Investing even more money in your education might seem frightening; if you want to switch occupations, have interests in several different fields, or you are just looking to obtain a more lucrative career, you might be asking yourself: Can I get a master’s degree if my bachelor’s degree is in another field? Many universities and colleges offer college degrees as narrow, straight paths that lead to focused careers. The truth is that you have options when it comes to your academic career, and you don’t always need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field related to your intended master’s program. Whether you are a business executive with years of experience looking to explore a different field or you’re a first-time student pursuing your dream job, switching fields for graduate school is certainly a possibility, according to US News and World Report. As you get ready to shift gears, keep in mind that your college major does not determine your career. Here are a few considerations for pursuing a master’s that is unrelated to your bachelor’s.
Re-Evaluate Your Goals
Think back to who you were when you completed your undergraduate program. Whether that was several months or many years ago, chances are you have changed. In some cases, the college freshman who didn’t have specific life goals or who was unsure of his interests chose a bachelor’s program simply because he didn’t know what else to pick. Maybe you chose your major because of a passion you no longer have, or it was due to pressure from your parents or the school. Now facing more realistic goals for the future or an unforgiving job market, you are thinking of making a change. So, is it possible to earn a master’s degree in a completely different field than your undergraduate major? The answer is a resounding “yes!”
Research Master’s Degrees That Don’t Require a Related Bachelor’s Degree
As we have seen, depending on your undergraduate degree and the master’s program you wish to pursue, it is possible to find master’s degrees that don’t require specific bachelor’s degrees. If you are changing fields for your master’s degree and you are wondering what you can study with your undergraduate major, there are a few areas that can translate into nearly any graduate degree, including the liberal arts and humanities, education, physical therapy, business, design, and counseling. Below, we have taken this one step further and have compiled a list of specific master’s degrees you can get with any bachelor’s degree to help give you a better sense of your academic options.
- Master of Arts in English and Humanities
- Master of Arts in Education
- Master of Arts in Interior Design
- Master of Science in Forensic and Legal Psychology
- Master of Science in Information Technology
- Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Healthcare Management
- Master of Science in Health Education and Promotion
- Master of Business Administration
Other solid fields for master’s-level studies that do not require a bachelor’s degree in a specific discipline include finance, public relations, public health, and project management as well as marketing, nutrition, occupational therapy, social work, and information systems security. Depending on the master’s program you wish to pursue, you may wish to take the Subject Graduate Record Examination (GRE), even if it is not a requirement for admission into graduate school. A solid score on this exam can help to illustrate mastery of the subject matter, which ultimately shows that you can succeed in a new field, regardless of your undergraduate major.
Meet Prerequisite Requirements
If you are thinking of pursuing a master’s degree, unrelated bachelor’s programs may not satisfy course requirements at the graduate level. Therefore, you may find you need to complete additional classes prior to being admitted into graduate school. This can include a foreign language, a certain number of years in which the student gained hands-on experience, or a specific course. There are many graduate schools that allow students to make up these classes during their first year of the program. Other schools require that prospective graduate students have already completed these prerequisites before enrolling in the program. It is important to familiarize yourself with your prospective graduate school’s policies to determine your next steps. Depending on the school, institutions can be specific about how long it has been since you completed the prerequisites or from where they will accept credits.
There is no set standard for what is considered a “prerequisite.” For example, if you are asking yourself, “What master’s degree can I get with a Bachelor’s in Business?” keep in mind that business schools often focus on marketing technologies, teamwork, and strong communication skills. If you have earned a Bachelor’s in English degree, then you have prior experience working on a team via collaborations on papers, and you likely possess solid communication skills. Although you might be asked to take additional classes in marketing, you could potentially incorporate this coursework into your master’s degree to avoid pursuing a second bachelor’s degree. When you consult with the graduate school you plan to attend, ask: Does your master’s degree have to be in the same field? The admissions committee can provide a clear, concise answer and point you down the right path.
Seek Related Experience
What happens when your current and future career options are very different? If you have an undergraduate degree in art or graphic design, for instance, but you would like to work in healthcare, it is important to become acquainted with and familiarize yourself with the new industry. Interview a doctor or nurse, complete a summer class in CPR, or volunteer at a local hospice or hospital. Ultimately, the more you show interest in the career you wish to pursue, the better you will be able to convince graduate schools of your ability to succeed in the field.
In other words, be willing to go the extra mile if you fall short. For example, most master’s-level biology programs will not accept a student who has not taken science classes at the undergraduate level. This is true of nearly any field of graduate study. Therefore, to demonstrate competence, you may consider completing additional coursework or engaging in internships prior to applying. If, for instance, you have earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology degree and you are looking to pursue a Master’s in Biology program, take science courses that illustrate a solid background in the sciences. After all, you will want to use this related experience as a demonstration of your capabilities when it comes time to apply for admission to graduate school. Ultimately, enrolling in a graduate program, regardless of your major, is all about how well a student matches the program. If you can demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed, it may boost your chance of being accepted. Focus on the life experiences and skills that led you to switch your studies.
Consider Post-Baccalaureate Programs
Prospective graduate students may also consider taking advantage of post-baccalaureate, or post-bachelor’s, programs that are designed to provide the prerequisites that students need before they apply to graduate school. Depending on the school, students may even be required to complete a post-baccalaureate program before they will be admitted into a master’s degree program. Most post-baccalaureate programs can be completed in one or two years, and students can enroll on either a part- or full-time basis. Not only do students choose to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program in order to complete prerequisite coursework, some also attend for the opportunity to boost their undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) and thus improve their graduate or medical school application.
Consult the Admissions Committee
Once you have decided on a program, you can expect that the admissions team at your prospective graduate school may have questions regarding your interest and commitment in the field. You will want to make the connections between your undergraduate experience, your personal and work experience, and your intended course of study as clear as possible. Your references, resume, and essay are all appropriate places to make these connections. Choose individuals to write your recommendation letters who are familiar with your experience in the new field. These could be supervisors at relevant jobs or internships you have held, or professors of relevant courses. When making your argument about why the new field is the right fit for you, also make sure you are taking into account any non-major coursework or volunteering positions as well.
In terms of the admissions essay, this is your best chance to speak to the graduate committee. Use this essay to show how your experiences and education specifically align with your desired master’s program. Some fields, like English and law, relate to many courses of study. Discuss your passion for the field and how your previous experiences have prepared you for success. Draw attention to specific courses you took at the undergraduate level or in-person, real-world experiences that illustrate your competence or interest in the area you wish to study. For instance, an undergraduate psychology major looking to switch to a Master’s in Biology may choose to emphasize the areas in which psychology overlaps with biology. This can include his or her research experience, classes in statistics and methodology, and an emphasis on understanding the brain as it influences behavior.
Explain to the admissions committee why you want to transition to an unrelated field, why you have the experience and background to do so, why you will be a strong graduate student, and your professional goals for the future. Ultimately, admissions committees at graduate schools are looking for evidence of an applicant’s competence, knowledge, and interest. They want to know if a student will be able to complete the program requirements and whether he or she is a “good risk.” keep this perspective in mind, and you will have an advantage in the admissions process, despite having the “wrong” bachelor’s degree.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding
Does your master’s degree have to be in the same field? Absolutely not. Deciding when and whether to pursue graduate-level study is a personal choice often based on several factors such as local employment trends, budget, and career goals. To help you determine whether earning a master’s degree is the right choice for you, ask yourself the following questions before taking the next step.
1. Can I gain the skills and knowledge I want without pursuing a master’s degree?
Do you absolutely, positively need to earn a graduate degree to pursue your dream job? If you only need to acquire additional, specialized knowledge in the new field that was not taught in the undergraduate program, consider another path such as an independent study, on-the-job training, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) sites, or a second bachelor’s degree.
2. What is the projected return on investment (ROI) for my desired master’s program?
Although in most cases, earning a master’s degree generally allows professionals to command higher salaries, nothing is ever promised. Therefore, dig deeper into potential occupations as well as their respective salaries to truly understand both the ROI and financial value of the desired master’s. After all, if you will make this financial investment into your future, it is important to make sure that your money will be well-spend and pay off down the road.
3. What career options are available if I earn this master’s degree?
Before you even fill out the graduate school application, do some research to determine how earning a master’s degree will impact your future. Is the industry projected to decline or grow? Is competition for jobs in this field fierce? What, if any, jobs are available? Will you need to move to enjoy better employment prospects?
4. What kind of background or prerequisites does the prospective master’s program require?
Reach out to a faculty advisor or admissions counselor to get a better idea of what the school looks for in applicants. Once you have a solid understanding of the preferred applicant background, take a look at your academic experience and evaluate how well you fit this mold. Also, take the initiative to ask what you can do to better prepare for enrollment.
5. How big is the jump from my bachelor’s degree to my desired master’s program?
Some unrelated disciplines have more in common than others. For example, a bachelor’s degree in English more easily translates to a Master of Business Administration than to computer science. Think about how you can bridge the gap from your previous major to your future discipline.
Generally speaking, your bachelor’s degree can be in a different field from your prospective master’s degree. After all, most schools anticipate that students’ career and academic interests might change down the road. In fact, with many students counting on graduate schools to prepare them for new careers, there are quite a few colleges and universities that are looking for ways to help make the transition into a new discipline easier for students.
This new-found life reevaluation or career goal is courageous and positive — particularly because experience and passion for a field may be more important than the actual major chosen. So, if you can show real-life experience or a deep interest in a new field, your unrelated bachelor’s degree might not be as big of an obstacle as you might think. In most cases, obtaining a master’s degree unrelated to your bachelor’s major is very possible. While doing so might involve taking a couple of extra courses to qualify, shifting academic programs and career goals can be done.
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