The journey of professional development is unique to you. Whether you’re just starting out in your career, looking for a new opportunity or advancing in leadership, there are always opportunities to grow.
Often, that growth can come through pursuing a degree.
When considering ways to broaden your experience with a degree, there may be several options to choose from. Your first step is choosing what degree level is best for you by deciding between a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.
What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
When you think of the most common college degree, chances are it’s a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is a set of course work that is the baseline requirement for many careers in that field. Bachelor’s degrees are undergraduate-level programs.
What is a Master’s Degree?
Moving up the degree ladder from the bachelor’s is a master’s degree. A master’s degree is a post-graduate degree that builds upon prior experience and education from a bachelor’s degree. It’s important to note that you’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s degree to qualify for most master’s programs.
Key Differences Between a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree
The bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are designed to accomplish slightly different goals in the journey of professional development for the student. Here are six important differences between these degree programs to help you discover which one is the right fit for you.
Perhaps one of the clearest distinctions between bachelor’s and master’s degrees is the admission requirements. Simply, a bachelor’s degree is required for most master’s programs. If you haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to start there in order to advance into a master’s program.
In addition, you may have to fulfill other admission requirements for acceptance to a master’s program. At Cornerstone University, other required components can include letters of recommendation, essay responses, resume and a minimum GPA from your undergraduate program.
Area of Focus
When it comes to what you’ll study in the classroom, both bachelor’s and master’s degrees offer a wide range of options. The key difference, however, comes in the focus of the course work.
In a bachelor’s program, you’ll typically take courses that go beyond your specific chosen course of study. For example, in a business program at CU, you’ll take courses in areas like writing, communication and other general and versatile subjects. While business-focused classes are certainly the emphasis, there are also other courses that help strengthen your learning and elevate your experience.
In a master’s program, the emphasis of the course work is solely on the field of your degree. While you may begin with a general research course to help you get started in the program, the remaining courses are dedicated to covering your specific field. Typically there are not many other general education courses. For example, an MBA at CU focuses on courses in core business acumen such as finance, economics, marketing and more. Your chosen concentration is also focused on your specific career goals, whether global business, finance, health care or project management. General and fundamental courses are not typically included, as these programs build off the experience you gained in a bachelor’s program.
To no surprise, as you climb the ladder of academic degrees, the academic work intensifies. Therefore, a master’s degree typically will be more rigorous and academically challenging than a bachelor’s degree.
However, don’t be intimidated by increased difficulty. When you step into a master’s program, you’re more likely to have real-world experience and insight that help strengthen your learning experience. You’ve made it through a bachelor’s degree and have some work experience to help propel you forward.
Number of Credits Required
Another difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s degree is the number of credits that are required for each program.
A bachelor’s degree will require more credits in order to graduate. Typically, this is about 120 credits. Keep in mind that at Cornerstone, you can transfer credits you’ve already earned to apply to your bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to have at least 56 credits to get started in a bachelor’s program. However, your academic adviser will help walk you through getting all the credits that you need, either before or after you start the bachelor’s program, to ensure you’re on track to graduate.
The amount of funding you are able to receive to pursue your degree also differs between a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Often, financial aid and scholarships are more applicable to bachelor’s programs than master’s programs. While completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for both groups to be eligible for aid, there are significant differences in how much you can expect to receive.
For bachelor students, it can be a fairly easy path to receiving financial aid. Undergraduate students may be eligible for the Pell Grant, a need-based grant based on the information provided on your FAFSA. Bachelor students are also eligible for subsidized loans, which means you aren’t charged interest while you’re in your program. Interest rates on unsubsidized loans are also lower than at the graduate level. Finding other scholarships such as ones offered by your community organization may also be restricted for undergraduate students only.
For master’s students, finding financial aid is more challenging but not impossible. For students pursuing education-related degrees, for example, you may be able to find grant opportunities. When it comes to loans, graduate students have a higher borrowing limit but also face higher interest rates. You also only have access to the unsubsidized loan option.
The difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s degree is also quite apparent in the workforce as well. When it comes to earning potential, master’s degree earners have an 18% higher weekly earnings compared to a bachelor’s recipient. Master’s recipients also have a lower unemployment rate of 4.1% compared to 5.5% for bachelor’s earners.
Moving up in your education can also make you better equipped to apply for that job you’ve been thinking about. In fact, 33% of employers are now asking applicants to hold a master’s degree when previously they just required a bachelor’s. And 41% of employers are asking for a bachelor’s degree when they had previously just required a high school degree. Depending on your dream career, you may need to hold a certain level of education in order to move forward.
Which One Is Right For You?
Both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree are valuable steps in professional development. The difference comes in where you’re currently at and where you want to be. At CU, a dedicated enrollment team will help you get started on the right path of pursuing your bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field that you’re passionate about.