own opinions, regularly being asked to write out their explanations for such in long form.

Yet, in an MFA degree program, students often spend more time working on their craft than discussing theoretical approaches. This may be preferable to someone who is looking for a degree program in which they spend more of their time “doing” versus learning about past research.

There can also be differences in the length of the program when comparing an MA vs MFA. Oftentimes, an MFA program involves completing more credit hours than an MA program, which means that it will take you longer to earn your degree. In some cases, an MFA is given more weight in terms of credentials. So, this is a factor to consider as well.

Should You Get an MA or MFA?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. If you know you want a career in the arts but haven’t quite decided what that career looks like, you may be better off with an MA degree as it provides a bigger-picture view of the field instead of focusing on a narrower discipline. Conversely, if you know exactly what you want your career to look like, you may desire the greater detail provided in an MFA program.

It's also helpful to consider how quickly you want your degree. Since an MA program often requires the completion of fewer credits, you may be able to enter your career faster than if you pursue your MFA degree.

If You Are Ready to Start Working Toward your MA Degree…

Saint Leo University offers several master’s-level degree programs, many of which provide a Master of Arts degree. For instance, you might want to take the MA in creative writing program to help better prepare you to write novels or poetry. The MA in Theology program may be more desirable if you want to hold a leadership position in a church or other religious institution.

Saint Leo prides itself on providing graduate students a variety of flexible learning options, enabling them to obtain a degree online, on campus, or at one of 13 education centers around the country. Saint Leo is incredibly committed to serving all of its students, regardless of where they might be in their lives and careers.

You can learn more about Saint Leo University to help decide if the university is a good fit for you to earn an MA degree or one of many other undergraduate and graduate degrees across numerous high-demand fields.