Complete second degree years after graduation?
January 19, 2010 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I graduated college a while ago with one BA in the sciences, and just short of a second major in the social sciences (like two classes short). Given current job plans, I'd really like to have that social science degree as well. How can I complete it years after graduation?

Going back to the same college isn't an option (distance, cost). I know different schools have different requirements and am willing to take a few more than the two classes that were remaining in the major at my old school, if necessary. However, I'm finding a lot of schools have two issues for me:

a) Many schools limit the number of credits you can transfer in toward a degree. Makes sense, since it's their name they're putting on your degree and they don't want to leave most of the evaluation of your academic ability up to another school. However, I've already done a lot of work and don't want to redo things I've already done, if possible.

b) Many schools also require you take a certain number of their "general education" or "liberal arts" requirements to get a degree. I'd rather not repeat these.

Any thoughts on good things to do or places to go? I'm not entirely adverse to online/distance learning, but I want the degree to be from someplace reputable.
posted by ollyolly to Education (10 answers total)
Call the advising office at the old school. For two classes, you could probably take them somewhere convenient, then transfer the credits to the old school. You might have to take some credits at the old school during the semester you graduate - often there are one-credit hour placeholder classes for this. The advising office will sort you out.
posted by ansate at 9:29 AM on January 19, 2010

As ansate mentions your old school should be willing to take transfer credits. This would neatly sidestep the course and credit requirements that you are running into in looking for new schools.

Also, there has been a significant increase in on-line (distance learning) courses in the last few years, even at good four year schools. So, it might be possible to enroll in two on-line courses at your old school and finish the degree that way. It might still be expensive but it would be way more convenient and thus possibly worth the extra cost.

Finally, you could try contacting individual professors to see whether they are willing to let you participate from afar. You'd have to sell them on the idea, but many professors are willing to make significant concessions to accommodate students with real difficulties.

Perhaps you could even talk an old professor into giving you an on-line independent study course.
posted by oddman at 9:38 AM on January 19, 2010

In theory it sounds pretty good, but in practice, I'm not sure it's done very often. My university typically only lets students return for second bachelor's degrees/majors when the new field will give the student a completely different degree. This most often happens when the new major/degree is in another school/college, like an education degree after a psych major.

Typically, what you're suggesting is not done because your two fields were likely in the same "college" -- most universities have a School of Liberal Arts or Arts and Sciences or whatever, and I'm guessing that because you have a BA in the sciences you probably went this route instead of a hard science like engineering, which would have been in another college.

I don't think that your major matters to most employers; mine certainly didn't care. If you want to take those classes, however, and present yourself as having completed the coursework equivalent to that degree, I don't see why that would be a problem. I completed the coursework for two related majors (music performance and music history, both BAs) and that's one way I've dealt with it. It shows that you have the drive and the background, and that's typically what employers will want.
posted by Madamina at 10:07 AM on January 19, 2010

I actually have this very same question, and I'd like to piggyback if I may?

here's my clarifying question, which may or may not help the OP (and if piggybacking in askMe is unforgivably gauche, mods, please delete my comment and I apologize):

- my college advisors wouldn't let me change my foreign language minor into a major (I also only lack about two classes) because I did not select the foreign language major when I first transferred in with an AA from the local feeder school.

In other words, I transferred in as an English major, with no minor, then took the SAT2 in Spanish to qualify for upper level placement, which enabled me to complete a minor in Spanish, but strangely, not a major.

is there any good reason why foreign language majors should be substantially different from social science majors?
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:09 AM on January 19, 2010

(To clarify: on my resume, it says, "BA in music; extensive coursework in music history and English" or "Also completed requirements for music history major." This is different than a Bachelor of Music degree.)

I just checked in with My Friend the Academic Dean, and he confirms this. There's really nothing that the university can provide to say that something was completed retroactively, but it's perfectly legit to say you completed the work in this way. Think of it this way: if you want to go to med school but are missing certain classes, you don't have to go back and get an entirely separate degree, right?

toodleydoodley, that sounds like something else is amiss, unfortunately. MFtAD says that this is not the case at our major public university. You should be able to change your major to anything, at any time, so long as you complete the requirements set out by the major department (much like my high school boyfriend, a CS major, decided in his junior year to become a band teacher and graduated four years later). There are a few exceptions: maybe you missed out on a certain number of credits "in residence" at your new school; maybe the two classes needed were sequential and/or only offered at certain times and would have delayed your graduation from an institution that forces graduation (not uncommon).
posted by Madamina at 10:28 AM on January 19, 2010

"forces graduation" sounds familiar -- I came in with a buttload of credits from a prior stint at a weird liberal arts college, many of which completely stumped the transcript readers. All the "allowable but what the hell are they" credits got shoehorned into being electives, and by the time I had completed my major and minor (kept english, added spanish) coursework, I was about 15 credits or so past what they want you to have to graduate. so I graduated.

but now that I've graduated, is it likely that they'll let me take the two or three classes I needed to complete my second major?
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2010

Unless you have been told specifically that a bachelor's in social sciences will help your career, don't bother. The only thing my bachelor's in sociology ever did for me is get me into grad school. Otherwise it's completely worthless in the job market. You should be able to get into grad school with the degree you already have.
posted by desjardins at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2010

Toodley: sure; just go in as a guest or special student. Same rules apply, though; don't tell people that you had a double major, but do be clear that you completed coursework equivalent to doing so. If you wanted to get even more specific, a rec from the department saying, "Yes, Toodley completed this and is awesome" would be an added bonus for anyone who, say, required that you majored in Spanish.
posted by Madamina at 11:38 AM on January 19, 2010

As ansate said, you should talk to the old school. You may be able to transfer in courses for the last two (I know we let some people finish their last couple of courses away where I used to work). However, be aware that you may have some additional requirements to finish depending--some places have policies requiring you to meet the current degree requirements rather than the old ones. Since you're going to have to get a transcript, etc. from the old school anyway, it's probably worth making the phone call.

If you decide to go somewhere else, you may be able to transfer in some of the old coursework as gen eds and you should be able to substitute for courses you've already taken (though you may have to make up the credits).
posted by eleanna at 1:08 PM on January 19, 2010

I looked into it a few years ago (at Texas A&M University) I had switched from CS to Sociology at 4 years into the degree and I was seeing if it would be worth going back. My experience was that I could use the credits and after I reapplied use them towards a degree, but it would not be from the 1999 degree plan, but the current one, along with all the changes. FWIW
posted by aggienfo at 7:25 PM on January 19, 2010

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