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December 15th, 2011,
Second Bachelor's Degree

By Noël Rozny
Web Editor and Content Manager

A lot can happen between the day you graduate from college and the moment you find your dream career. You’ll probably work a dozen internships, try different entry-level jobs, and experience what it’s like to work everywhere from a corporate office to a non-profit to a start-up venture.

As you fine tune what you want to do with your life, you may discover that you’ll need to go back and get a second bachelor’s degree. Hopefully your first degree can help you start your dream job, but in some cases, you may need addition training. If, for example, your marketing degree led you to a hospital communications job, which made you realize what you really want to do is become a nurse, you’re going to have to go back for some additional schooling.

It might sound like a huge investment of time and money, but earning a second bachelor’s degree doesn’t have to take as long (or cost as much) as your first degree did.

Tips for Earning a Second Bachelor’s Degree

Test Drive First
If you think you want to change careers and you already have one bachelor’s degree, one of the best things you can do is test drive this new path. Research the position and what the job outlook is, volunteer within the industry, and ask around to see if you can job shadow for the day. Doing a little reconnaissance work will ensure this new career path is really what you want before you invest your time and money in a second bachelor’s degree.

Research All Entry Points
During your research of this new career, check out all the entry points. Is there more than one way to start on this career path? Is there an intern or apprentice program that can teach you what you need to know?

For example, to stick with the nursing example from above, there are several ways to become a nurse without earning bachelor’s in nursing right off the bat. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program, which will allow you to start as a licensed practical nurse in just a few months (depending on the program). If you know you want to be a registered nurse, a two-year associate’s degree is an alternative option to a four-year bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). Once you have one of these accreditations, you can get to work and then earn your BSN through an online bridge program later on.

Find Out Which Classes Transfer
Once you’ve done the research and found the program that’s going to work for you, speak to an admissions advisor about your transcript. There’s a good chance that many of your general education requirements will count towards your new degree, which means that instead of having another four years of school ahead of you, you may only have one or two.

The key here is how related your two degrees are to one another. If you earned an art history degree, for example, and now you want to study psychology, some of your courses may overlap. If you’re making a switch from sociology to computer engineering, your credits may still count towards your overall graduation quota, but they may not count towards specific course requirements. (In other words, there will still be a lot of classes you need to take to learn the subject matter.) Either way, an admissions counselor will be able to tell you the best way to go about getting credit for the classes you already completed.

Take Basic Classes at a Community College
If you’re making a major career change to a totally new field and you need to get up to speed on the subject matter, your community college is a great place to start. English majors who want to embark upon finance careers, for example, are going to need a lot more math than they took for their first bachelor’s degree. Getting some of these required courses out of the way at your local community college is a great way to save some cash (and make sure you really do want to proceed on this path before you invest a ton of time and money). Again, if this is the route you choose, keep in touch with the advisor at the college or university you plan to transfer to to ensure they will accept those credits.

Plan Your Schedule
One of the hardest parts about earning a second bachelor’s degree is that if you’re already working, it can be financially difficult to go back to a full-time student schedule (and tuition payments). Thankfully, many schools today offer night, weekend and online classes to fit with a working professional’s lifestyle. Find out what options your school offers and, with a little careful planning, you may be able to fit it into your pre-existing work arrangements.