How to Decide Between a Second Bachelor's Degree or Master's Degree

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether you're looking for a new job or exploring career growth in your current field, getting a second college degree is a viable option to consider. Depending on your career goals, you can potentially pursue a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree. Learning the differences between the two can help you better prepare for your future endeavors. In this article, we examine second bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, explain how they're different, identify ways to help you decide between them and list useful tips.

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What is a second bachelor's degree?

A second bachelor's degree is an additional bachelor's degree you earn after already earning your first bachelor's degree. Some individuals with a bachelor's degree may decide to return to college to pursue another. A second bachelor's degree typically involves a new field of study compared to the first degree you earn. This often occurs when you want to pursue an alternate line of work. You may also decide to pursue a second bachelor's degree if you want another degree to complement your first. For example, you may have a bachelor's in communication studies and then decide you also want a bachelor's in journalism.

Related: What Is a Bachelor's Degree or Equivalent?

What is a master's degree?

A master's degree is an advanced graduate degree that you earn after a bachelor's degree. Completing a master's degree demonstrates that you've gained mastery-level knowledge in a specific field of study. Master's degree curriculums often center on practical applications of knowledge and involve advanced coursework. Achieving a master's degree can increase your earning potential and present new career growth opportunities.

Read more: What Is a Master's Degree?

Second bachelor's degree vs. master's degree

The differences between a second bachelor's degree and a master's degree may vary depending on your individual circumstances, career goals and job field. However, there are some universal differences to consider during your decision process. Here are some of their primary distinctions:

Coursework

Master's degrees have more specialized coursework. While you choose a field of study when pursuing a bachelor's degree, you often have to complete elective classes, which are generally unrelated to your major. When you pursue a master's degree, you typically don't have to complete elective courses and can focus on taking classes specific to your field of study.

Career growth opportunities

Your career growth opportunities may differ depending on which degree you earn. Typically, master's degrees offer more job options to help you advance in your career. While some job roles only require bachelor's degrees, other roles—especially those with more managerial and leadership responsibilities—require a master's degree at a minimum.

Career versatility

While a master's degree can help you grow in your career field, a second bachelor's degree may help expand your career opportunities outside of your current industry. Ultimately, a second bachelor's degree can give you academic recognition in two distinctive sectors.

How to decide between a second bachelor's degree or master's degree

Deciding between a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree takes time, research and thoughtful consideration. Though there's no universal answer on how to choose between the two, there are factors that can help you make a confident decision. Here are four steps to help you decide between these degree paths:

1. Determine why you want the degree

Identify the reason why you want another degree. Your reasoning may vary based on your career interests and capabilities. Consider how pursuing one of these degrees can benefit your professional goals. For example, a master's degree is more advantageous for career advancement because it indicates that you've gained greater knowledge about your specific field. However, a second bachelor's degree may help you advance to a different department or field altogether.

2. Identify your career goals

Once you know why you want another degree, consider your career goals. For example, you may want a job in another field or you may want to advance in your current industry. Knowing your career goals can help you choose the degree that's most beneficial for your future endeavors.

3. Review the job requirements

Read the requirements for the jobs that interest you. Some of them may require a bachelor's degree or a master's degree specifically, so you may need to decide between the two based on what your prospective employer prefers. Consider the degree that most employers request for this type of position and conduct research to verify this.

Related: The Importance of Confident Decision-Making

Tips for choosing between a second bachelor's or master's degree

Choosing between a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree involves plenty of research and consideration. Here are some useful tips to help you decide which degree to pursue:

Review job outlook data

Use job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to help you assess whether to choose a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree. This data can provide you with some insight into career opportunities for a particular field. For example, if you find that the BLS expects employment growth for your career, you may decide to advance in your field with a master's degree rather than changing fields with a second bachelor's degree.

Consider the time commitment and your schedule

Think about how much time you can devote to going back to school between your work schedule and family obligations. While master's degrees usually have a more rigorous curriculum, they're often quicker to earn.

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Determine your financial situation

Consider your personal finances before you decide on a degree. Keep in mind that the cost of either degree varies based on the specific program, the school, its location and whether you have the option of in-person or online courses. Typically, a master's degree costs more than a second bachelor's degree. It's also important to take into consideration any financial aid or scholarship options you may qualify for. Conduct online research to help you identify your options.

Read more: How To Earn an Impressive College Scholarship

Research schools

If you're also considering a few different schools, research each school's degree offerings. Keep in mind that some schools only offer a bachelor's degree or a master's degree for certain fields.

Identify your transferrable credits

Determine what degree credits you can transfer toward a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree. If you choose to pursue a master's degree in your same field, you may have an easier time transferring some or most of your credits. Transferring credits between two completely different bachelor degrees may have mixed results, so commit some time to help you determine your options.

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