While earning any tertiary degree is both a challenge and major accomplishment, going straight from your bachelor’s degree to a master’s is especially impressive. With many jobs — librarians, social workers, statisticians, nurse practitioners, and more — requiring a master’s degree at the entry level, a graduate degree can be necessary before you even begin working in your field of choice.
You may be asking how you can earn your bachelor’s and master’s quickly, conveniently, and affordably. Well, online accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs (also known as dual degree programs) shorten the process of earning an online master’s degree by combining it with your undergraduate studies. To help you understand whether an accelerated degree program is right for you, this guide looks at the basics of online bachelor and master degree combined programs, including popular programs, costs, timelines, and other considerations.
Top-Ranking Accelerated Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs Online
There are a lot of online bachelor and master degree combined programs out there, but figuring out the best match for you can be daunting. Every student’s definition of “best” varies depending on what field they want to study, their time constraints, their financial situation, and more, but there are a few schools and programs that are particularly strong and worth investigating.
To get you started in your search for accelerated bachelor’s and master’s programs online, several schools are highlighted in this section to illustrate quality related to offerings, student support, academic reputation, financial aid opportunities, ease of online learning, and more. Have a look at the spotlights below to see some good examples of online bachelor and master degree combined programs in a variety of fields.
Arizona State University (ASU) offers a wide variety of online degrees through its ASU Online distance learning program — including 40 different bachelor’s and master’s combined programs. Through ASU’s accelerated bachelor’s and master’s programs online, you can study fields ranging from biology to industrial engineering to political psychology with eligible programs for both MA and MS degrees.
ASU Online’s accelerated degree programs were previously known as “4+1” programs since you earn both a bachelor’s and master’s together in five years. Admissions are competitive, and the programs are highly rigorous. Interested students should contact ASU for further details about their preferred program and application instructions.
Oregon State University (OSU) has an Ecampus offering a variety of online accelerated master’s programs that allow current undergraduate students to take graduate-level courses, which are then applied to their bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate students in the accelerated graduate degree program pay graduate-level tuition rates that vary between programs.
Areas of study include business, computer science, education, environmental science, industrial engineering, natural resources, public health, public policy, and radiation health physics. Each program has different requirements that students must fulfill before they can apply for an accelerated graduate degree; generally, they need to obtain a certain level of credits, maintain a minimum GPA, and provide reference letters.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has specialized in online and distance learning for years. It offers a wide range of online degree programs, including six accelerated online bachelor’s and master’s dual programs. These include programs from accounting to sports management that are available 100% online and allow you to begin your graduate-level studies before you finish your bachelor’s degree.
As a distance learning institution, SNHU emphasizes flexibility for students. Classes begin multiple times per year, allowing you to apply whenever works for you and begin your studies as soon as possible. Financial aid, student support, and career services may be available throughout your program.
The Graduate College at Western Michigan University (WMU) has a wide range of both in-person and online degree programs. This includes their Accelerated Graduate Degree Programs where students earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees through a single, five-year program.
WMU offers dozens of different degrees in an accelerated format with options as diverse as counseling psychology and chemical and paper engineering. Unlike at some universities, the accelerated graduate program through WMU does not have a universal set of admissions requirements. Instead, you should check individual program pages to learn more about what you need in your program of choice.
Unlike some of the other programs profiled, the accelerated bachelor’s and master’s online program at Western Governors University (WGU) is a highly specialized program in information technology. In addition to a bachelor’s and master’s degree, you earn multiple third-party IT certifications with the certification cost already included in your tuition.
These certifications can help you stand out as you enter the workforce. This fully online, highly flexible program works with students and offers a fully customizable schedule. Further, WGU prides itself on being affordable with graduate tuition only slightly higher than the rate charged undergraduates. This accelerated dual degree program also allows you to pay mostly the undergraduate rate through much of the program.
Benefits of Accelerated Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs Online
Even if you’re aware of some of the programs available for earning a combined online bachelor’s and master’s, you may still wonder if it’s the best option for you. There are a wide range of benefits to earning your degree in an accelerated program, and some of the major ones are discussed in this section.
When Will I Graduate? Combined Degree Program Timelines
Common Admission Requirements for Combined Degree Programs
Now that know what to look for when researching online combined bachelor’s and master’s programs, it’s time to consider preparing your applications. Here are a few common requirements for your combined degree application.
How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Combined Degree Online?
Before you begin your integrated bachelor’s/master’s program, get a good idea of how much your degree will cost and begin lining up financial aid in the form of savings, loans, grants, and scholarships. Combined degrees are generally less expensive than earning two separate degrees but still represent a significant financial commitment.
Moreover, even among combined master’s/bachelor’s programs, costs vary significantly due to factors like public versus private school tuition and whether you’re eligible for in-state tuition. The table below compares the costs of several different universities offering combined degree programs to give you a rough idea of the financial commitment you’ll be making in a dual degree program.
Online Bachelor and Master Degree Combined Funding Options
As you apply for your combined degree program, also apply for financial aid. This includes filling out your FAFSA on time to be eligible for federally-backed loans and grants and researching private programs that can help finance your degree. It also includes scholarships/grants and fellowships you are eligible for based on your course of study or demographics.
Also be sure to check with your school about financial aid opportunities specific to your program. Schools often offer both need-based and merit-based aid and can help you navigate the process. Examples include ASU Online’s scholarship programs and SNHU’s school-specific scholarship programs.
Interview With an Expert in Accelerated Degree Programs
Patricia Roberts is the COO of Gift of College, Inc., an organization aimed at helping individuals save for college and pay down student loan debt. Ms. Roberts has helped students and families finance the college experience, including accelerated degree programs that are right for them.
Tell me a bit about your background. What's your experience with combined/accelerated bachelor's/master's programs?
I am the author of Route 529: A Parent’s Guide to Saving for College and Career Training with 529 Plans and Chief Operating Officer of Gift of College, Inc. I help families avoid or minimize student loan debt by educating them about a) ways to prepare in advance for higher education expenses; b) ways to make sensible decisions when the time comes to pursue degrees; and c) how their employers might be able to lend a hand. The topic of accelerated or joint degrees comes up in my work in the context of cost savings. I also help employers offer tax-free student loan repayment assistance and college savings support as financial wellness benefits in the workplace.
While I did not pursue a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree, I did attend law school at night while working full time and can appreciate the effort, sacrifices, and ultimate rewards involved in pursuing multiple priorities at the same time. I also appreciate the sense of accomplishment that remains for years following an achievement such as this. Lastly, in my own experience, I have observed on many occasions that employers who hire students who have pursued higher education in an untraditional way benefit from the priceless skills that are developed in these pursuits and wind up with great respect for the determination and focus that went into obtaining academic credentials in this fashion.
What kind of student would you say does best in this kind of program?
A student who is well-organized, motivated, and able to focus would likely do well in an accelerated or dual degree program.
Is there anything students should bear in mind when applying for this type of program?
Depending on the area of focus and the quality of the program and institution, I do believe obtaining an undergrad and grad degree on a combined or accelerated basis can be advantageous from a cost perspective and from the perspective of being able to enter the workforce with enhanced qualifications in a shorter timeframe.
Before pursuing an accelerated or joint degree, however, I recommend researching the level of success graduates achieve in obtaining desired employment and at what compensation levels. Since employers typically value relevant work experience and/or internships in addition to academic credentials and since you may need money to support yourself during your course of study, be sure to determine whether and how you can fit meaningful work experience into your course load. Determine if you would have time for part-time employment during academic semesters or full-time employment over breaks, where applicable.
Would you say it's possible to maintain a work/life balance in an accelerated program?
Let’s face it, a heavier emphasis will likely need to be placed on studies at certain times, but it’s important to remember those times won’t last forever. These will likely be short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. And while the actual hours you spend on non-academic aspects of your life may be understandably fewer during an accelerated degree program, if you focus on the quality versus quantity of your downtime, you can still feel a sense of balance and satisfaction.
Before pursuing an accelerated program, do your research. Be sure to talk to students who have already done so and learn about their experiences. They will be well-positioned to offer advice, and with the benefit of hindsight, suggestions on anything they wish they had done differently.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give to a combined bachelor's/master's student who's just transitioning into their graduate studies?
Set yourself up for success by putting a support network in place. Your network would likely include others in your academic program with whom you can study or collaborate, friends and family — fully outside of your academic circle — who can be sources of emotional support and encouragement, and professors and academic and career advisors whom you can turn to for guidance along the way. Pursuing a dual or accelerated degree can feel like an isolating experience at times. Don’t go it alone.