Think about your master’s degree now

Fast track your education, and earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years (instead of six or more)

Think about your master’s degree now

Want to speed up your education? Save money?
Find an outlet for your hyper-ambitiousness? Try considering five-year combined undergraduate/graduate degrees.

Five-year programs generally entail taking a slightly larger-than-usual workload during your sophomore and junior years of college, and beginning your graduate work while a college senior. That lets you finish a master’s degree with only one extra year on top of undergrad instead of two or more.

Avoid burn out
Lauren Kemper, a psychology major at Pace University in New York City, knew that she wanted to apply for the university’s five-year program in psychology the second she heard it existed.

“It cuts a year off your school, and in the field that I’m going into, if you don’t have a master’s degree, you’re in trouble, because you basically can’t do anything with a bachelor’s in psychology,” she says. “Some students get a little burnt out with six consecutive years of schooling, so a five-year program makes it more manageable.”

Save moola
Another added perk of the five-year program is that it saves you money. With the rising cost of college tuition, slicing a year off your education could save you anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000!

Rosemary Schultz is an academic adviser at Hudson Valley Community College who occasionally counsels students who finish two years at community college then transfer into a five-year program.

“Five-year programs can be very cost-effective,” she says.

Where to find them
Rachel Drof, a student at the University of Rochester’s William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, is in a 3+2 program to get her MBA. “As a psychology major, I was very aware that an undergrad degree in psychology would not get me the kind of career I desired. During one of my psychology classes, I was exposed to consumer marketing and began to research career opportunities in the field. I was particularly interested in brand management and an MBA is often required for this job.”

The Albany College of Pharmacy (ACP), a division of Union University in Albany, N.Y., is specifically designed so all students are five-year students. Aspiring pharmacists who intend to graduate from ACP are ready for the workforce.

At Pace University’s New York City campus, there is a five-year publishing program offered to English majors. Students who have at least a 3.2 GPA can apply in their junior year to enter the five-year program, where they can earn two distinct degrees in two more years’ time.

At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the Columbian College of Liberal Arts and Sciences pairs up with the George Washington University Law School to offer students a fast track to the legal world with a six-year B.A./J.D. program. Students enter the college as freshmen and exit as ready-to-practice lawyers.

George Washington University also offers a five-year B.A./M.A. in women’s studies, among other degree programs.

Some schools also facilitate five-year programs in partnership with other schools.

Georgetown University has a program where students at participating colleges and universities finish three years of Latin American studies at their colleges and then start a graduate program in international relations at Georgetown when they otherwise would be seniors.

This allows students to save time and money, and the opportunity to experience another campus.

Worried that going to the same college for your undergrad and master’s will cheat you on experiencing two different campuses? Worry about something else instead.

“I don’t think grad school is an experience the way the undergraduate experience is because I think a lot of people are working (at jobs) through graduate school,” Kemper says. “The only default of the program is that you don’t get your bachelor’s until you finish the master’s degree component.”

How to find the perfect five-year program Make sure you plan to do what you love! Though not all five-year programs are binding, usually the students who pursue them are relatively firm in their future career goals. Prepare yourself for competition, and make sure you choose a career path you’re willing to commit to.

Talk to your school counselor. He or she will know if participating in a five-year program is best for your occupational aspirations, and will be able to share information on five-year programs.

Search online. Many schools have unpublicized five-year programs tucked away on their Web sites. Search for your college or major, plus “combined bachelor’s/master’s program” or “five year program”.

Keep your grades up. Most five-year programs require good grades in high school that continue strong through college. Strive to maintain at least a 3.0.

Start researching combined bachelor’s/master’s degrees while in high school. Some programs start freshmen on the path to a master’s immediately; others require you to apply for the master’s portion junior or senior year of college. You’ll want to know what opportunities exist at the college before you enroll. 

My Story 
Deanna Myers-King is a student at University of Mary Washington who will graduate from the school’s five-year elementary education master’s program.

Q: What degree will you receive after five years?
During my undergraduate studies, I majored in linguistics and child language development and graduated in four years. While in my undergraduate years, I was accepted into UMW’s elementary education master’s program, and I began to complete courses in education and those for my major.

Q: Why did you choose to get a bachelor’s and master’s in five years?
A: When I began college, my family was already helping pay for my brother to attend college, so I knew completing both these degrees in five rather than six years would save my family a great deal of money. I was persuaded by the fact
that I could jump into my career one year sooner than if I completed a traditional master’s program.


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