How is a Joint Bachelors/Masters degree different from pursuing a standalone MS after college?

Joint Bachelors/Masters programs are often structured as “4+1 programs”, where students work on completing their Bachelors requirements during their first four years, and their Masters requirements during their fifth (i.e., “+1”) year, all at the same institution. Unlike applying to a Masters separately, students in a 4+1 program apply to participate in this joint program sometime during their first four years (and sometimes as part of their original college application as high school students), and typically have access to certain benefits, such as:

  • In some institutions, a 4+1 student has undergraduate status throughout the 5 years, which allows them to continue to receive undergraduate financial aid..
  • In others, the student is a graduate student in year 5, which may open up opportunities available only to graduate students, such as Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships (which may come with tuition remission).
  • 4+1 degree programs typically allow the student to double-count a certain number of graduate-level courses towards the undergrad and graduate degree, meaning the total number of courses taken will be less than if the student were completing a Bachelors and MS degree separate from each other.
  • While the 4+1 model is common, there are also other types of Bachelors/Masters programs, including programs that allow students to graduate with a Bachelors and a Masters in just 4 years (and which are typically intended for students who would ordinarily finish their Bachelors in three years).

For undergraduates interested in research and considering a PhD, the focus as an undergraduate should be on pursuing research activities and identifying an area of interest. Pursuing a 4+1 degree may have course requirements that limit the research opportunities a student can pursue, and PhD admission committees will value research experience more than additional completed coursework.