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Overview of Accelerated Master’s Degree Programs

Higher Education Articles November 28, 2015

Those with an interest in earning a master’s degree in approximately half the time should look into accelerated master’s degree programs.

Accelerated Master’s Degree Programs

Enrollees in an accelerated master’s program, also called combined bachelor’s/master’s programs or 4+1 degree programs, can earn a master’s and a bachelor’s degree simultaneously. While requirements for master’s level work need to be satisfied at the start of students’ third year of study, enrollees in some programs are allowed to begin in their second year itself. Schools offer accelerated master’s programs in online, on-campus, and hybrid formats.

Program Duration

Typically students complete accelerated master’s programs in five years, as opposed to the 6-7 years it could take if they were to pursue separate master’s and bachelor’s degrees. Students complete some programs in less than five years; for instance, students usually take 3-4 years to complete an accelerated nursing master’s degree (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Regardless of the shortened duration of accelerated master’s degree programs, students enrolled in them have to complete a similar amount of coursework they would in traditional programs. Students are normally not allowed to double count credits for required courses toward both degrees.


Schools offer accelerated master’s degrees in various disciplines. These disciplines include computer science, anthropology, English, economics, philosophy, nursing, political science, public administration, psychology, systems engineering, teacher education, and sociology. The major is typically the same for both the master’s and bachelor’s degrees. In some programs, students can complete the bachelor’s degree and the master’s program in two different fields, only ensuring that the master’s program derives support from the electives chosen in the bachelor’s program.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require the meeting by students of a GPA standard and completion of a minimum amount of credits for the bachelor’s program and completion of the undergraduate component before the third year ends. Application to the two programs usually has to be done separately, as in the case of applying to a conventional master’s program.

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