FAQ: Can You Go From an Associate Degree to a Master’s Degree?

Just like in the world of business, the field of education can be a tricky one to maneuver in. With the ever-changing financial climate, it is difficult to read the signs for changes taking place in business, much less be able to predict them. Gone are the days when a high school graduate would attend four-to-six years of college and then be virtually guaranteed a long and stable career in the profession of their choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently released findings showing that the “median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years.” And while it is easy to understand that low-income service-oriented jobs pointed at younger employees may color these findings, it has been reported that even salaried professionals in management still show a median tenure of just 6.3 years. So, based on facts like these, how much education should a high school graduate seek to attain in order to work within the professional field of their choice? A closer look at each type of degree offered will go a long way in answering this question.

An associates degree is an undergraduate program which takes two years for a full-time student to complete. This degree offers several advantages to a person entering the workplace over those who only have a high school diploma. The credentials associated with this type of degree have been reported the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics to increase annual earnings of an employee by $7,200. Over the span of an entire career, the salary benefit for one holding an associates degree is over $693,600 in earnings more than a worker holding only a high school diploma. While many students seek an associate degree and then move immediately into an undergraduate program, the benefit of the extra training and/or certification in a particular field can result in an earning power of over 27% more than a professional holding only an undergraduate degree.

The bachelors degree is by far the most popular type of program college students seek to attain. Also known as an undergraduate degree, these programs can take anywhere from three to seven years to complete while most contain 40 college courses adding up to a total of 120 hours and are completed in four years by students taking full-time coursework. Liberal arts courses are a large part of the course content within an undergraduate degree. With only 10 to 12 courses concentrating on a students minor at this level, the post-graduate degrees offer more specialized training than a bachelors program.

A masters degree is the next step in education for those seeking more training and credentials in a specific field of study. While a full-time “grad student” can typically complete all course requirements for a masters degree in two years, part-time and distance-learning degrees continue to be developed by schools. These types of programs offer students the chance to remain working full-time as professionals in their fields. Not only does this scenario allow employees to keep from having to move locations to be closer to a graduate school, they are also able to actively apply many of the concepts they are learning in the classroom to their workplace in real time. Besides the almost 30% increase of expected salary that a professional holding a masters degree has over their bachelors degree-holding counterpart, greater employment opportunities have been linked to masters programs. “With a bachelors degree in the 1980s, one could secure an entry level position as an admissions counselor, academic adviser, or student services coordinator. By the 2000s, applicants for these same entry-level positions were not even considered unless they held a masters degree. While holding a graduate degree is not a guarantee of ultimate success, it certainly opens many more doors for employment.”

Finally, a doctoral degree is the highest level of an academic degree a student can achieve. While many are familiar with professionals in the medical field who have attained their Medical Doctorate, doctoral degrees can be attained in almost any field of study. The majority of doctoral programs take eight years to complete and some allow students to skip a graduate degree all together and go straight into a doctorate program. Many doctoral degrees include extensive research projects, written and oral exams, and a defense of a dissertation. The dissertation is a resource a student will write over the course of their studies that communicates his knowledge of the topic within his chose field. In most cases this resource is a books worth of content.

With the climate of our world always changing, and with our business sector evolving at a rapid pace, it is important for professionals to outline the steps needed to reach their professional and personal goals. Some might pursue associates or doctoral degrees, others might pursue traditional or online bachelors degrees, and some might dive into MBA programs. No matter the choice, each degree can help direct a student and open doors for future professional advancement.

You can go directly from an associate degree to a master’s degree, although the traditional education path for students is to earn an undergraduate degree first and pursue a master’s after they attain a bachelor’s. A bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite to enter graduate programs of most universities.

Different Types Of Degrees Explained: (Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate, and Professional)

How can you go from an associate degree to a master’s degree?

Some universities will consider your professional background and experience as applicable qualifications instead of an undergraduate degree and allow you to work toward earning a masters degree without a bachelors. A minimum requirement is often five years of experience in a related field or other relevant qualifications, such as an associate degree or certifications specific to the masters program field of study.

A common format is for universities to offer a combined bachelors and masters program, where the student earns both a bachelors and a masters simultaneously. A bachelors degree typically takes four years and a masters usually requires an additional two years of study. Integrated degree programs frequently combine both degrees into a five-year program.

Can you get a master’s degree if you only have an associate degree?

You can go directly from an associate degree to a masters degree, although the traditional education path for students is to earn an undergraduate degree first and pursue a masters after they attain a bachelors. A bachelors degree is often a prerequisite to enter graduate programs of most universities. However, there are some accredited universities that allow students to enroll in a degree program where they can earn both their bachelors and masters. Schools often call the programs in which a student can earn both a bachelors and their masters degrees one of these names:

What does advanced standing mean?

Advanced standing is a method of substituting professional experience for a bachelors degree. This recognition allows you to receive college credit for a postgraduate degree based on relevant experience, other education credits or certifications. Some colleges have MBA programs that accept students without an undergraduate degree if they can prove a minimum of five years of related managerial experience.

The university determines what applicable credits apply to the degree program and allows the student to enter the masters program. Professional experience or certifications may count as course credit and reduce the total amount of classes the student must take. To receive advanced standing recognition, a student usually takes a qualification test to show mastery of the subject.

What master’s degrees can you get without a bachelor’s degree?

While there may be other institutions that offer similar programs, here are several accredited universities with programs they offer where you can get a masters without first earning a bachelors:

Simmons University

Experienced registered nurses without a bachelors degree can enroll in the [email protected] program at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, which is an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) curriculum. This program is completely online, offering an accelerated degree without attending classes in person. Students can take part on either a part-time or full-time basis. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

University of San Francisco

The 4+1 BSN-MSN at the University of San Francisco in San Francisco, California, is a combined Bachelor of Science in Nursing and MSN degree program. Combining the two degrees may save students time and tuition expenses because the masters portion of the coursework is online while the bachelors portion is at the universitys School of Nursing and Health Professions.

Loyola University

The B.S./M.S. Program in Applied Statistics at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, is a five-year accelerated program for undergraduates which combines any bachelor of science degree in mathematics or statistics with a master of science (M.S.) degree in Applied Statistics. The program structure offers many benefits to students, such as waiving the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test and program application fee. Students may take B.S. and M.S. courses concurrently and reduce total credit requirements.

Penn State

The integrated program at Penn State in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania offers an MBA in accounting. The ability to pursue both degree programs concurrently allows students to earn both their B.S. and MBA degrees in five years. Up to 12 of the credits required for the masters degree may apply to both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, allowing students to double-count certain course credits.

Illinois State University

The integrated B.S./Master of Professional Accountancy program at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, is only available to students who do not have a bachelors degree at the time of enrollment. The university allows students to take undergraduate and graduate-level courses simultaneously and complete an integrated B.S./MBA degree in approximately five to six years. The undergraduate degree must be in a related discipline as the MPA.

Adams State University

Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, is a five-year fast-track program that allows university students to work toward their MBA during their junior year of college. The flexible curriculum allows students to customize their MBA toward the business discipline that aligns with their career goals. The university allows total MBA degree requirements to be reduced by six credit hours in this program by applying these MBA-level credits to their undergraduate degree.

Hampton University

The Hampton, Virginia-based Hampton Universitys five-year B.S./MBA program provides graduates with a variety of leadership competencies and prepares them for professional managerial roles. It includes 157 hours of course credits and allows students to earn a B.S. and an MBA degree simultaneously. The program also requires the completion of two internships with two different companies.

Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, offers many options for accelerated masters programs. Some of the degrees include:

Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


Can I do Masters after associate degree in USA?

Although both Associate and Bachelor’s are undergraduate degrees, you can only apply for a Master’s if you have a Bachelor’s diploma. Associate degrees usually take 2 years to complete – much faster when compared to 4 years for most Bachelors in the US and 3 years for most Bachelors in Europe.

Can I do Masters after associate degree in Canada?

Canada also offers a number of certificates, diplomas, and Associate Degrees at the undergraduate level. While these do not qualify students to undertake Master’s degree in Canada, they may be useful for immigration or employment purposes.

Is an associate’s degree higher than a masters?

A master’s degree can be finished within two to six years since it also requires rigorous training and research work. For students who want to pursue technical-vocational work, an associate’s degree is highly recommended, especially for computer programming, nursing and the culinary arts.

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