Should You Get a Second Bachelor’s Degree?
If you're considering getting a second bachelor's degree, read our guide to learn about the potential benefits and challenges you may face.
- A second bachelor's degree can be worth it if you're considering a major career change.
- In some cases, master's degrees and professional certifications are better choices.
- Consider your potential ROI and time commitment before pursuing a second bachelor's degree.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) press release from August 2021, younger baby boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) worked an average of more than 12 jobs between the ages of 18 and 54.
Switching jobs is common for U.S. workers. If you're unsatisfied with your current job and committed to a big career change, getting a second bachelor's degree could be a worthwhile option.
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Ready to start your journey?
In this guide, we provide some pros, cons, and factors to consider when thinking about getting a second bachelor's degree.
Why Get a Second Bachelor's Degree?
In general, a second bachelor's degree is worth considering if it seems likely to maximize your return on investment (ROI) compared to similar options, such as a master's degree, certificate, or certification. In most cases, a second bachelor's degree may make the most sense if you want to make a major career change to a completely different field.
However, in some cases, a second bachelor's degree may help you advance in your current position or field by helping you develop a complementary skill set. For example, a business background could enhance your information technology skills, and vice versa.
5 Factors to Consider Before Going Back for a Second Bachelor's Degree
There are several factors to take into account when thinking about a second bachelor's degree. We highlight five of the most important considerations below.
1. You Will Likely Acquire Some Debt
A four-year bachelor's degree can cost a lot of money. It's important to consider the debt you may take on when getting a second bachelor's degree.
Nevertheless, you may be able to skip general education coursework thanks to your first bachelor's degree, which can reduce the number of credits you need to take and pay for. Furthermore, a second bachelor's degree could result in less debt than a master's degree.
2. There May Be Cheaper Alternatives
Before deciding to pursue a second bachelor's degree, make sure you consider alternative options to ensure another four-year degree is your best option. For example, you may be able to achieve similar career advancement by pursuing professional courses or a certification from an industry organization.
If you're looking to change careers or advance in your current field, seek out people who have made similar leaps. Ask them what additional education or credentials they pursued — the answers might surprise you.
3. A Master's Degree May Be More Worthwhile
In many cases, attending graduate school to pursue a master's degree may be more valuable than a second bachelor's degree. In most fields, a master's degree is more likely to lead to career advancement and higher wages than a second bachelor's degree. If you're looking to advance in your field rather than change careers, a master's degree is probably a better fit.
What's more, you may be able to pursue a master's degree in your desired area no matter the field of your bachelor's degree, though you may need to complete some prerequisite courses.
4. Time Commitment
Time commitment is a significant factor in pursuing a second bachelor's degree. The typical bachelor's degree requires 120 credits over four years of full-time study. Even if you can waive general education requirements, you may still need to complete at least 60 credits of coursework. If you want to keep your job and enroll part time, this process could still take 3-4 years.
Professional courses and certifications typically take much less time but can still help position you for career advancement.
5. Financial Aid Options
Students pursuing a second bachelor's degree may be able to benefit from federal aid, work-study programs, and scholarships. However, keep in mind that your loan limit doesn't increase if you go back to school for a second undergraduate degree. If you took out loans for your first bachelor's degree, you may not be able to get all the money you need for your second.
In contrast, students returning to school for a graduate degree may qualify for a higher loan limit, and there are often many financial aid options for graduate students.
Second Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree, or Certification: Which Is Right for You?
There are many options to consider when determining the best way to switch or advance your career. You can pursue a second bachelor's degree, master's degree, or professional certification. We delve into when to pursue each option below.
When a Second Bachelor's Degree May Be the Best Option
- You want to switch into a completely new field that requires foundational knowledge you don't have.
- You want to increase your general prospects for career advancement in any field and are willing to commit at least four years to your studies.
When a Master's Degree May Be the Best Option
- You want to advance in your current field into a managerial position or a position that involves additional responsibility.
- You want to increase your earning potential in your current field.
- You want to transition into a field or job that requires a master's degree.
When Professional Certification or Courses May Be the Best Option
- You are committed to your field, you want to stay current with industry trends, and you want to choose the most affordable option available.
- Your career requires professional certification or courses.
How to Get a Second Bachelor's Degree
There are several ways to earn a second bachelor's degree. You can take the traditional route and fill out the Common App or individual applications for specific schools.
You can also apply to colleges that offer dedicated "second bachelor's degree" programs. Schools like New York University, Oregon State University, and the University of South Alabama offer these programs in various fields. These programs serve working professionals by providing ample flexibility and online courses — often with synchronous and asynchronous options.
Even if you don't study at a school offering dedicated second bachelor's degrees, you may want to consider pursuing an online program if you plan to continue working while enrolled.
Frequently Asked Questions About Earning a Second Bachelor's Degree
How long does it take to get a second bachelor's degree?
It can take up to four years of full-time study to earn a second bachelor's degree. However, you may be able to skip general education courses thanks to transfer credits from your first bachelor's degree. Nevertheless, you should expect to spend at least two years studying full time for a second bachelor's degree, and potentially 3-4 years if you enroll part time.
Can you transfer credits from a completed degree?
It depends on the school. Many universities may award up to 60 credits for general education courses you have already completed, as these courses should be relatively similar across schools. However, you typically need to complete all major coursework at your new school for your second bachelor's degree.
Check with your prospective school's admissions department before enrolling to see if you can earn transfer credits.
Can you get Pell Grants for a second bachelor's degree?
No. Pell Grant eligibility expires once you have completed 12 semesters of coursework or a bachelor's or professional degree
Is a second bachelor's degree worth it?
It depends on your situation. If you don't plan on changing fields, it may be better to earn a master's degree or complete professional certifications in your field. However, if you want to change fields entirely, a second bachelor's degree may be the best fit.
Consider your likely ROI when making this decision. For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition and fees for a public graduate program in 2018-19 was $12,171. In contrast, tuition and fees for bachelor's programs at public, in-state colleges were about $9,350 per year.
Additionally, according to the BLS, professionals with a master's degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,545 in 2020, while bachelor's degree-holders earned $1,305 weekly. This difference adds up to more than $12,000 over the course of a year. In the long run, a master's degree may lead to higher salaries and more opportunities.
Feature Image: RichVintage / E+ / Getty Images
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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