Of course, some students immediately transition from college to graduate school. However, the conventional wisdom has always been that graduate school is most useful once you have a few years of work experience under your belt.
Well, rules are made to be broken. And in the Social Age, there is no area of society where that is more relevant than higher education. And some schools have already developed programs that allow students to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time.
Enrolling in a five-year accelerated master’s degree program is not as simple as tacking on a few graduate-level courses in your fifth year. It requires planning your program, and weaving the higher-level courses into your curriculum as you go.
For example, a program in fire science might offer a typical four-year bachelor’s degree, with the option of replacing several upper level courses in the fourth year with graduate level classes. Upon completing the bachelor’s degree, you can then apply those graduate credits toward a master’s degree in public administration, which you can expect to earn in one year of full time study.
These accelerated programs are typically completed in five years, rather than the six it often takes to earn both degrees. While such a program does require one “extra” year of full-time study when many students are eager to get out of the classroom and into the working world, there are some significant benefits.
Of course, one fewer year of classes helps keep costs in check. Some accelerated programs, however, reduce costs even further by charging students undergraduate rates for graduate level classes taken while earning their bachelor’s degree. In some cases, the per-credit cost for a graduate course can be several hundred dollars higher than undergraduate. So even a few courses taken at the reduced rate eliminates a significant chunk of the overall cost of education.
According to a U.K. study, about 86 percent of people who earn graduate degrees are employed within six months of graduation — compared to about 60 percent of those with just an undergraduate degree.
So that “extra” year outside the workforce? Well, that could be a year you’re looking for work anyway!
Not only are you more likely to land a job, but it’s probably going to pay better as well.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries for those holding a master’s degree average about 20 percent higher than those for bachelor’s degree-only candidates.
Many graduate students report getting back into the rhythm of academics is challenging after you’ve been out of school for several years. In addition, few people go to graduate school full-time, and most are balancing school, family, and work responsibilities.
By transitioning directly into a master’s degree program while earning your bachelor’s degree, you don’t lose your academic momentum, and graduate ready to take on the working world.
While the idea of jumping right out of the gate with a master’s degree is appealing, it’s not necessarily right for everyone.
Accelerated degree programs tend to be rigorous, and require intense focus and dedication. Most universities limit the number of credits that can be “double-counted” for both the bachelor’s and master’s degree, so you will still need to take 9 to 12 additional courses, depending on your program. If you intend to complete your master’s degree in one year, that means taking on a full course load every academic period.
Maintaining a rigorous class schedule as a full-time student for an extra year isn’t the only consideration, though. Master’s degree programs tend to be highly specialized, and geared toward people who have some experience in the field – or at least a specific career goal in mind. Unlike a bachelor’s program, they aren’t designed for exploration and “figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.” Unless you’re certain you want to pursue a career in a particular field, a five-year master’s program might not be an ideal fit.
But if you have clearly defined goals and a commitment to your studies, an accelerated master’s program can set you on the path to career success much more quickly than you thought.
Consider all the options, and ask yourself: is an accelerated graduate degree right for me?