An accelerated master’s degree program, as with any graduate program, requires inventiveness and self-discipline, along with a clear idea of goals and a heaping dose of realism.
As more people who have already obtained their undergraduate degree look at their job prospects and ponder a return to school for a master’s degree, more colleges are making accelerated master’s degrees available with a wide variety of online courses for a diverse array of disciplines.
Now, you can even get into accredited online masters programs no GRE required!
Accelerated Masters Programs and Concentrations
When you’re trying to decide which way to go, think about how your degree could apply to your current job, or if you want to take a completely different career path into something that gives you more satisfaction.
Popular master’s degree choices include the following. Click on the one that interests you to jump to that section.
- Business Administration
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Engineering Management
- Healthcare Administration
- Information Technology
- Public Administration
A recently published study from Georgetown University compared the starting salaries for various majors and found that the boost from obtaining a postgraduate degree could vary by specialty from a scarcely noticeable 3% in Studio Arts to an atmospheric 190% in medical fields.
The field of accounting is one of the backbones of the business world. Any business or government entity will always have a need for accountants.
Accountants are primarily tasked to prepare and examine financial records, seeing to it that everything is accurate. They also make sure that taxes are being paid on time. Accountants are also in charge of inspecting books, organizing and maintaining financial records, and recommending ways to reduce costs and improve revenue and profit.
Students of accounting will acquire knowledge on laws governing business, accounting theories, different business administration schemes, statistics, and ethics. They will be taught how to prepare key documents such as tax returns, business proposals, and financial statements.
Accounting is ideal for students who love to solve problems.
Business administration is one of the most popular degrees, incorporating numerous types of management positions. From small businesses to large corporations, every enterprise will find a need for graduates of business administration.
Holders of business administration degrees have numerous career paths to take. They may become business or management consultants who help firms improve their operational efficiencies, or sales managers who are responsible for revenue production within an enterprise.
They may also become financial analysts, market research analysts, or HR specialists. Other career paths for graduates of business administration are real estate appraisers, insurance underwriters, purchasing agents, logisticians, and labor relations specialists.
Business administration degree holders also have a host of management opportunities, from general operations managers to chief financial officers to chief operating officers.
Students who are self-motivated, organized, and good at managing personalities and teams are ideal candidates for business administration degrees.
Computer science is one of the more popular fields of study today thanks largely to the role that computer technologies play in modern society. Computer science graduates can expect employment opportunities from financial organizations to communication firms to multinational companies to government agencies.
Common career paths for computer science degree holders include IT consultants who advise clients on the design, planning, and installation of information technology systems; cybersecurity consultants who manage risks to the security of information; and information systems managers who are responsible for the operation of computer systems within a company.
Computer science degree holders may also become database administrators, multimedia programmers, and game developers.
Computer science students acquire technical skills such as programming languages, network design and engineering, hardware architecture, software engineering, software tools and packages, and multimedia design. They are also expected to gain skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving.
A degree in criminal justice can open numerous job opportunities not only in law enforcement but other fields such as social work and crisis management, among others.
Most criminal justice graduates become police officers. Others become corrections managers who supervise a prison or correctional facility. A few join the Federal Bureau of Investigation as agents, whose responsibilities include, among others, investigating organized crime and combatting terrorism.
While graduates of criminal justice often join law enforcement, they also have other career options to take. They can become private detectives who do background checks and undercover investigation related to compensation claims and divorce cases. Others work as fraud investigators to determine whether or not a claim of property damage or personal injury is true.
People often think that all graduates of education end up being teachers and academicians. On the contrary, a degree in education does not always translate to being in front of a blackboard. Many people with degrees in education even work outside the campus.
Like graduates of other liberal arts degrees, graduates of education are highly flexible and capable of analyzing new information. They are capable of working in other fields such as marketing, civil service, advertising, and consultancy.
Still, most education majors work in the academe in various capacities. Aside from becoming teachers, they can also become school administrators who oversee the day-to-day operations of their institutions. They may also work as student counselors who guide young people in dealing with challenges both inside and outside the classroom. Others work in childcare facilities or as curriculum writers.
Students of engineering management are prepared for leadership positions, particularly in leading teams of engineers tasked to undertake technical tasks and complete project-based works.
Combining their engineering knowledge with management expertise, engineering management majors are highly in demand in industries such as architecture, engineering, electronic component manufacturing, scientific research, and electronic component manufacturing.
Engineering management majors can pursue different specialties such as crisis and risk management, environmental and energy management, and economics, finance, and cost accounting. They may also pursue a career in information security management, operations research, and software engineering and information systems management.
Most graduates of engineering management, however, end up as senior lead analysts who ensure the efficiency of their teams on their assigned tasks; engineering project managers who oversee large-scale projects; or construction management engineers.
Students who have a knack for solving challenging problems and gifted with the ability to visualize solutions using design tools are considered a good fit for engineering management courses.
A degree in entrepreneurship gives students background knowledge on diverse fields such as accounting, finance, management, marketing, and other subjects necessary in running a successful business.
Entrepreneurship majors may start their own business ventures or pursue other career options in multiple sectors. A degree in entrepreneurship opens a diverse mix of job opportunities for graduates.
An entrepreneurship degree can enable graduates to pursue a career in sales. Their education and training will come in handy especially in managing accounts and following up on leads. Others may also work as business consultants who can work with clients in identifying operational inefficiencies and recommending potential solutions.
Entrepreneurship majors may also pursue mid-level management positions at large enterprises. Other possible job choices for entrepreneurship majors include corporate recruiters tasked to locate, interview, and hire employees and management analysts who look for ways to make firms more efficient.
Students who pursue a degree in finance are those who like to think about numbers and intrigued by stocks, bonds, and the financial markets. There is a wide range of careers that await them after graduation, making finance one of the best degrees to pursue.
Finance graduates are sought-after in the public sector, financial institutions, insurance firms, and management consultancies. With their training, finance graduates typically have the analytical skills required to dissect financial statements, assess the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of enterprise problems, and evaluate the financial implications of corporate actions.
Finance majors usually work as financial planners who help their clients in managing finances. Others end up as financial analysts who work in banks, insurance companies, and pension funds and help these institutions make sound investment decisions. It is also common for finance majors to work as accountants, credit analysts, commercial real estate agents, and stockbrokers.
The demand for graduates of healthcare administration will continue expanding alongside the rising need for a responsive healthcare system. Many students are opting to get a degree in healthcare administration so they can get a job in this growing field.
Healthcare administration majors are trained to oversee the business aspect of healthcare-focused organizations and businesses. As healthcare administrators, they are tasked to carry out diverse roles such as budget management, staffing, facility management, admin work, supervision of employees, and operations oversight.
Graduates of healthcare administration may take on different career paths. Some climb the corporate ladder to become hospital department managers, hospital chief finance officers, and hospital chief executive officers. Others work as administrators of clinics, dental and chiropractic offices.
Other jobs for healthcare administration majors include government lobbyist, hospital marketing staff, healthcare staffing agency manager, and insurance contract negotiator.
Information technology (IT) majors are always in demand anywhere in the world. Since most businesses and institutions rely on IT facilities for their day-to-day operations, the variety of employers for IT degree holders is vast.
In the public sectors, some of the employers of IT majors include the local and central governments, charities, and the media. In the private sector, IT degree holders may find employment in telecom companies, financial institutions, software houses, IT service providers, and IT consultancy firms.
IT graduates end up working as software engineers, network architects, information security managers, database administrators, information security officers, and web developers.
IT graduates are equipped with a wide range of specialized skills in areas like hardware and software development or programming, data mining, database systems and design, networking, computer security, mobile applications, emerging technologies, and system analysis, among others.
They are also known for their problem-solving skills, project management, planning, and organization experience – all valued by employers.
Pursuing a management degree gives students a broad knowledge of marketing, finance, business, and economics that make them highly coveted by employers. Management majors are also equipped with practical skills that can make them employable in various sectors or industries.
Most management graduates start with entry-level jobs such as sales representatives tasked to sell products or services directly to consumers, businesses, or other organizations. Others work as management analysts who look for ways to improve the operational efficiency of an organization.
Eventually, management majors climb the corporate ladder to become marketing managers who oversee a team developing strategies to maximize revenues for a company; sales managers who direct a company’s sales team; or general and operations managers.
There are other career options for management majors such as in retail management, where they can manage the day-to-day operations of a store. They can also pursue a career in human resource management, where they can help employees in developing their skills and harnessing their potential. Others become entrepreneurs.
Marketing is that one degree covering the gamut of business, technology, communication, and social sciences. Marketing majors, therefore, have a wide range of career options upon graduation.
Marketing students are expected to develop certain skills that can be useful once they enter the workforce. For example, marketing majors should have strong research skills so that they can assess the needs and wants of consumers. They should also have strong communication skills as well as leadership and teamwork skills.
Marketing majors can work as market researchers, marketing executives, advertising account executives, or advertising art directors. Others work as digital marketers, media buyers, public relations officers, sales account executives, and social media managers.
A degree in marketing may also land a graduate a job in events management, education, and publishing. Although less common, marketing graduates work in the promotions departments of firms in industries such as healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy, and utilities.
Nursing remains one of the backbones of the healthcare industry. Nursing majors are always in demand, partly because of the growing need for healthcare services.
Nurses perform numerous tasks such as taking vital signs, drawing blood, and assisting physicians. They administer medications, perform wound care, and take care of newborns. They also take bring relief to patients suffering from acute illnesses and give comfort to the elderly. They also help save lives in emergency rooms.
Nursing majors end up working for private sector hospitals and clinics, healthcare providers, and voluntary organizations. They can also be found working in schools, the armed forces, and private sector organizations like nursing homes.
In some cases, nurses also find themselves working as teachers and guidance counselors in schools. Others also wound up working as health service managers, play therapists, and social workers.
A degree in public administration offers a wide degree of career options. It can also appeal to young people who want to contribute to the welfare of their respective communities.
Public administration majors are trained to pursue a career in public service. Many degree holders desire the high level of job stability that government work offers. However, they may also pursue career options outside of the government realm.
Graduates of public administration may take on different jobs in the government service such as tax examiner, who ensure that the government receives tax money from citizens, organizations, and businesses.
They may also work as budget analysts whose main role is to find the best or most efficient way to manage funds and resources. Others work as public administration consultants who assist in project research and implementation. A few are fortunate enough to be elected as city officials such as city mayor.
Defined as the study of the human mind and behavior, psychology also presents a wide range of career opportunities for degree holders. Psychology majors are in demand in healthcare and therapy, education, and research.
Psychology majors who pursue further study and training are qualified to become licensed psychologists who analyze the behavior and emotions of people of all backgrounds. This highly specialized work can also focus on areas ranging from sport and mental health to occupational psychology.
Others work as psychotherapists who help clients such as couples and families overcome psychological issues. Graduates of psychology may also work as a social worker or as a counselor.
Psychology majors may also pursue a career in education, working in either primary or secondary education. Additional teaching qualification is often required for psychology majors to enter a career in tertiary education.
Applying to a Master’s Degree Program
Different programs will have different prerequisites. In general, the minimum requirements for admission to any master’s program are the following:
- An official transcript from an accredited U.S. institution (or the equivalent from a foreign institution) where your baccalaureate was completed. Please see the admitting school’s website to determine whether or not they accept the accreditation of your institution.
- A minimum GPA (Grade Point Average) of 2.0 to 3.0 on the four-point scale, depending on the school’s admission policies, or some schools will allow acceptable scores on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) tests.
- GRE and GMAT exams are often waived when certain minimum GPA requirements are met. This is a welcome relief to many who loathe standardized testing.
- The ability to speak, read and write in English if you earned your undergraduate degree from a foreign institution where the primary language of instruction was not English. You can also show an acceptable score on TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and be a citizen or legal resident of the United States.
- Some schools may require that students seeking credit for experience in the workforce submit a current resume, be employed for at least five years gaining professional experience, and have letters of recommendation.
- Schools may also bar applicants from the program if they have been expelled by another institution.
Accreditation – Looking Before You Leap
When you’re looking for an accelerated master’s degree program, you need to think about accreditation. According to U.S. News & World Report, this simple safeguard is something that a lot of students don’t do.
Some institutions are misleadingly named, or look at first like legitimate schools, but unless they’re accredited by an independent, recognized third-party, it’s better not to enroll.
A reputable college will have national accreditation from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or regional accreditation from one of these boards:
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Attending a university with proper accreditation ensures that your credits will transfer to other schools and employers will respect your degree.
Speeding Things Up for Undergraduate Students
Did you know that at certain schools, you don’t even need to have your cap and gown before starting your master’s degree? Frequently, your local university will allow junior and senior year students to “jump-start” their postgraduate education before having their baccalaureate degree formally conferred.
Even better, the coursework in the accelerated master’s degree program can count toward course hours required for your bachelor’s.
School requirements for course hours can vary, but such programs are often referred to as “4+1” or “five-year programs,” meaning that the four years for the average undergraduate degree are followed by a single year of graduate school instead of the traditional two or even three that might be required otherwise.
If you are an undergraduate student receiving financial aid in the form of a federal Pell grant or a Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, these are not offered to graduate students, so pursuing an accelerated master’s degree with these grants under your belt can help you out financially.
Financing Your Education
With student loans in the news, the last thing you want to do is to end up saddled with a large amount of debt that could negate the financial advantages of a graduate degree. All the time and effort you put into obtaining an accelerated master’s degree could be wiped out by huge payments and accruing interest over the principal of the loan.
Start by completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online and getting in touch with the Financial Aid office at your school. Very often, there are grants and scholarships either institutionally or donor-funded that do not have to be repaid, or work/study programs at the school.
Private student loans should be closely scrutinized, and the terms should be discussed with someone who’s not with the institution originating the loan, so you can make sure you understand everything and that it agrees with the loan package that you were sold.
The loans for graduate students are called Stafford Loans and are either subsidized or unsubsidized.
The Benefits of Online Classes
Time is money, and nowadays, it seems as if none of us have enough of either. With so many institutions offering online coursework, the stigma of “distance learning” is vanishing. Top-name accredited universities and colleges offer online access to accelerated master’s degree programs, and the idea of online learning as the bastion of so-called diploma mills is falling, too.
Some students even take online courses when they are on campus. Why? Because it saves time, and when they’re in one course in the morning, they can go back to their dorm in the afternoon and take another course that, due to scheduling, they might not have been able to attend.
Even after graduating, establishing a career path, starting a family, or changing career tracks after a job loss, an accelerated master’s degree program can keep you climbing the ladder. The advantages of returning students who have been out in the working world and can’t find the time or money to return to traditional, campus-based education are many.
You’re at work, or taking another class, or caring for a family member, but you can go to your computer and in a quiet hour or two attend your lecture, network with your workgroup, take tests, and hand in and receive your assignments. All this can be done from the comfort of home or another convenient location.
Other benefits include:
- Saving money versus attending courses on campus
- No exhausting commute times or expenses
- Flexible class schedules
- Top instructors and professors
- The ability to network with other online students
Classes can be taken back-to-back or over a more extended schedule, allowing you to learn at your own pace whether you’re going start-to-finish in 16 months or moving at a slower pace dictated by the needs of yourself and your family.
There’s also the confidence that comes from taking more advanced courses and going further in your field instead of just taking it as it comes.
An accelerated master’s degree is earned by hard work and effort and is something to be proud of. As you advance in your studies, you’ll feel it, too, and your employer will see that increased confidence and respond to it. Taking control of your life and finding satisfaction in your career direction starts with the desire to change, so take the first step today.