How would you like to graduate from college with two degrees, one of which might be a master's or other advanced degree? If that sounds intriguing, find out why a combined degree program may be just your ticket.
Do you want to start your graduate studies as soon as possible? Do you want to save time and money getting your advanced degree? Are you strongly interested in two fields of study? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions—and you are ready to hit the ground running—take a look at colleges that offer combined degree programs.
What Is a Combined Degree Program?
A combined degree program is a formal plan of study for completing two degrees simultaneously. The courses you take are not necessarily different from those of regular degree programs. It is the pace at which you take them that is different. You are likely to carry a larger course load and put in longer hours than your classmates taking regular degree programs.
You normally apply to these highly competitive programs after you have been admitted to the college, usually in your freshman or sophomore year. Most programs require a minimum college GPA. Some even require that you enter college with AP or college credit already under your belt. If you are accepted into a program, you might take all courses at your original college or divide your time between two or more colleges.
Combined Degrees Come in Two Flavors
Accelerated degree programs allow you to earn a bachelor's degree and a graduate degree in less time than it would take to pursue the degrees separately. Such programs give both undergraduate and graduate credit for some courses, allowing for faster progress through the curriculum. Students typically take a rigorous course load during the sophomore and junior years and begin graduate school during the senior year. For example, an aspiring medical doctor might begin coursework at a medical college as a junior and enter the formal MD program as a senior.
Dual degree programs usually include two bachelor's degrees. These programs are not accelerated and may require a fifth year of college. They may make sense for any number of reasons. For example, a student may have a strong interest in two different academic fields. Or he or she may want to combine a career-oriented degree with a complementary degree, such as museum studies and art history. A dual degree program is not the same as a double major. A student pursuing a double major satisfies the requirements for two separate major programs but earns a single degree.
Available Fields of Study
Accelerated degree programs are usually career oriented. They are widely offered in the sciences, health care, education, law, and engineering. Emerging accelerated degree fields include business, public administration, hospitality, real estate, and communications.
Dual degree programs are available in any number of fields. One common option is to combine a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Bachelor of Science degree. This way, a student gains the advantages of a liberal arts education while also graduating with a practical (and employable) degree in an applied field such as engineering.
Deciding If a Combined Degree Program Is Right for You
Since combined degrees demand an extraordinary commitment early in your undergraduate years, you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. One factor is financial aid. You will lose significant aid eligibility once you get a bachelor's degree. If aid is critical, find out if you can delay the awarding of any degree until you are finished with the program.
How to Find Colleges That Offer Combined Degree Programs
Here are a few tips to help you find these programs.
- Search online. Search using words that describe your career or major in combination with common labels for combined programs. These labels use words such as "accelerated," "combined," "3-2," "3+3," "progressive," "joint," or "dual." Numbers such as "3-2" and "3+3" refer to accelerated programs that include three undergraduate years and two or three graduate years. Some universities actively promote combined degrees and are easy to find. If entering such a program is a high priority to you, these colleges may offer attractive support and even scholarships just for combined degree students.
- Read descriptions carefully. Be patient and read program descriptions carefully. Combined degree programs fall under many labels, and terms are often defined differently at different institutions. Also, there are many graduate-level combined degree programs, so be sure you are looking at programs for undergraduates.
- Use directories. Some professional organizations provide lists of colleges that offer combined degrees in their field. For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges offers a directory of combined medical degree programs that you can search by school or by type of program.
- Look within a college. Another option is to start with colleges that interest you. Look for combined degrees in the appropriate academic section of the college general catalog, which is usually available on the college website. Descriptions of small unpublicized combined degree programs may be tucked away on department web pages. A call to the department office might also be helpful.
If you are committed to a certain career, or have more than one strong academic interest, a combined degree program may be the way to go. Otherwise, there's still plenty of hard work ahead just to earn one bachelor's degree—with the advantage of keeping your options open until your path becomes clear.