Accelerated Master’s Degrees

Accelerated Master’s Degrees

An accelerated Master’s degree option is an explicit arrangement of graduate admissions and courses and other requirements to enable a student to complete the requirements for a baccalaureate degree and a specified Master’s degree in less calendar time than would be required through normal sequential enrollment. Although such arrangements are sometimes referred to as “five-year” programs, “4+1 programs,” or “combined bachelor’s/Master’s programs,” it is important to keep in mind that they do not refer to a distinct or different kind of degree program. The reduction in calendar time does not result from a reduction in content. The requirements for the bachelor’s and Master’s degrees remain unchanged; what changes is how they are organized.

There are a number of ways in which calendar time may be reduced. Some involve methods of completing graduate requirements prior to formal enrollment in a graduate program, and some simply involve scheduling techniques.

For information on setting up an Accelerated Master's Degree Option, see the Faculty Senate Accelerated Master's Degree Guidelines.

Criteria for Approval

The basic building block of an accelerated option is an approved Master’s degree.  Proposals for accelerated Master’s options will be treated as a form of program revision.  The degree requirements are not different for students pursuing the accelerated option; the only variation is in the timing of the admissions process and in how coursework is organized.

A department with an existing Master’s degree can propose an accelerated option consistent with the Faculty Senate Guidelines.

  • If a department does not have an existing Master’s degree, then one must be created through the normal program approval process.
  • If a department wishes to propose changes to an existing Master’s degree in conjunction with consideration of an accelerated option, then a separate program revision proposal must be submitted.
  • An accelerated option may apply to a Master’s program in its entirety, or to certain concentrations within it (for example, a non-thesis option only, or a concentration requiring a particular course sequence). If use of one or more concentrations in this way is desired, then the necessary concentration must either already exist or be proposed separately as a program revision.

Application and Admission

The standard application procedures for admission to graduate programs apply to the Accelerated Master’s Degree Option.  At their discretion, programs may consider applications at any point during the student’s junior or senior year.

Admission to the accelerated Master's program remains conditional until the applicant completes the baccalaureate degree and fulfills the Graduate School and graduate program’s requirements for admission.

Program proposals should describe admission requirements for the Accelerated Master’s Degree applicant particularly if it differs from standard admission requirements for existing master’s program in the same department.

Program Credit Requirements

The Accelerated Master’s Degree Option requires minimum total credits, taken across both programs, equal to 30 plus the minimum baccalaureate credit requirement.  The typical undergraduate degree requires 120 credits, so the credit minimum for accelerated option would be 150 unless a higher undergraduate requirement applies.

Credit Transfer

Credits that are to be transferred to the accelerated Master's degree must be taken at UMass Amherst while enrolled as an undergraduate in the Accelerated Master’s Degree Option.  All courses applied to the Accelerated Master’s Degree Option must be graduate level courses, numbered 500 or above.  Upon departmental recommendation, 9 credits may be transferred for programs with up to 36 credits required; 12 credits can be transferred to the graduate degree program for programs with over 36 credits required. 

Five-College Students

Qualifying undergraduate students from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke or Smith Colleges may be considered for enrollment in the accelerated Master's degree option at the discretion of the program offering the option. The standard UMass Amherst Graduate School admission and program requirements apply to these students as well.

Faculty

All faculty teaching and/or advising accelerated Master's students must be members of the Graduate Faculty. Members of the 5-College community are eligible to serve as Graduate Faculty provided they meet the criteria for Graduate Faculty status as established by the UMass Amherst academic departments and the Graduate Council. Such recommendations are made to and approved by the Graduate Dean.

Steps to Approval

  • Submit proposal via the online UMass Course and Curriculum Management System.
  • Proposals are routed electronically to the participating department chairs/directors and deans for approval
  • Approved proposals are then routed for approval to the Graduate Council and the Academic Matters Council.
  • If approved by Graduate Council and the Academic Matters Council, the proposal is then sent to the Faculty Senate for approval.
  • If approved by the Faculty Senate, the proposal is sent to the Provost's Office for final approval.