If you find yourself considering a career change after you get your Bachelors degree, do not worry. Getting a Masters degree in a different field than your Bachelors is not as difficult as you might think. Many institutions make this process as easy as possible while still maintaining high enrollment standards. Embracing your change of heart may be the key to a longer, more fulfilling career for you.
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Changing your mind
Most college-aged students are still trying to decide on their ideal career when they begin their undergraduate education. One may settle on a major and degree path early on, but students mature in their ideals and goals, and what once was right for someone may not be right a few years later. This is perfectly natural in life, although some feel chained to a chosen career forever. This doesn’t have to be the case at all. Nearly all Masters programmes accept applicants with degrees from different fields as long as the degrees were conveyed by an accredited school, and even then, it is up to the school admission policies.
Check with the schools
Now that you know it is possible to get that Masters degree in a different area of study, your very first step needs to be to check the admissions requirements at the school(s) you are considering. Most university websites have this essential information in a checklist format for you, but, if not, reach out to the school personally. There are always admissions counsellors who can advise you on your qualifications and suggest the best path for you.
Minimum requirements for getting a Masters degree
Surprisingly, the focus of your Bachelors degree is rarely of concern to a school or university’s admissions office. What may be the most important – keeping in mind that schools differ in their priorities and prerequisites for admission – is to show you have a Bachelors degree in any field, relevant professional experience and typically a GRE or other similar test score. All things being equal, an admissions officer may give preference to an applicant with a demonstrated interest in a particular field of study, but that certainly is not the case every time.
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If the school(s) you are considering require a standardised test for admission, the most common one accepted is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This is a general-knowledge course that gauges your overall preparedness when it comes to post-graduate study.
Some schools require a more specialised standardised test if the programme concentration is in a specific field. For example, many B-schools or MBA programmes require its students to submit their score from their Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), just like programmes in medicine may require the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and a law school may require the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
It is possible that the school you wish to attend does not require any standardised test for admission. That is the case with the Business School Lausanne (Switzerland) MBA programme, which does not require the GRE or the GMAT, but does require professional experience.
In lieu of, or in addition to, a Bachelors degree in a field closely related to the Masters degree you seek, some schools and universities require a minimum level of professional experience. That experience typically must be relevant to the degree programme, so a Masters degree in management would likely require either a Bachelors degree in a management field or a few years of professional management experience. Some may require both. Again, check with the individual schools for their prerequisites.
At a minimum, international students from countries for which English is not the native language will have to prove their fluency in the English language. This can be done with a few different standardized tests, such as the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), for which universities offering Masters programmes typically require a minimum score for admission.
Minimum scores and accepted tests may vary from school to school, but the English fluency prerequisite is not likely to be excluded from admission requirements. In fact, the GISMA Business School’s (Germany) Masters in International Business programme requires neither a GRE or GMAT score nor professional experience, but it does require a minimum score from the TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge Proficiency Exam or the Pearson Test of English.
Preparing for your Masters programme
Even though it is not required, it may be advisable for you to brush up on some of the skills your peers would have already learned as part of their undergraduate programme in your newly chosen field. A practice GRE test will reveal not only whether your score beats the minimum that some schools require for admission, but it will also reveal those areas of general academic knowledge in which you may be lacking.
Check out: Choosing the Right Masters Programme (articles, videos, interviews, podcast)
If you score well on the practice test, chances are you don’t need any preparatory classes before you begin your Masters programme. If, however, you find an area in which you are weak, there are many preparatory classes, online or at a college, that will help bring your skills up to par with other Masters students. Once you fall behind in a fast-paced, professional degree programme, it can be difficult to catch up. Ultimately, however, you are the best judge of whether or not you are adequately prepared.
In some cases, the school or university will assist you with the transition to a Masters programme in a field other than the one related to your Bachelors degree. For example, the University of Wollongong (Dubai) offers a Graduate Foundation Course (GFC) to assist students seeking a Masters degree programme in business, but who did not receive a Bachelors degree in a business field.
Increase your odds with application enhancements
If you are worried about being accepted into the school you want because your Bachelors degree is in an unrelated field, put some extra time and consideration into developing your admissions packet. Most schools want to see some sort of statement of personal interest, letters of recommendation or similar documentation in addition to proof of a Bachelors degree. Make those the best they can be, and improve your odds of acceptance.
Everyone’s situation is unique. You may be suffering from burnout and you want a fresh start with a new career, or you may have just gotten your Bachelors and you are having a change of heart. No matter what your circumstance, the school you want to attend will have staff on hand – career or education advisers – who can answer your questions and advise you on the best way to propel you forward towards your dream career.