Should You Get a Second Bachelor’s Degree or a Master's Degree?

A young woman in a library works on her second bachelor's degree
March 25, 2024 7 min read Liaison

Whether you aim to deepen your expertise in a familiar domain or pivot to an entirely new area of study, understanding the implications of each option is crucial.

Key Takeaways

Identify your long-term career objectives. For many advanced positions, a master's degree might be preferred or required.

If you're considering a complete change in career path, a second bachelor's might provide the foundational knowledge you need.

Consider your willingness to invest time and the financial costs associated with each option.

If your academic interest is highly specialized, a master’s degree may offer courses and research opportunities that are closely aligned with your interests.

If you're considering further academic pursuits, such as a Ph.D., a master’s degree might be a necessary step.


Choosing between pursuing a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree is a significant decision that impacts your academic and professional future. This choice requires careful deliberation, as it influences not just your educational path but also your career trajectory, financial outlook, and personal growth. The decision hinges on various factors, including your current level of education, professional aspirations, areas of interest, and the specific requirements of your chosen field.

Whether you aim to deepen your expertise in a familiar domain or pivot to an entirely new area of study, understanding the implications of each option is crucial. The following considerations will help you make a well-informed decision that aligns with your long-term goals and priorities.

Career Goals

Career goals are paramount when deciding between a second bachelor's degree and a master's degree. If your career goals involve advancing to higher levels of responsibility, leadership positions, or specialized roles within your field, a master's degree is often more beneficial.

Conversely, if you're contemplating a shift to a new field where you lack the foundational knowledge or if your desired career path values breadth of knowledge and interdisciplinary skills, pursuing a second bachelor's degree might be a better choice than graduate school.

Field of Study

Your desired field of study is a critical consideration when weighing the decision between pursuing a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree. This choice hinges largely on your current level of expertise and the direction you wish to take your career. If you aim to deepen your knowledge within the same field as your bachelor's degree, a master's degree is typically the most logical step. It allows you to focus on advanced concepts, engage in more specialized research, and develop expertise that can set you apart in the job market.

On the other hand, if you're considering a drastic change in your career path or are drawn to a field entirely different from your undergraduate study, a second bachelor's degree might be more beneficial. For example, transitioning from a background in the humanities to a career in a STEM field (or vice versa) often necessitates a comprehensive understanding and skills that only a full undergraduate program in the new field can offer.

Admissions Requirements

Understanding the admissions requirements for master's programs compared to those for a second bachelor's degree is another top priority. Master’s programs often have a set of stringent admission criteria that may include a strong undergraduate GPA, relevant professional or research experience, and satisfactory scores on standardized tests such as the GRE or GMAT, depending on the field of study.

In contrast, admission criteria for a second bachelor’s degree might be more flexible, especially if you are applying to the same institution where you completed your first degree. However, some programs may still require prerequisite courses or specific entrance exams, depending on the field of study. The process might be less competitive than for master's programs, but it's important to demonstrate your reasons for wanting to pursue a second bachelor’s degree and how it fits into your career plans.

Some universities also offer accelerated or second-degree programs designed specifically for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in another field, potentially allowing for a quicker completion time by transferring general education credits from your first degree.

When evaluating which path to take, prospective students should consider not only the immediate requirements but also how each program's admissions standards align with their academic background and professional experiences. If you're leaning towards graduate programs but are concerned about meeting admission requirements, you may want to look into post-baccalaureate programs, consider getting a graduate certificate, or take additional coursework that could strengthen your application.

It's also worth reaching out to request information from each program's student services or admissions office for guidance on how to best prepare your application and improve your chances of admission to your desired program.

Academic Interests and Specializations

Master's programs offer a more concentrated study in a specific area of interest, allowing each student to gain advanced knowledge and specialize in a niche within the field. This level of specialization can be particularly beneficial if you have a clear understanding of the specific area you wish to explore or if you're aiming for a career that requires such specialized expertise.

Graduate studies often involve a significant amount of research, culminating in a thesis or project that contributes new insights to your field. This focus not only deepens your understanding but also positions you as an expert in your area of study, which can be advantageous for career advancement.

A second bachelor's degree provides a broader base of knowledge and may be more suitable if you're looking to shift fields or if your interest spans multiple disciplines that aren't covered in a single master's program. It offers the chance to explore different subjects within a broader field, which can be particularly useful if you're still solidifying your specific interests or if you require a comprehensive foundation before specializing. The broader approach of a second bachelor's degree can also foster a diverse skill set, making it a good option if you're interested in fields that value versatility and a wide-ranging knowledge base.

A student earning his second bachelor's degree shakes hands with a professor.

Source: Pexels

Future Academic Plans

You also need to think about how a second bachelor's degree or a master's degree will impact your trajectory, especially if you have aspirations for further studies, such as a Ph.D. Earning a master's degree in graduate school often serves as a stepping stone towards doctoral studies, providing you with the advanced research skills, theoretical knowledge, and academic credentials needed for Ph.D. programs.

Choosing to pursue a second bachelor's degree could be strategic if you're switching fields and need a solid foundation in a new discipline before advancing to graduate studies. However, if your ultimate goal is to obtain a Ph.D., it's important to consider how the second bachelor's degree aligns with this objective. While it can provide the necessary background knowledge, it might extend the time before you can embark on your doctoral studies. Additionally, it may not offer the same level of specialized research experience and academic networking opportunities that a master's program would.

Earning Potential and Career Advancement

Assessing the earning potential and career advancement opportunities associated with a master's degree versus a second bachelor's degree will also help you make an informed decision. Generally, a master's degree can significantly enhance your earning potential and career trajectory. This is because advanced degrees often qualify individuals for higher-level positions that command higher salaries and offer more leadership opportunities.

On the other hand, a second bachelor’s degree might be necessary if you're transitioning to a field where foundational undergraduate education is essential and where a master's degree without this foundation might not be as valuable.

Personal Development

Remember, too, to think about your personal development when choosing between a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. This choice not only influences your career outlook but also your personal growth. Master’s programs tend to be more rigorous, with a greater emphasis on independent research, advanced-level coursework, and specialization in a specific area.

This environment can foster significant personal development, enhancing your critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and expertise in your field. It demands a high level of self-discipline, motivation, and commitment to your studies, preparing you for complex challenges in professional settings. Moreover, a master's degree can offer a profound sense of achievement and confidence in your ability to tackle advanced work and contribute meaningfully to your field.

However, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree might offer a different kind of personal growth. It can provide a broader educational experience, exposing you to new disciplines and perspectives. This path might be appealing if you’re seeking to broaden your horizons, change career paths, or if you have diverse interests that weren’t fully explored during your first degree. The journey through a second bachelor's program can also enhance your adaptability, resilience, and problem-solving skills as you navigate the challenges of entering a new field.


Ultimately, deciding between pursuing a second bachelor's degree and a master's degree involves a careful consideration of various factors, including your career goals, the field of study, admission requirements, and your personal academic goals. The best choice is one that brings you closer to fulfilling your aspirations and equips you with the knowledge and skills needed for success in your chosen career path.


Getting a second bachelor's degree might make sense if you want to develop expertise in a new field or if your GPA from your first bachelor's degree is too low for admission to graduate school.

If you are able to receive credit for professional work experience or if you can transfer credits from your first degree toward your second one, you may be able to complete your studies within two years.

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