I recently posted my First Impressions about Arcadia University, school that, among others, offers several options to earn a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree together within five years. These Bachelors-Masters programs in areas such as business, education, international studies and more are quite common in higher education.
It is sometimes difficult for me to comprehend the thought of a 17 or 18-year old high school student considering Bachelors-Masters programs. But there are circumstances where considering them might be a good idea.
Different colleges have differing philosophies towards AP and IB courses taken in high school as well as classes that high school students take at a community college that are also counted towards a high school diploma. Colleges may treat the credits earned as “transfer credits,” meaning that they may be credited towards a college degree. Or they may treat them as “advanced standing,” where you do not receive credit but you are invited to take a more advanced course in the subject. There are also, of course, colleges that consider the advanced courses for admissions purposes although their faculty do not grant either advanced standing or transfer credit for them.
In the cases where advanced standing or transfer credit can be awarded, Bachelors-Masters programs might be worthwhile. A Masters degree that usually takes two years to complete could be finished in a single year at a significant savings. For those who choose to attend Clark University (MA) or Lehigh University (PA), students who earn excellent grades would be able to pursue that Masters degree tuition free.
If the Bachelors-Masters program is an accelerated program–it treats a senior as a first-year graduate or professional school student instead of as an undergraduate–it will be possible to borrow more money, if necessary, as a graduate student for the last two years. The costs for the additional amount borrowed would be less than the costs of going to school full-time for a sixth year.
In which other circumstances would a Bachelors-Masters program be worthwhile?
Professional requirements. More and more professionals that have accepted a Bachelors degree in the past require additional credits beyond that degree. For example, the State of New York expects teachers to have completed a Masters degree to remain in their field and requires that Certified Public Accountants complete 150 credits, mainly business and accounting courses, to practice in their field. An extra year, especially if a scholarship is available, might easier to complete than an attempt to earn the Masters degree over several semesters of evening and/or online classes.
The reputation of your undergraduate school. Students who are already enrolled in a school that has strong undergraduate as well as graduate programs in their major could save on the costs of earning both degrees. This is especially true of schools such as Georgia Tech that are among the best science and engineering schools in the country. In these cases the masters degree will be helpful for career advancement. Those who are already enrolled for the bachelor’s degree at a school such as Georgia Tech and are doing well in their degree program will have fewer worries about being admitted as a graduate student.
The feeling that “its over.” This applies most to business professionals as well as elementary and secondary school teachers who know that they will need to pursue a masters degree if they plan to remain then advance in their careers. Pursuing a masters degree at night, especially at personal expense can be a long grind, taking time away from work and a personal life. A college student who is single, unobligated to a marriage or family and accustomed to schoolwork might prefer to go right into the masters degree and get it done rather than take time off, become reacquainted with coursework, and finish it later.
Possibility of further study towards a doctorate. This is probably more relevant for scientists and engineers than other professionals. They enter careers in government, industry and sometimes higher education unsure of a long-term career path, but are open to the possibility of pursuing a doctorate in the future if they want to become a professor or research professional. Pursuing the masters is a preview towards doctoral study as well as research and teaching careers.
The Bachelors-Masters program options are not heavily talked up when you visit college campuses. Admissions officers are marketing first to high school students who have yet to experience college life. High school students often have a general goal in mind (“I want to be an engineer,” for example). But they have little to no experience taking college-level classes in a college setting or working day to day with people in a field that they might want to work in after they complete a college degree. Admissions officers are there to sell a college experience first, though they also hope that a rewarding career experience comes to those who choose their school.
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