Post Contributor(s): Marian Kennedy and Alisha Johnson, a domestic graduate admissions coordinator at the Clemson University Graduate School
While a graduate degree
sounds prestigious, many students want to make sure that they will get a good
return on the investment (both money and time that could have been spent in
other ways). One option to shorten the
time needed to earn a master’s degree is to enroll in a BS/MS program. Such programs allow students to start the higher-level
courses and research projects during the last year or two of their
undergraduate programs. You’ll take some
approved graduate-level coursework as an undergraduate
that counts toward both your BS and MS degrees. This allows to you complete a MS degree in one
additional year – not two – after completing
your BS program. You’ll also be
able to skip the application fee, time assembling the application, and GRE test
score that a traditional MS degree requires.
Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash
A BS/MS program is good for someone who has already identified that they want to work in industry or would like to become more competitive for a professional school (such as medicine or dental programs). For those going into industry, earning a master’s degree can increase your relative compensation and opportunities at your company.
At the same time, BS/MS programs are not perfect for every situation. First, to enroll in one you need to know early that you are interested in the program. Because BS/MS programs are intended to be a thread between the undergraduate and graduate programs, you need to apply prior to graduating with your bachelor’s degree and still have a portion of credits to complete. Typically, you need to apply by the end of your junior year. However, there is no penalty to applying and changing your mind. There is no obligation to complete the intended master’s degree if your plans change. Another downside is that BS/MS programs typically are approved only for certain BS-MS program pairings. That means if you are seeking to switch fields between your undergraduate and graduate degrees, you may be out of luck. Lastly, most BS/MS programs are designed only for full-time students.
If you are interested in pursuing a BS/MS program, look at the specific requirements of your institution. Each seems to have a slightly different set of policies and application requirements related to this program. For example, some universities require you to have a 3.0 to get into the BS/MS program, while others will require a GPA of 3.5 to be accepted. In general, each institution was you to show that you are academically ready for the graduate classes. At my currently institution, entry into a BS/MS program is often restricted to students who have completed a high number of credit hours (such as 90 credits hours) and with a relatively high GPA (above 3.4).
Reflection from Dr. Kennedy on her BS/MS experience: I found the BS/MS program very helpful personally. It allowed me personally to dive into graduate level research with an advisor I enjoyed working with. I had been working in his research group since sophomore year of my undergraduate program. Entering the end of my junior year, I was unsure if I wanted to pursue a research career and was hesitant to commit to a PhD program. It turns out I loved the process and stayed for a PhD. It was also easy for me to change topics. I wrote a thesis for my MS and then switch research areas for my PhD dissertation. If you end up staying in the same focus area or know that you want a PhD as your end goal, I might suggest just enrolling in the BS/MS and then switching to the PhD prior to completion of your MS thesis. That allows all of your research work to be included in your PhD dissertation.
Acknowledgements: This blog post was edited by Kate Epstein of EpsteinWords. She specializes in editing and coaching for academics, and she can be reached at kate at epsteinwords.com.