College is expensive, and a double undergraduate major can leave you too tired to get a graduate degree, which takes about the same amount of time or less. As well, the possible pay raise that you would see with a master's degree would help you pay back student loans much faster. So, you may want to skip the second degree and head straight for your master's.
A Second Undergrad Degree Can Cost You Time
In general, you can complete a master's degree in 36 credits. If you take four classes per semester for three semesters, you can be done with your master's in one year – if you attend fall, spring and summer semesters. You could easily spend this much time as an undergraduate student to get a second major. To get an additional major, there is a ton of extra work you need to do:
- You will need to take 30 or more core credits within your additional major.
- You may have to take additional math classes or other prerequisites that weren't required for your first degree. The total of these courses could be anywhere from four to 12 credits.
- You may have class time conflicts with upper-level courses in your first degree, and this can cause your total undergraduate completion time to increase.
The total credits needed for your second undergraduate degree is between 30-42 credits. Add in class time conflicts to your schedule, and your second undergraduate degree could add two years to your schooling – enough time to get an MBA and a master's degree in English or art just for fun.
While you still may have to take a few prerequisites for your master's degree, you won't have to worry as much about scheduling conflicts because your coursework at the graduate level will be arranged in order to complete your degree in a timely manner. This is similar to how your coursework for your first degree is arranged so that other courses necessary to complete your undergraduate degree have minimum time conflicts.
You Can Take an MBA With Most Majors
For instance, you can get an MBA after getting a degree in English. So if you are midway through your English degree and decide you'd much rather have a career in finance, finish up your English degree and wait to study finance at the graduate school level.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
When you complete a degree first and then go to grad school, you have the possibility of getting a job in your field that gives you more experience while you work your way through school. In addition, you'll also earn more money than with a non-degreed job.
Financial Aid Differences
While you have to take 12 credits each semester to qualify as a full-time student for federal financial aid (federal student loans and grants), you only have to take nine as a graduate student. The minimum requirement to receive financial aid (half-time status) is six credits of undergraduate classes.
What to Consider Before Deciding
Even though a master's degree makes more sense for your future than a second undergraduate degree, you don't want to make it halfway through graduate school and find out you weren't as interested in this career field as you originally thought. Try these tips to feel good about your decision:
Take a course or do internships in your new career field first. You don't have to complete a whole degree to get your feet wet in an area of study. Use an elective credit under your current degree plan to try out another career field.
For example, you're ready to start studying finance, but you haven't taken any finance courses. Take a finance course or look into internships you may already qualify for before investing thousands of dollars in additional education.
Shadow a professional in the field where you wish to study. Want a snapshot of what your post-graduate life would be like in your potential field of study? Many professionals will let you spend a day with them, so you can see if this is a career you'd want to have after your graduation. Contact your school's career services department to arrange or get help arranging a shadow day.
Talk to a graduate school advisor about advanced degrees. Set up an appointment with a graduate school advisor to find out exactly what you would have to take get your master's degree. Looking at a course catalog is one thing, but knowing what classes you'd have to take based on your academic career is vital to making the decision to continue your education.
The Bottom Line
Taking on a second major or graduate degree is a big decision. Before choosing either, have some experience doing an internship or with coursework that makes you think you'd like to complete a whole major in this field. Then take the plunge and get the graduate-level degree. Most likely, it won't take you any more time than a second undergraduate degree, and it will look better on your resume.