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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuition + fees
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.
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.
Are seeking a more affordable degree program. American University provides generous student amenities but these expenses are reflected in the cost of attendance.
Tuition + fees
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.
Are seeking a postgraduate education. Roughly half of the school’s student body is made up of graduate students.
Prefer a small, intimate campus. Boston University reflects the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan campus.
Tuition + fees
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.
Are interested in fields like nursing, physical therapy, and pharmacy. Regis is nationally recognized in these disciplines.
Prefer an entirely secular educational experience. Regis emphasizes the Jesuit tradition of faith-based service.
Tuition + fees
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.
Enjoy the middle-ground between a small town and big city. Students often describe Omaha as the perfect balance.
Prefer a more selective university. Creighton boasts a friendly admission rate.
Tuition + fees
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.
Wish to attend the world’s largest seminary—Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity.
Students who do not identify with Evangelical Christianity.
Tuition + fees
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).
Enjoy the flexibility and convenience of a wholly online education.
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.
Tuition + fees
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.
Are studying nursing, public health, and healthcare administration. Walden is one of the nation’s top degree providers in these fields.
Plan to earn PhDs in psychology. Walden’s PhDs do not have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA).
Tuition + fees
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.
Enjoy diversity. Brandeis has one of the highest shares of international students in the U.S.
Are seeking a more affordable education. Brandeis University is highly reputable but also comparatively expensive.
Tuition + fees
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.
Are pursuing graduate degrees. More than a third of students at Stony Brook are enrolled in post-graduate degree programs .
Prefer an intimate campus environment.
Tuition + fees
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.
Enjoy small classes. Brenau boasts an excellent student-faculty ratio of 9:1.
Prefer a big city experience. Brenau is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some 50 miles outside of Atlanta.