Earning your first bachelor’s degree can help you qualify for more roles, earn a higher salary, and strengthen your knowledge about a subject. After graduation, bachelor’s degree holders pursue many paths: some enter the workforce, others pursue advanced education, like a master’s degree, if they intend to study a similar subject, and still others seek out supplementary education, like a certificate, to help them gain specific career skills.
However, there may be times when earning a second bachelor’s degree—another full bachelor’s degree you pursue after earning your first—makes more sense. In this article, we’ll discuss what it takes to earn a second bachelor’s degree, reasons why you might want to acquire one, and other education options to consider.
Learn more: Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth It?
Pursuing a second bachelor’s often depends on specific circumstances. Here are five instances where it may be beneficial:
Many jobs require a bachelor’s degree. While employers often state a preference for one subject area, they may be flexible if you demonstrate significant experience or skills related to the work. However, when you’re interested in changing careers to a more specialized type of work, such as nursing or engineering, it may be necessary to go back and earn your bachelor’s degree if you studied something unrelated to that field.
A second bachelor’s degree isn’t a requirement for advancement, but it can help strengthen your subject knowledge and experience. It may even show employers your commitment to learning more about your field and bolstering your related skills.
However, since second bachelor’s degree majors are more limited, you should take time to research the programs available to you. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, exploring master’s degrees in your field may be beneficial. Many people pursue a graduate degree when they’re looking to advance their career in some way.
People take time off work for many reasons. If you’ve been out of the workforce for several years or even several decades, you may benefit from earning a second bachelor’s degree to reinforce your subject knowledge while learning about new developments in your field. Reentering the workforce after a significant break is also an opportunity to think about a career change, which may necessitate a second degree.
While the reasons we’ve listed above have to do with professional development, you may find that you want to return to school to learn about a subject that interests you and continue investing in your education. In that case, perhaps the advanced coursework—or cost—of a master’s degree or some other type of education doesn’t fit your goals or resources, and a second bachelor’s degree would be a better option.
If the GPA from your first bachelor’s degree is keeping you from qualifying for graduate programs or pursuing other opportunities, then you may want to return to school and work on getting your second bachelor’s degree. The GPA you earn for your second bachelor’s degree won’t supplement or erase your first bachelor’s GPA, but if you do well, it can signal to academic programs and employers that you worked hard to improve.
Earning your second bachelor’s degree typically takes less time than your first because it often doesn’t require finishing the general education credits that comprise half of the 120 credits needed to graduate. However, not every college or university offers the chance to get a second bachelor’s degree, and those that do have limited majors. Let’s go over other important details about a second degree.
An initial bachelor’s degree generally takes between four and five years to earn because you must first complete around two years of general education courses before moving on to your major and elective courses. With a second bachelor’s degree, however, you likely won’t have to complete as many credits because you can transfer a good deal of what you’ve already earned toward your second degree.
Second bachelor’s degrees take around two or three years to earn, but that timeline can move faster or slower depending on your part-time or full-time student status.
Every school is different, but usually, those that offer second bachelor’s degrees allow you to transfer the general education credits you completed for your first bachelor’s. The remaining credits you’ll need to fulfill tend to focus more on major coursework.
That being said, some schools allow you to transfer some of your major credits from your first bachelor’s to your second, which can reduce the amount of time it takes to complete your new degree. As you research potential programs, reach out to college advisors to learn more about the specific requirements so you fully understand your coursework and timeline to graduation.
Not every major is available as a second bachelor’s degree, and not every school offers second degrees. It’s best to check with the schools you’re interested in attending to see if they offer a second bachelor’s and which areas you can study.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) helps determine your eligibility for financial assistance. But once you earn one bachelor’s degree and have used up your 12 semesters of eligibility, you will no longer qualify for federal grants. However, you may still receive scholarships, work-study options, and student loans.
Returning to school to earn your second bachelor’s degree isn’t your only option. Below, we’ve compiled alternatives worth exploring as you determine what kind of education is best for your goals.
When you’re in school, think about completing a double major rather than a second bachelor’s degree, which you’d need to apply for and enroll in after graduating. Often, completing two majors doesn’t take much longer than completing one, and you can list both majors on your resume to show employers the extra steps you took to learn complementary subjects.
Certain schools offer dual degree programs to students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. One extra year of study, on average, may be all it takes to earn two bachelor’s degrees in related subjects, such as business administration and marketing. There are also programs designed to streamline the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s, such as the Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work.
A master’s degree is a graduate degree that deepens your knowledge of a subject—often one you studied for your bachelor’s degree. They usually take two to three years to complete and can often lead to more senior roles and higher salaries. Because of the advanced nature of the degree, master’s coursework may be more difficult than the coursework for a second bachelor’s degree and is often a consideration for students deciding between the two.
A professional certificate can teach you job-ready skills that supplement the academic education you received through your first bachelor’s degree program. They are often designed to take far less time (several months up to one year) than a second bachelor’s or graduate degree program and are useful credentials to feature on your resume.
Learn more: What Are Certificate Programs?
Professional development tends to refer to courses, workshops, or conferences you can take in order to strengthen your professional skill set. While less official than a professional certificate, each field has many options to help you gain career-relevant skills and experience in areas like management, leadership, or communication.
Oftentimes, a company wants some kind of proof, like a portfolio, to verify that you have a specific skill set. Increasingly, people are leveraging independent projects to create a portfolio and enter a new career path without formal education. Learn through free courses and guided projects, such as the ones on Coursera, and build a project or portfolio you can showcase during interviews.
To determine the answer to that question, first ask yourself another: what do you want to do with your second bachelor’s degree? If you have a clear goal for earning one, such as a career change, then getting a second bachelor’s as opposed to another type of education may be a good option for you.
Given the time and expense of a second bachelor’s degree, it’s best to research and consider all of your options—and the potential outcome of each. Is it common for people to earn a second bachelor’s in your field? If you are switching careers, do you need a bachelor’s in the new subject, or can you find ways to learn about it that augment your first bachelor’s degree? Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine whether a second bachelor’s degree is right for you.
There are several bachelor’s degree programs available in in-demand areas, such as computer science and marketing, from leading universities on Coursera. Learn at your own pace from anywhere there’s internet access.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.