'Master's Student' or 'Masters Student' or 'MS Student': Which is Correct?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 11, 2022

When talking about a student in a Master’s degree program, do you call them a ‘Master’s Student,’ ‘Masters Student,’ or ‘MS Student’?

The correct answer is that you can say ‘Master’s Student’ or ‘MS Student.’ Both are correct, but it’s never correct, so say ‘Masters Student.’

Masters Degree or Master’s Degree – Which is Correct?

As you just learned, it’s correct to say ‘master’s student’ and not ‘masters student.’ That’s because the latter doesn’t show possession. You need an apostrophe in order to show possession.

Let’s talk about possessives briefly before going into further detail.

Understanding Possessives

A possessive is a word that shows who or what something belongs to.

When trying to form the possessive form of a word, you’d add an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to show ownership.

This is the case with a lot of other words.

Take a look at some examples:

  • Molly’s dog needs a flea collar.
  • The principal’s car was egged on Mischief Night senior year.
  • Grandma’s house always seemed so far away.
  • Joan’s hair looked beautiful in all those curls.

The ‘apostrophe s’ indicates that the student will be in possession of the degree. They are the master of the degree in this case.

Some words like this can be a bit confusing, such as ‘parent’s,’ which is the possessive form when talking about one parent and what they possess. The same rings true for words and phrases like ‘boy’s’ and 'roofs.'

Master’s Candidate vs. Master’s Student vs. MS Student

You might’ve also heard the term ‘master’s candidate,’ which just means that someone is a candidate for a master’s degree. That means they’re currently enrolled in a Master’s degree program in which they expect to receive a Master of Arts, Science, or Research in whatever field they chose.

So, can you say ‘master’s candidate’? Absolutely. You can use both terms because they mean pretty much the same thing.

You can also say MS student, which is a perfectly acceptable abbreviation for the degree.

Master’s Degree vs. Masters Degree 

You’d take the same approach when talking about a master’s degree as you would when talking about a student in a master's program. The master would be the person enrolled in the degree program, and they would take ownership of the degree. Therefore, you’d say master’s degree.

How to Use the Terms Correctly in a Sentence

 Now that we’ve learned a little bit about possessive let’s see how to correctly use these phrases in a sentence.

Let’s take a look at how to use the phrase in a sentence:

  • She’s a master’s student studying chemistry at Harvard.
  • I was a master’s student at the NYU School of Professional Studies.
  • I never knew being a master’s student was going to be so challenging.

If you wanted to use ‘master’s candidate' in any of the above sentences, you could easily do that. Each sentence would still make sense because the terms mean the same thing.

Final Thoughts on ‘Master’s Student’ and ‘Masters Student’

In closing, ‘master’s student’ is the correct way to use the term. You’d never say ‘masters student’ because it doesn’t show ownership (possession).

Remember, no apostrophe, no possession. You have to remember to use the apostrophe.

Our library of confusing words covers a bunch of different confusing words and phrases, such as ‘double check,’ ‘please advise,’ and ‘apportion versus portion versus proportion.’

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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