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Five Tips for Getting Your Master's Faster

Dec 10, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

Getting a Master’s degree isn’t easy. And the length of time it takes to earn one depends on the subject. A Master’s degree program can take as little as one year to complete or as many as three, but most Master’s programs usually take about two years of full-time study. Still, it’s possible to fast-track your Master’s degree—with a little planning ahead. Here’s how.

Look for combination Bachelor’s / Master’s programs

Some colleges and departments offer combination Bachelor’s / Master’s programs that combine classes for both degree programs in an accelerated format. Generally, under a program like this one, you can usually get your Master’s in one year instead of two—although the length of time required depends on your area of study.

One drawback of this plan is that it requires some foresight—you have to know you want the online Master’s before you enroll in a Bachelor’s program, more than four years ahead of time. Some students know this far ahead what they want to do; but many don’t. Another is that it keeps you at the same school for both degrees, when a different school might be better suited for your Master’s program.

Don’t change majors

Nothing delays earning a degree like being unsure of your major. While you have some room for self-discovery in a four-year Bachelor’s program—and students are often encouraged to see this period as a time for self-discovery—the same is not true for Master’s programs. You have less time to make mistakes and switch direction, and changing your focus could add a year or more to the time it takes to earn your degree. The bottom line? Don’t enter a Master’s degree program unless you’re completely sure which degree you need to advance your career.

Leverage transfer credits

Did you take college classes toward a Master’s degree years ago—even if it was in a different field? If so, you may be able to apply those credits toward a new degree. Talk to your admissions officer to see what the possibilities are. Every college’s policy toward transfer credits is different, but it’s possible you could shave a semester or more off your Master’s program.

Ask about work experience

It isn’t that common for Master’s degree programs to offer credit for work experience. And this is a tactic used by plenty of diploma mills—so if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. That said, if you have significant work experience that correlates easily to some of the classes offered at a Master’s degree program, there’s a chance you could get some credits for your experience. The college is most likely to ask you to prove your expertise exhaustively, either by assembling a portfolio, taking a test, being observed and interviewed, or in some other manner. If the process for assessing work experience isn’t exhaustive, be suspicious of the degree’s legitimacy.

Choose a less time-consuming subject

This is the most obvious advice—and not every student ahs a choice in the subjects they pursue. However, if you have a few options in terms of the subjects you can choose for your Master’s and still reach your career goal, look into how long each program takes—and choose the one that’s less demanding.

Getting a Master’s degree is a challenge—one that usually takes two years or so at most traditional and accredited online schools. However, it’s possible that you could reduce the time it takes to earn your degree by as much as a year. Plan ahead, leverage all the previous credits and work experience you can, and choose a shorter program if you can. If you have the option of planning ahead, choose an accelerated Bachelor’s and Master’s program if one exists in your field. IF you do, you’re likely to get your Master’s ahead of the crowd.



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