Masters and PhD combined programs are designed to help you study two different majors.
These dual degree programs typically combine complementary courses from the two different majors so you can equip yourself with broad but targeted expertise.
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If you’re after a career with complex professional demands, dual masters and PhD online programs may be an intriguing option.
Online Masters and PhD Combined Programs
Just as some universities offer students the opportunity to earn a bachelors and masters at the same time, there are some doctoral programs that allow you to get a masters as you complete your doctorate. The masters degree serves as a gateway, or an optional exit point, on the longer path to completing the doctoral degree.
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In this article, we’ll talk mostly about blended or dual degree programs. These types of programs allow students to work toward simultaneously earning a masters and doctoral degree in two different but complementary majors, such as business and medicine or business and law.
Here are some advantages of combined masters and PhD programs:
- Combine complementary courses from two distinct graduate degree majors
- Allow you to earn two degrees within a reasonable time frame
- Help prepare you for a specific professional niche
The following are some disadvantages of combined masters and PhD programs:
- Can take longer to complete than a masters degree program alone
- Can include very different specialty courses designed for distinct majors
- Might involve coordinating a study plan with two independent departments
Most dual masters and doctorate degree programs online are designed to help you earn the two degrees in a reasonable time frame.
Common Masters and Doctorate Combined Programs
Many combined degree programs culminate in a professional doctorate and are designed to equip students to work in complex professional settings. A professional doctorate tends to emphasize more practical skills for the workplace.
MBA / Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
In this dual program, you’ll learn business administration fundamentals while you gain expertise in a range of concepts, practices, and regulatory standards related to nursing.
This combination can help position you for senior management roles or for positions on HR teams with large hospitals or managed care networks.
MBA / Doctor of Medicine (MD)
This graduate degree combination can qualify you to practice medicine while also providing you with lots of business administration skills.
Professionals with these qualifications might work in governance roles at a hospital, help design and manage innovative managed healthcare business models, or work in the development and sale of medical technologies.
MBA / Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Dual masters and PsyD programs combining a specialization in industrial and organizational psychology with a masters degree in business administration can open doors to a range of senior management opportunities in large organizations.
Alternately, professionals might specialize in psychotherapy and use their clinical qualifications and business savvy to manage or develop psychotherapy service networks. They may also fill executive leadership roles with mental health service providers.
MBA / Juris Doctor (JD)
Students in this dual degree program often specialize in business law, accessing and blending course offerings from both MBA and JD graduate programs.
This combined program can create an advanced business law degree pathway for future jobs in the business sector or in private law firms.
Master of Public Policy (MPP) / Juris Doctor (JD)
Legal hurdles and legislative complexities can make or break public policy initiatives. A dual MPP and JD program can be a strategic way to develop expertise doing legal analysis work with regard to developing or improving public policy.
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With this double-edged expertise, you might pursue any number of roles in public interest law, legislative work, or public policy analysis and advocacy.
Master of Science (MS) / Medical Doctor (MD)
With preparation in an MS and MD combined degree program, you can equip yourself to practice medicine while also learning specialized science research skills.
Depending on your areas of specialization, you might be positioned to work in medical research and development or with organizations engaged in testing, evaluating, monitoring, or regulating new medical practices or products.
Master of Public Health (MPH) / Medical Doctor (MD)
In this blended degree program, you can access a range of graduate courses in the field of public health as you train to become a medical doctor.
If you have an interest in specializing in infectious diseases, preventive medicine, epidemiological research, or public health policy and advocacy roles, this combined degree program can give you advanced training.
Master’s and PhD Admissions Requirements
Admissions requirements will vary by school and program, but most dual masters and PhD programs online require criteria similar to these:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Satisfactory college GPA
- GRE or GMAT scores (if required)
- LSAT or MCAT scores (for JD and MD programs, when required)
- Letters of recommendation
Depending on the major, graduate degree programs may also require the completion of specified prerequisites in math or science as well as other academic or professional requirements.
It can be beneficial to stick with fully accredited schools and programs. If you anticipate pursuing careers in fields that involve professional licensing, accreditation may be a precondition for licensing. Fields that typically require licensing include law, medicine, psychology, nursing, education, and public health.
Accreditation can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid. Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have more information about accreditation and finding accredited schools.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Many graduate students rely on financial aid for help with tuition and other upfront costs. If you plan to apply for need-based aid, you can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Common forms of aid include state and federal education grants. If you’re eligible, you can also apply for any number of need-based or merit-based scholarships. Some employers also offer tuition assistance programs.
Many financial aid offers also include student loans. Terms of loan offers and other awards can vary, so it’s helpful to review all financial aid offers carefully.
Can You Get Your Masters and PhD at the Same Time?
Yes, in most programs you’ll pursue your masters and doctorate together, taking courses that are part of an already blended curriculum or enrolling in courses that straddle two departments.
If you’re in the type of program where you’re pursuing just one major, you’ll typically fulfill your masters requirements first as a qualifying step for proceeding with the PhD requirements.
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When you’re pursuing two complementary majors in a dual degree program, you’ll generally be working toward both degrees at the same time.
Can You Leave a PhD Program with a Masters?
You can leave a PhD program with a masters if you fulfill the required academic and administrative steps for doing so. These requirements can vary by school and program.
Some single-track PhD programs make earning a masters degree programmatic for their PhD candidates, usually awarding the masters after comprehensive qualifying exams. In dual programs, your masters and PhD courses can belong to complementary but distinct academic disciplines, which may complicate matters.
In these cases, you may want to talk to an academic advisor about options that would allow you to exit the doctoral track while still earning a masters in the other major.
Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD?
There are many PhD programs that do not require any prior master’s degree for admissions.
If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, you may find options to enroll in online master degree, PhD, or dual degree programs. Admissions requirements can vary by school and by major in some cases. Some PhD programs offer you the opportunity to earn a masters along the way.
Does Your PhD Have to Be the Same as Your Masters?
If you are applying to a PhD program after earning a masters, your masters does not typically have to be in the same academic discipline. Requirements can vary, though, by school and program.
What will matter are the more general admissions requirements or prerequisites. You may have more admissions hurdles to overcome if you don’t have the right prerequisite training before you apply, regardless of what kind of masters degree you have.
Holding a masters degree, even if it’s in another discipline, may still help you demonstrate that you’re a motivated and capable PhD candidate. There are also many joint masters and PhD programs that combine separate but complementary disciplines.
What Can You Do with a Joint Master and PhD Degree?
Receiving training from dual graduate programs can give you a strong foundation for senior research, management, or leadership positions. There is a vast range of career paths you can take, depending on your specializations and degree combinations.
For example, graduates who pair a masters in public health or science with an MD may pursue positions as epidemiologists or medical scientists respectively. Those interested in business law may want to combine their JD with a Master of Business Administration, making them more marketable for prospective future clients or firms.
Getting a PhD can also qualify you for jobs in postsecondary teaching and research. You may join a PhD in your desired field with a masters in education or teaching to boost your credentials.
Professional doctorates are often designed for professionals who want to enhance their practical skills and advance in their field. They may even pursue top executive roles.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Combined Masters-PhD Degree Online?
It’s common for a dual program to take 4 to 6 years to complete. Time to completion can vary significantly by program, especially when it comes to dissertations, other capstone projects, or supervised field work requirements.
All that said, many of today’s combined masters and doctoral programs online have highly targeted course programs to help you finish more quickly. Some dual masters and doctorate online programs are designed to help you complete most or all of your requirements in as little as 3 to 4 years if you study full-time, year-round.
Is a Masters and PhD Dual Degree Worth It?
Yes, a masters and PhD dual degree is worth it for many students. A dual degree program can help equip you with credentials for jobs that require complex management, consulting, or leadership roles.
When considering a dual program option, you may want to plan backwards. In other words, you might ask yourself if the careers that most interest you require specialized knowledge across two different domains.
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Some examples include business law or healthcare management. Business law straddles business and law, and a career in healthcare management benefits from knowledge of both business administration and healthcare practices and services.
Dual degree programs can be especially beneficial if your sights are set on careers requiring combined skills.
Universities Offering Online Masters and Doctorate Dual Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers a dual degree program for students interested in obtaining both a master’s and a doctorate in a field.
Applicants must meet the admissions requirements for the second degree program while maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students may choose to study Business Administration, Public Administration, Health Science, Psychology, Public Health, or Pharmacy and Health Science.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
George Mason University offers a dual degree program for those interested in receiving a Juris Doctorate and a Master of Business Administration.
The program can usually be completed in 3 years when studying full-time or 4 years when studying part-time. Applicants must submit GMAT or GRE scores and 2 letters of recommendation and may be required to complete an interview when applying.
George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Mercer University offers a Doctor of Pharmacy and a Master of Science in Health Outcomes dual degree program. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose and a resume to apply.
Students in the program are given academic advice from the program director and a graduate advisor to help guide them through their thesis or capstone project. A GPA of 2.75 in the Doctor of Pharmacy courses and 3.0 in Health Outcomes must be maintained to graduate.
Mercer University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
National University offers a dual degree for those interested in obtaining both a Master of Arts in Sport Psychology and a Doctor of Clinical Psychology. The program offers both full-time and part-time options and allows students to take the courses for the master’s degree online.
Applicants can apply year round and may have the GRE score requirements waived depending on their GPA. A team of advisors is available to help applicants through each step of the admissions process.
National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
New York University offers a number of dual degree programs for students interested in obtaining either two master’s degrees or a doctorate and a master’s degree.
Applicants must submit additional test scores when applying. Those interested in getting a doctorate and a master’s may get a Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration or a Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Business Administration.
New York University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Nova Southeastern University’s College of Health Care Science offers a dual degree program for those interested in obtaining Master and Doctor of Health Science degrees.
The program can typically be completed within 7 years. Both programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, GRE scores, and prior health care experience.
NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Rutgers University offers a dual degree program for those interested in a Master and a PhD in Social Work. The program can usually be completed in 4 years.
Those interested in the program may apply directly to the program or after their first year of study in the Master of Social Work program. Official transcripts, GRE scores, 2 personal statements, and 3 letters of reference must be submitted when applying.
Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas Tech University’s School of Law offers a number of dual degree programs. Students may receive a Juris Doctorate with a master’s degree in a variety of business, science, engineering, sports management, or government fields.
Applicants interested in a dual degree program may contact the law faculty advisor to learn more about their program of interest.
Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of St. Thomas School of Law offers a dual degree program for those interested in receiving a Juris Doctor and a Master of Business Administration.
The program can typically be completed in 4 years, but students may also choose to take the program part-time or online. Applicants must submit LSAT scores, their undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.
The University of St. Thomas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Widener University offers a dual degree program for a Master in Criminal Justice and a Doctor of Psychology.
The program can typically be completed in 5 years and offers a clinical experience through practicum training, field placements, and internships. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be eligible. Though having a major in psychology may help with admittance, it is not required.
Widener University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Getting Your Masters / PhD Combined Degree Online
Dual degree programs allow you to get creative when it comes to choosing the right kind of masters and PhD combination for your individual career interests and goals.
Regionally accredited schools and programs offer a range of dual degree programs online. Their creative curriculum design options are tailored to today’s complex professional landscape.
You may even try designing your own ideal graduate degree program for the niche you want. There’s a chance that program is already out there and just waiting for you to find it!