Fast Track to an Advanced Degree

Photo: Mike Peters

“Because the combined program allows me to take master's-level courses in my senior year, I can get an early start on my research.” — Alexa Rae Hasselman, Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences BS/MS program

In today’s competitive job market, an increasing number of employers prefer candidates with advanced degrees. In fact, a July 2011 New York Times article called the master’s degree “the new bachelor’s.”

Montclair State gives undergraduates in a wide range of programs an early start toward this important credential through combined bachelor's and master’s degree programs. With a combined program, up to 12 credits may be applied to both undergraduate and graduate degrees at undergraduate tuition rates.

Even with full-time attendance, a typical 30-36 credit master’s program normally takes two years to complete. But, by starting classes toward the master’s in a student’s senior year with the combined program, considerable time can be saved.

“It’s a way for dedicated, hardworking students to get a head start on their graduate course work,” says Bryan Terry, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Academic Services. “Students can shave an entire year off the process, accelerating their entry into the workplace at a more senior level.”

A further incentive for students who are on the right track from the start in their class sequence and have the required GPA is that they may be eligible for admission without taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GREs). “The prospect of taking GREs may be off-putting to students who hope to pursue graduate education,” notes Claire Taub, associate dean of The Graduate School. “They may have proven themselves again and again in the classroom, but the idea of standardized tests is daunting.”

Montclair State has a dozen combined degree programs in place, with six more on the way (see below). Among the new programs scheduled to launch in the fall of 2012 are combined degree offerings in psychology, historically one of the University’s most popular majors. A survey of Montclair State’s psychology students showed that fully 50 percent did not intend to pursue a PhD or become a clinician. For those going into other career areas, a combined bachelor’s/master’s program will ensure that they have the necessary marketable skills in research and data analysis to excel. “The research-intensive focus of the combined BA/MA program will enable our students to be marketable in a broad range of fields where such skills are highly valued, including the food industry and pharmaceutical industry. The program will also be attractive to students interested in some of the hottest areas in the field of psychology,” notes Professor of Psychology Deborah Ragin, who authored the proposal for the combined programs, naming forensic psychology, neuropsychology, and psycholinguistics as among the “hot” areas.

Marietta Morrissey, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, describes the combined degree programs as a “great opportunity for students to work with and take classes with master-level students earlier in their academic careers.”

The combined bachelor’s/master’s degree programs culminating in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) provides students with two degrees and two teacher certifications. Students earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree with teacher certifications in general education (in early childhood education, elementary education, or a subject area) and in special education. According to Ada Beth Cutler, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, “these dual-degree/dual certification programs will prepare teachers who understand and meet the learning needs of all students in inclusive classrooms. Using the latest research and best practices, the graduates will be outstanding teachers for students with and without diagnosed disabilities in their classrooms.”

Robert Prezant, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, describes himself as a strong advocate of the combined degree programs. “The ultimate goal is to get our students well positioned for careers in industry, science education, or for pursuing a PhD,” he explains. “Five-year programs set our students on a path of research at an earlier stage. For students who have an eye on the ball and have ‘always wanted to be’ a chemist, a mathematician, or what have you, this is an opportunity for them to take a shorter and more direct path to their goals.”

In addition to the time savings, the programs maximize the return on educational investment. Lisa Kasper, director of undergraduate admissions, notes that increasingly students—and their parents—are seeing a combined degree program as a means to get a good first job that will set a career on the right trajectory and monetize the investment in education. With all their advantages—accelerated time frame, lower cost, and the possibility of having the GRE requirement waived, among others—the combined degree programs are an attractive option for students aiming for a master’s degree. “The combined bachelor’s and master’s programs offer unique advantages for our students,” says Terry. “They are the best way I can think of for our highest achievers to kick-start their careers.”

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Combined Degree Programs

Montclair State currently offers12 combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.Each combined program consists of undergraduate and graduate coursework.

  • Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences(BS/MS)
  • Biology (BS/MS)
  • Chemistry (BS/MS)
  • Computer Science (BS/MS)
  • English (BA/MAT)
  • Family, Children, and School Settings (BA/MAT)
  • Fine Arts (BA/MAT)
  • Geoscience (BS/MAT)
  • Linguistics (BA/MAT)
  • Mathematics (BS/MS)
  • Spanish (BA/MAT)
  • Statistics (BS/MS)

Coming in Fall 2012

  • Chemistry (BS/MAT)
  • Philosophy (BA/MAT)
  • Psychology (BA/MA or BA/MAT)
  • Religious Studies (BA/MAT)
  • Sociology (BA/MAT)