The Master of Arts traces its origin to the teaching license or Licentia docendi of the University of Paris.
In Germany, the traditional equivalent of the postgraduate Master of Arts was the Magister Artium. This degree, which usually required 5 years of studies, did exist in former West Germany and in reunited Germany, but not in former East Germany where all degree courses led to Diplom degrees. Traditional Magister degrees were granted in social sciences and most of the humanities (International Business, Affairs, European Studies and Economics included), with the exception of visual and performing arts such as music and theatre.
The Magister Artium was either a double major degree or a combination of one major and two minors. German postgraduate Master's of Arts and Master's of Science degrees were introduced in 2001. Therefore, the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees existed side by side until the phase out of the old degrees since 2010; Magister Artium degrees are still awarded (as of 2014). The new Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees together also require 5 years of studies, which is the reason why the new Master of Arts and the old Magister Artium degrees are considered equivalent.
MA degree can be obtained after completion of 120 credits and 2 years of studies at the University of Hamburg.
In the Netherlands, the Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees were introduced in 2002. Until that time, a single program that led to the doctorandus degree (or the ingenieur degree in the case of technical subjects) was in effect, which comprised the same course load as the Bachelor and Master programs put together. Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, upon completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (before their name, abbreviated to 'drs.'; in the case of ingenieur, this would be 'ir.'), or simply use the master's degree (behind their name) in accordance with the new standard (so, 'MA' or 'MSc'). Because these graduates do not have a separate bachelor's degree (which is in fact – in retrospect – incorporated into the program), the master's degree is their first academic degree.