Top 5 Reasons to Pursue an Accelerated Master’s Degree

When I ask my undergraduate academic advisees whether they plan to continue to graduate school, several say they want to “jump into industry” and do not have time for more school; a few express they are a bit burnt out after four years of college and are looking for a change of lifestyle. Many of these same students eventually reach out to me several years later asking for recommendation letters for their graduate school applications to help support their professional development as they grow their careers.

Master’s degrees are a very important part of the lifelong learning journey for anyone in the high-tech industry, providing much-needed depth to help with specializing in technical areas that are rapidly evolving, from robotics to AI.

To support the needs of individuals interested in pursuing a master’s degree in a timely manner, many academic institutions offer or participate in accelerated master’s programs, which are also referred to as Bachelor/Master’s programs or “4+1” programs. These programs allow individuals to double count select senior-level and graduate coursework taken during one’s undergraduate studies towards their master’s degree, expediting the completion of the latter by as much as one year.

Why is it worth pursuing an accelerated master’s degree? Here are the top five reasons:

  1. Obtaining Greater Technical Depth: For most positions in the high-tech sector, having a bachelor’s degree is simply no longer enough with respect to the depth of knowledge needed to get the job done. In many cases, the master’s degree has become the “new bachelor’s degree” in terms of minimum academic credentials, with individuals needing significant technical depth on one or two topics to make a significant impact at their workplace. With an accelerated master’s degree, one can obtain this technical depth via graduate coursework, directed research projects, and even a master’s thesis—all within a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Taking Less Time to Obtain a Master’s Degree: How much less time? Depending on the institution, many accelerated master’s degree programs allow individuals to double count up to 40% of the undergraduate credits toward their graduate ones. For a 30-credit master’s program, this would mean double counting 12 credits between an individual’s undergraduate and master’s degree, leaving 18 credits to be completed; this roughly translates into two semesters of full-time graduate studies or potentially at little as three semesters of part-time graduate studies.
  3. Increasing Access to Wider Range of Jobs: The significant technical depth gained as part of an accelerated master’s program, provides an individual with a new array of skills, tools, and knowledge that opens up new opportunities, either at their current employer or potentially at another company. These new prospects can be intellectually stimulating and enriching, as well as provide new tasks and responsibilities that are rewarding and increase involvement in the overall company. There is even the potential for technical leadership with respect to running a small project with several team members. Oh, and these new skills, tools, and knowledge are valuable to an employer.
  4. Bumping Up Your Salary: With increased depth of knowledge, especially if obtained over a short period of time via an accelerated master’s program, comes new capabilities that can be leveraged by an employer especially in high-demand fast paces technical areas or in emerging fields where opportunities abound with respect to new advances, products, and services. With an accelerated master’s degree in one of these fields, an individual can obtain the latest state-of-the-art knowledge and skills sought after by companies, which are more than willing to pay; this can mean a significantly higher salary relative to individuals possessing only an undergraduate degree.
  5. Working Full-Time While Studying Part-Time or Full-Time: With many folks already working in industry, there is a misconception that you are no longer eligible to pursue an accelerated master’s degree if you do not pursue your master’s degree immediately after completing your bachelor’s degree. This is totally false. Many accelerated master’s programs are highly flexible and allow enrolled individuals to double count credits from their bachelor’s degree program for up to five years after completion of that degree.  Additionally, individuals can often pursue their master’s degree as part of these accelerated programs on either a full-time or part-time basis while working full-time; most graduate courses are conveniently offered during the evenings and most academic institutions have both in-person and online graduate courses that can be taken for credit.

With all these reasons to pursue an accelerated master’s degree, one might think this is it in terms of the benefits. In fact, here are two additional reasons why it is worth pursuing an accelerated master’s degree:

  1. Pursuing Graduate Studies in Cutting Edge and Emerging Areas: Many schools are offering accelerated master’s degree programs in both emerging as well as cutting edge high demand areas such as AI, systems engineering, neuroscience, medicinal chemistry, computer science, and many more, making these short highly focused educational experiences very valuable with respect to learning about the latest advances and being able to apply them in industry.
  2. Bachelor and Master’s Degrees Do Not Need to Be from the Same Academic Institution: An increasing number of academic institutions are collaborating together to offer collaborative accelerated master’s programs (CAMPs) that bring together the strengths of both partner schools to form educational experiences that are rewarding and expand the reach of these opportunities to a much larger population.

Well, there you have it! The Top 5 reasons (plus two extra ones) on why someone should pursue an accelerated master’s degree program. There are numerous schools in the New England region that offer a variety of programs to choose from, ranging from a few accelerated master’s degree opportunities in selected areas only for their alumni to universities such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) that offers an extensive selection of accelerated master’s degrees, some in cutting degree areas such as AI, and in partnership with other regional academic institutions. To learn more about these accelerated master’s degree programs and how they can assist in your professional development, feel free to reach out to me at:

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