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Can You Get a Master’s Without a Bachelor’s Degree?

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: June 19, 2019

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: June 19, 2019


It’s definitely possible to earn a master’s without a bachelor’s. However, it is pretty rare, and most universities expect you to get a bachelor’s degree first. Here is a full guide to what you need to know.

It’s only natural to assume that getting a master’s degree is what comes after already having earned a bachelor’s. But truth be told, in some cases, there are exceptions as some universities will allow you to pursue a master’s degree first. There are schools that offer programs in which an undergraduate degree is not required. We’re going to take you through the ways in which you can get a master’s without a bachelor’s degree. Just note that most universities are still very traditional and getting a bachelor’s first is still a mandatory requirement.

A Guide to Getting a Master’s Without a Bachelor’s Degree

Although it is true that most universities expect graduate school applicants to already have a bachelor’s, there still are some universities that consider other experience, like work experience, instead of an undergraduate degree. Did you know that only 34% of Americans hold a bachelor’s degree? That leaves a large majority who haven’t earned an undergraduate degree. And even less have a master’s , at 9.2%. If you’re among the many who don’t have a bachelor’s but want to get a graduate degree, it is possible. Some universities will take into account your professional experience and certain certificates and/or diplomas you may have. However, it is important for you to do the proper research.

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Leveraging Your Professional Experience

One of the best ways to learn is by experience and some universities are beginning to understand that. There are going to be concepts that students typically learn in a master’s program that you may have already experienced first-hand in your professional life. You just might not be aware of them as theories that are taught in curriculums.

But having come from experience and seeing those concepts in action, whether they succeed or fail, gives you great value. That knowledge can easily be equal to, if not greater, than someone who earned a bachelor’s degree and is applying for a master’s directly after graduation.

If you have experience in the field, be it in business, sales, or as a computer programmer, those years on the field are valuable and may be acknowledged in a university application. Whether you were employed or self-employed, you can explain your experience in your application.

Depending on the major, Universities such as Southern Cross University will consider your background when reviewing applications. Typically, if you have five years’ experience in a relevant field or other qualifications (like an associate’s degree or other certification) they will consider you for a postgraduate degree without coming from an undergraduate degree. They also weigh in your professional experience, which is about seven years and over, for the possibility to receive credit or ‘Advanced Standing’ towards a postgraduate qualification.

The University of Essex is another example of a university that will consider your past experience instead of an undergraduate degree. Their online MBA program accepts students without a bachelor’s, as long as they can prove at least five years of relevant managerial experience.

Other Education / Professional Certificates

There are many reasons why someone might not have a bachelor’s degree. Maybe you didn’t have the financial means to pay for four years of schooling or perhaps you started but weren’t able to finish the degree. About 40% of students actually drop out of college, leaving a large minority of people with a partial degree. Dropping out of college is clearly a common practice and must happen for a reason. Students may feel as though they have to earn money for the time being, or they started a family, or there are those who simply got bored by their program.

If this is the case for you, University of the People (UoPeople) can be a great option for you. UoPeople is a nonprofit, tuition-free, and US-accredited online university that offers Associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, Computer Science, and Health Science, and master’s programs in Business and Education. Please note, UoPeople’s master’s programs require you to have a bachelor’s first. However, you have the opportunity to pursue a higher education without worrying about financial constraints. Find out more about UoPeople’s degree programs and how they can help you pursue a higher education.

All reasons aside, not earning a bachelor’s isn’t the end of the road by any means. There are other ways to get an education. Many people choose to earn a professional certificate or diploma from a community college. You can also consider an associate’s degree which is typically completed within two years. It’s a short-cycle degree program that is beneficial for working students on the path of developing their careers but aren’t able to stop everything and earn a full bachelor’s degree. An associate’s degree can either lead to a bachelor’s or master’s, depending on your field of study.

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If you have continued to study by getting certificates, this can come in handy when applying for a master’s program. Post-secondary knowledge and experience is what universities are going to be looking at when considering an applicant’s background without having a bachelor’s degree on their transcript.

Transferring Your Degree to Another Field

There is also the dilemma that many students have in which they do have an undergraduate degree but it’s unrelated to the master’s program that they’re aiming to earn. This, however, isn’t always an issue. There are many degrees in which an unrelated bachelor’s degree is totally acceptable.

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Being able to earn a graduate degree without a related undergraduate degree can really open doors for tons of students. Maybe you changed your mind as to what you want to study or what career to pursue, or perhaps you know you want to earn an MBA yet don’t want to study business for four years.

Common master’s programs that don’t always require a related bachelor’s include: Master’s in Business (MBA), Master’s in Counseling Psychology, Master’s in Human Resources, Master’s in Social Work, Master’s in Journalism, and Master’s in Nursing, among many others.

Getting a Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree

Applying for a master’s program without a bachelor’s and banking on your personal and professional experience is one way of going about it as we went through above. But there’s also the option of earning a combined degree.

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Integrated Master’s Programs

An integrated master’s, also called a “two-in-one” degree, is a program that combines a master’s degree with an additional qualification at a different level of study, most commonly with a bachelor’s. Instead of taking the two as separate degrees, this is studying one single, longer program. These types of degrees are getting more popular. There were 101,000 integrated master’s programs offered in the US as of 2014.

When it comes to certifications, there are integrated programs that offer two separate qualifications, however most programs of this kind award the more advanced of the degrees. That means you would earn a Master’s instead of a Bachelor’s upon completion. It also means that you don’t need a bachelor’s in order to apply for the program.

The Pros and Cons of an Integrated Master’s Degree

If you’re thinking of doing a two-in-one program, you might want to consider both the benefits and and limitations of such a degree.

The Pros:

  • You accomplish two qualifications in one
  • This type of degree can appeal to many employers
  • Student loans cover integrated master’s

The Cons:

  • Not every subject is offered
  • Not always recommended if you want to go on to study a PhD
  • A longer course can mean higher costs

Schools that Offer Bachelor/Master Combined Programs

There are a number of universities that offer two-in-one programs in which a bachelor’s is not a requirement. Take the following as examples:

Nursing: South University

  • The top choice on Nurse Journal. Highly recommended and 100% online
  • Allows a Registered Nurse with an associate’s degree to pursue a master’s in Nursing without a bachelor’s of Science in Nursing

Science: Loyola University

  • The Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Applied Statistics program is five years in duration and is located in Chicago
  • The typical master’s program requirement to take the GRE is waived for students applying to this program. The application fee is also waived

Accounting: Penn State University

  • The integrated MAcc program (Bachelor of Science in Accounting and MBA program) is five years in duration
  • Paid internships are available in the senior year

Get an MIT Master’s Without a Bachelor’s Degree

  • MIT’s Department of Economics offers a MicroMasters Program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy
  • The program starts with five free online courses, and after passing a proctored exam, students are awarded a MicroMaster’s, and can then apply to MIT’s master’s degree program.


We hope we gave you some insights into how you can earn your master’s degree without a bachelor’s. It’s becoming more popular as its being recognized as a real demand in some areas of study. However, make sure you do the appropriate research as to which university offers this kind of education opportunity. If you’re still considering earning a bachelor’s degree, University of the People has degrees in Computer Science, Business Administration, Health Science, and Education. You’re welcome to check them out and see how a tuition-free online degree could be perfect for you!

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.