How to Earn Your Master’s Degree Without Your Bachelor’s Degree

How to Earn Your Master’s Degree Without Your Bachelor’s Degree

We share tips on ways to get a master’s degree even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. We also rank the 10 best master’s programs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Key Takeaways

  • You might be surprised to lean that it is possible to earn a master’s degree without a bachelor’s degree.

  • You may be able to get into a master’s program with work experience and professional credentials.

  • Some graduate school programs may also combine bachelor’s and master’s degrees into a single program.

The bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry into most master’s programs.

However, it may be possible under certain unique circumstances to jump right into a graduate degree program. There are a number of unique master’s degrees that provide direct pathways into a graduate education.

But how can you seize these unique educational opportunities? And what steps can you take now so that you can start a graduate program without an undergraduate degree?

If your top priority is affordability, you could get started with a look at the most affordable online master’s degrees.

Otherwise, read on to find out how you can skip the bachelor’s program and jump right into nearly any graduate degree...

Is it possible to get into a master’s program without a bachelor’s degree?

First and foremost, it is possible to get into a master’s program without a bachelor’s degree, though you’ll need a strong professional resume and/or professional credentials to do so.

There are several different graduate programs that are designed to facilitate this unique approach to receiving an advanced education.

Some graduate programs may recognize a combination of credentials that could include an associate’s degree, professional certification, relevant experience, or even partial degree credits that satisfy important prerequisite coursework.

Other master’s degree programs may be designed to merge both undergraduate degree studies and graduate degree studies. These programs can take a variety of different forms including integrated master’s programs, combined programs, and the master’s five year program.

Each of these degree programs is uniquely structured to incorporate both the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree into a single program. Most programs that merge undergraduate and postgraduate studies will grant entry to eligible students with a high school diploma. That said, students must typically display elite academic excellence to be eligible.


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What kinds of master’s degrees can you get without a bachelor’s degree?

There are several specific master’s degrees that you can earn without bachelor’s degrees. Often, these are advanced professional degrees. For instance, a nursing professional may be able to advance into a master’s program with professional experience and proper licensing as a registered nurse.

Other fields where certification and experience may lead to a master’s program include computer science, criminal justice, and more.

In other fields, you would more likely be able to earn a master’s without a bachelor’s degree by merging the two separate qualifications into a single program.

For instance, it may be possible to enroll in a 5 year MBA program directly out of high school. Though this is a longer program than the traditional bachelor’s degree in business administration, taking this two in one approach would allow you to complete your graduate level education a year ahead of schedule.

While not every university offers this specialized type of program, those that do have such programs employ a wide range of models from integrated programs, post experience master’s programs, and advanced standing degree programs.

In each case, while the structure may be unique, the basic premise is that you can roll your undergraduate studies directly into your graduate studies. This, in essence, serves as an accelerated program for students pursuing a master’s degree.

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5 Ways to Get a Master’s Without a Bachelor’s Degree

Students may utilize a variety of strategies to earn a Master’s degree without a bachelor’s. Below you will find 5 of the best strategies for doing so.


1. Combine an Associate’s Degree With Professional Experience

One way to save money on your master’s degree is to enroll in a two-year undergraduate program first.

It is true that most accredited master’s degree programs will not accept the associate’s degree by itself. However, working directly in a relevant field after earning your associate’s degree may actually make you eligible for a master’s program.

For instance, an associate degree with about seven years of relevant managerial experience may qualify you to enter certain MBA programs under what is called “advanced standing.”

For this reason, starting your pursuit of a master’s degree at a community college in an Associate program may be a great way to save money and get a jumpstart on doing actual work in the field.

2. Combine a Professional Certificate With Professional Experience

Some master’s degree programs will enroll students who have relevant professional experience alongside an additional qualification such as a professional certification.

This may be possible in fields like physical therapy, human resources, counseling psychology, and more. In many cases, the online master will be structured for those who are already working in the field.

For this reason, many programs will prioritize personal and professional experience as part of both their eligibility requirements and the structure of the postgraduate degree itself.

3. Enroll in an Integrated Master’s Degree Program

Some universities offer an integrated or combined degree. Applicants may be able to earn college degrees and master’s degrees in a single bundled program.

This option is generally better suited to students who have already selected an undergraduate major. That’s because your integrated master’s program generally is constructed from the very beginning around a specific subject area.

Rather than completing a full bachelor’s degree, participants will experience a unique higher education track that incorporates introductory learning and courses with the eventual pursuit of a postgraduate project or thesis.

Students will depart this program with a bachelor’s diploma, a highly regarded postgraduate qualification, and specialized knowledge in their field.

4. Choose a Field That Does Not Require An Undergraduate Degree

You may be able to get a master’s degree in a specific professional area without a bachelor’s degree.

Certain fields offer advanced training and graduate education specifically meant for those who are already working in the field. This means that you may be able to jump directly from real-world work to an advanced degree in a technical field like computer science, healthcare informatics, or information technology.

Likewise, students in skill-based professions like nursing and physical therapy may be eligible for certain graduate programs in their field with professional experience alone.

In some cases, it may help to complete a number of undergraduate degree credits even if you haven’t earned a full bachelor’s degree.

5. Consider an Online School Without Traditional Accreditation

If your top priority is to receive advanced practical education in your field, you may be able to jump directly into a for-profit, vocational, or unaccredited master’s without a bachelor’s degree.

Of course, you should only consider this type of program if accreditation is not relevant to your educational or professional goals.

For instance, if you’re interested in a master’s in business administration as a way to advance your practical knowledge as a small business owner, accreditation may not be a factor for you.

If this is the case, simply be sure that you are considering only reputable programs with a strong history of producing successful graduates and delivering positive educational results.

By contrast, students who anticipate leveraging their master’s degree in the open job market or who plan to apply these credits toward other educational credentials should prioritize accreditation.

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10 Master’s Programs That Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

  1. #1

    American University

    Washington , DC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    What do we love about American University?

    American University is a private research university located in Washington D.C. American University was actually formed by an act of Congress in 1893.

    Today, American University is home to more than 8000 undergraduates and more than 6000 graduate students.

    • American University is great for students who:

      Have an interest in public service, political affairs, and government work. Its location in the nation’s capital makes American University a feeder school for many government opportunities.

    • American University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are seeking a more affordable degree program. American University provides generous student amenities but these expenses are reflected in the cost of attendance.

  2. #2

    Boston University

    Boston , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    19%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    32K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/32

    What do we love about Boston University?

    Boston University is a private university located in Boston, Massachusetts. BU is especially noted for its high level of research activity. In fact, Alexander Graham Bell was a BU professor in 1876 when he used the school’s laboratory to invent the telephone.

    Boston University was founded in 1838 and, today, serves more than 33,000 students at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

    • Boston University is great for students who:

      Are seeking a postgraduate education. Roughly half of the school’s student body is made up of graduate students.

    • Boston University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small, intimate campus. Boston University reflects the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan campus.

  3. #3

    Regis University

    Denver , CO
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/24

    What do we love about Regis University?

    Regis University was founded in 1877 by the Society of Jesus and still retains its affiliation with the Jesuit church. The private university is located in Denver Colorado.

    Regis University actually began history as a small college in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Making the move to Denver in 1887, Regis serves roughly 7000 students today.

    • Regis University is great for students who:

      Are interested in fields like nursing, physical therapy, and pharmacy. Regis is nationally recognized in these disciplines.

    • Regis University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer an entirely secular educational experience. Regis emphasizes the Jesuit tradition of faith-based service.

  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    6K

    What do we love about Creighton University?

    Creighton University is a private research university located in Omaha, Nebraska. Creighton was founded in 1878 by the Society of Jesus and maintains its affiliation with the Jesuit church to date.

    Today, Creighton University serves roughly 9,000 students and is divided almost evenly between undergraduate and graduate students.

    • Creighton University is great for students who:

      Enjoy the middle-ground between a small town and big city. Students often describe Omaha as the perfect balance.

    • Creighton University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more selective university. Creighton boasts a friendly admission rate.


  5. #5

    Liberty University

    Lynchburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    99%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    79K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/25

    What do we love about Liberty University?

    Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world as well as one of the largest private non-profit universities in the U.S. Much of this size is based on its online enrollment.

    Liberty University enrolls roughly 15,000 residential students across its 17 colleges, and an additional 80,000 through its extensive online course and degree offerings.

    • Liberty University is great for students who:

      Wish to attend the world’s largest seminary—Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity.

    • Liberty University might not be the best fit for:

      Students who do not identify with Evangelical Christianity.

  6. #6

    Columbia Southern University

    Orange Beach , AL

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    14K

    What do we love about Columbia Southern University?

    Columbia Southern is a private online school that operates on a for-profit model. Headquartered in Orange Beach, Alabama, Columbia Southern University was founded in 1993.

    Columbia Southern University is accredited by the national Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC). However, the online school is also currently under consideration for regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Mission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    • Columbia Southern University is great for students who:

      Enjoy the flexibility and convenience of a wholly online education.

    • Columbia Southern University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are undecided regarding a major. With 26 associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level degrees, Columbia Southern is a better fit for students planning to study in the specific areas where the online school specializes.

  7. #7

    Walden University

    Minneapolis , MN

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Student body

    39K

    What do we love about Walden University?

    Walden University is a private online school with headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walden operates on a for-profit business model.

    Walden University was established in 1970 with the goal of helping working adults—specifically those in education—earn their doctoral degree. Today, Walden serves nearly 50,000 students in countless areas of study.

    • Walden University is great for students who:

      Are studying nursing, public health, and healthcare administration. Walden is one of the nation’s top degree providers in these fields.

    • Walden University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Plan to earn PhDs in psychology. Walden’s PhDs do not have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA).

  8. #8

    Brandeis University

    Waltham , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    39%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What do we love about Brandeis University?

    Brandeis University is a private university based in Waltham, Massachusetts. The research school was founded in 1948, and is noteworthy today for its highly regarded liberal arts programs.

    Brandeis University serves more than 5000 students and shares a cross-registration agreement that allows students to attend courses at Boston College, Boston University, and Tufts University.

    • Brandeis University is great for students who:

      Enjoy diversity. Brandeis has one of the highest shares of international students in the U.S.

    • Brandeis University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are seeking a more affordable education. Brandeis University is highly reputable but also comparatively expensive.

  9. #9

    Stony Brook University

    Stony Brook , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    What do we love about Stony Brook University?

    Stony Brook University is a public university based in Stony Brook, New York. Stony Brook began its history as the State University College of Long Island in 1957. This makes it the flagship university of the SUNY system, alongside the University of Buffalo.

    Stony Brook University is home to more than 26,000 students and, with more than 15,000 employees, is the largest single-site employer in Long Island.

    • Stony Brook University is great for students who:

      Are pursuing graduate degrees. More than a third of students at Stony Brook are enrolled in post-graduate degree programs .

    • Stony Brook University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer an intimate campus environment.

  10. #10

    Brenau University

    Gainesville , GA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    What do we love about Brenau University?

    Brenau University is a private university based in Gainesville, Georgia. Founded in 1878 as a women’s college, Brenau is coeducational today.

    With more than half of its students pursuing advanced degrees, Brenau University is home to the rapidly growing Sidney O. Smith Jr. Graduate School.

    • Brenau University is great for students who:

      Enjoy small classes. Brenau boasts an excellent student-faculty ratio of 9:1.

    • Brenau University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a big city experience. Brenau is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some 50 miles outside of Atlanta.