Going Back to School to Earn a Second Degree

ASO Staff Writers
Updated October 16, 2023
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Students considering going back to school to earn a second bachelor’s or master’s degree can learn more about the process here. Find out about restrictions and requirements, whether attending a different school is a good option, and learn how a second degree helped other students succeed.

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree who want to expand their career opportunities sometimes return to school to earn an additional bachelor’s degree. For some, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree can be quicker, easier, and cheaper than pursuing a master’s degree. Also, it can allow professionals to switch career paths or earn college credit for skills they developed in an area other than their first degree discipline.

When considering pursuing a second bachelor’s degree, professionals can review this guide to learn what to expect.

Earning a Second Degree Explained

Some degree holders with a bachelor’s degree might decide to pursue a second one, which may enable them to evolve within their field, adapt to job changes, secure promotions, and/or switch career paths. Many professionals pursue a second bachelor’s degree in place of a master’s or to acquire credits in a particular skill area.

Why Pursue a Second College Degree?

  • Evolve Within a Current Field

    Due to industry changes, professionals might find themselves in a career that challenges them to develop new skills to keep up with the demands of their career.
  • Enter a New Field

    Professionals may find themselves complacent in their career, facing the desire to switch paths. In many cases, switching careers might require professionals to earn a degree they do not currently possess, compelling them to go back to school.
  • Pursue a Promotion

    Earning a second bachelor’s degree allows professionals to stand apart from their coworkers, and it can give them a leg up for promotions, especially since a second degree adds more skills, knowledge, and experience to their resume.
  • Alternative to a Master’s Degree

    Earning a master’s degree can get expensive, so many professionals choose to pursue a second bachelor’s degree as a way to expand their education without paying the higher tuition costs of a master’s program.
  • Obtain Credit for Specific Skills

    Professionals typically develop new skills over their career that they did not study during their first bachelor’s program. In these situations, they earn a second bachelor’s degree to give them tangible credit for skills they can use to their advantage.

Second Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree: Choosing the Right Path For You

Some students opt for a second bachelor’s degree while others decide to pursue a master’s. Students should review their goals to determine the best option as they continue their education.

Pursuing a Second Bachelor’s Degree

  • Unhappy in Current Career Path:

    Professionals who are unhappy with their current career can go back to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline, opening up new career opportunities.
  • Fewer Obstacles When Entering the Program:

    Master’s programs feature more admission requirements than bachelor’s programs, so earning a second bachelor’s degree allows students easier access to continuing their education.
  • Diversity in Education and Skills:

    Earning another bachelor’s degree allows students to expand their skills and knowledge in another area, adding diversity to their resume.
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Pursuing a Master’s Degree

  • More Advanced in a Particular Area:

    Earning a master’s degree allows students to pursue an advanced level of a subject, thus deepening their skills and knowledge.
  • Use Education Right Away:

    Master’s graduates can use their education right after graduation, pursuing careers that require an advanced degree and specialized skill set.
  • Pursue Higher Salary Opportunities:

    Holding a master’s degree allows professionals to pursue higher positions within their field or company.
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Switching Colleges: Should I Choose a Different School?

Students do not always choose to pursue a second degree at the same school they attended for their first degree. Why? The original school may not offer the program they want to pursue; it may feature high tuition rates, or the student simply may want to start anew somewhere else. Returning students opting for a different school should pay attention to these factors:

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    College Search Process

    Finding the right college can take time, and it can be a daunting process. Before deciding to pursue a second college degree, students should be sure they are ready to go through the process of finding the right college.

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    College Applications

    Before applying to a program, students should ensure they know the college’s application and admission requirements to determine if they qualify for acceptance.

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    Before pursuing a second degree, students should review tuition costs and determine the most affordable option. They might compare bachelor’s programs to other bachelor’s and master’s programs.

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    When considering pursuing a second degree, students should keep in mind that their education can impact their living situation, and it might change their in-state or out-of-state qualifications.

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    Education Requirements

    Each career boasts its own unique education requirements. Students can review the education requirements for prospective careers to determine if they have the appropriate educational background.

Block Transfers: How They Can Benefit Second-Degree Seekers at a New School

Graduates with completed a degree may qualify for a block transfer: that is, your new school acknowledges you have finished a degree, so it may check off your general education (GE) requirements. A block transfer is not guaranteed though. For example, if a student graduated with an English degree and transferred to a new program in biology that strictly needs specific biology-based GE courses, she may have to fulfill those GE requirements before moving on.

Before enrolling in a new school, meet with your academic advisor to see if you qualify for a block transfer, and determine steps you can take to get ahead of course requirements at your new school.

Most Common Fields Students Go Back to College For

Students can review the following information derived from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) outlining the five degree areas with the most returning students who identify as full-time, non-first-time students at four-year universities. Students can review the guide below for each subject to learn more.

Fall Enrollment: Major field of study, attendance status, and level of student (Public four-year institutions)
Undergraduate Degree SubjectAverage % of Non-First-Time, Full-Time StudentsExplore Bachelor’s Degrees in This Subject
Business Management / Administrative Services37%Online Management Degree Programs
Education31%Teaching and Education Degree Programs
Biological Sciences / Life Sciences29%Online Biology Degree Programs
Mathematics29%Online Mathematics Degree Programs
Physical Sciences25%Teaching and Education Degree Programs
Engineering14%Online Engineering Programs

Source: IPEDS, 2017

Financial Aid and Scholarships for a Second Degree

Students pursuing their second college degree experience fewer financial aid options than first-time bachelor’s students. Because they have already earned a degree, returning students’ eligibility lies mostly with work-study, scholarships, and loans.

  • Federal Student Loans

    Students pursuing their second bachelor’s degree can try to obtain federal Stafford loans, but they should keep in mind that their lifetime limit for these loans is based on their total time spent as an undergraduate. Students who opt for a master’s degree would realize a new lifetime limit. Students can use any leftover loan balance they have from their previous bachelor’s degree program.
  • Work-Study Options

    Work-study options are available to students pursuing their second bachelor’s degree. The jobs used in work-study situations are most commonly on-campus positions and typically pay students minimum wage; but sometimes they offer more.


In most situations, students realize the same scholarship opportunities when pursuing a second bachelor’s degree as students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree (they get excluded from about 10% of scholarship opportunities).

plus“No Essay” College Scholarship

Who Can Apply: All college and high school students can apply to earn the $2,000 “No Essay” College Scholarship if they plan to attend college within the next year. Winners of the award are determined by a random drawing.

Amount: $2,000

plusCourse Hero Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Each month, Course Hero awards $5,000 to students who create a Course Hero account and complete the application. Winners are chosen based on their creative answers to a short-answer response.

Amount: $5,000

plusScholarshipPoints Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Open to any students who register an account, the ScholarshipPoints Scholarship requires applicants to fill out an application to be chosen at random to win the award.

Amount: $10,000

Do-Over Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Do-Over Scholarship serves a broad spectrum of students, starting at applicants who are at least 13 years of age. To receive the award, applicants must provide a written response to the question, “What would you do over in life if given the chance?”

Amount: $1,500

Education Matters Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students from all backgrounds can apply to earn the Education Matters Scholarship by writing about the importance of education.

Amount: $5,000

Success Stories: How Earning a Second Degree Helped Me

Kirk Hazlett

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, has more than 35 years of federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience, followed by more than 15 years of undergraduate- and graduate-level college teaching experience. In 2017, he retired from his full-time position as Associate Professor of Communication/Public Relations at Curry College, moved with his wife to Tampa, and is now serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa. In the course of his professional career, Kirk has provided PR services for healthcare and member services organizations such as the Blood Bank of Hawaii and Boston-based Medical Area Service Corporation, and he has provided consulting services for both the Manila and the Singapore Red Cross divisions. He also managed communications programs for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, the Republic of the Philippines, and Air Force and Army installations in the U.S. Passionate about continuing professional development, Kirk was one of only two full-time college professors in Massachusetts to have been inducted into the Public Relations Society of America’s prestigious College of Fellows in addition to having earned his accredited in public relations credential.

Q. Why did you choose to earn a second degree?

I had no idea when I graduated from high school what I wanted to do. I toyed with the notion of becoming a forest ranger, but that didn’t go over too well with my mother. By the time I graduated high school, I had already spent two summers as a highway engineering intern in my home state of Georgia and thought I wanted to get an engineering degree. I then went off to Auburn University and proceeded to fail virtually every introductory engineering course I took! I switched to English, transferred to the University of Georgia, and (more or less) breezed through, graduating with a BA in English thinking I would eventually get a job teaching somewhere. This was 1968 though, and a “little” activity called the Vietnam War dictated that I complete my military service before anything else.

I wound up spending eight years in the Air Force, and as I rose (slowly) through the ranks and gained more supervisory responsibilities, I recognized I was much more interested in the intricacies of running a business. (I also had spent two years in Vietnam teaching English as a second language and came to the realization that I really wasn’t interested in teaching as a career!)

Luckily, the Air Force bases where I was stationed had college extension programs. I enrolled in a business management program, and over the course of the next four years, I completed the requirements for a BS in business management. I then continued my studies and earned an MBA with a specialty in marketing.

Q. Did you attend the same school or choose to enroll someplace different?

I enrolled somewhere else. I was fortunate that Golden Gate University, from which I earned the two business degrees, had extension programs at every Air Force base where I was stationed, including Clark Air Base in the Philippines. At every base, the instructors were business professionals who focused on and taught “real life” courses. (This actually was a guide for me much later when I, myself, segued from professional life to professorial life.)

Q. What were some of the challenges you faced while earning your second degree?

The one major challenge was being able to fit courses and coursework into my Air Force work routine. Fortunately, all of the courses at every base were offered at night. (Note: This was the late 1970s and early 1980s, so online courses didn’t exist. But correspondence courses, done via snail mail, were an option that Golden Gate University offered.)

A second challenge, for me, was that I was constantly relocating: eight years of service and seven Air Force bases! I wasn’t able to establish any meaningful relationships with instructors.

Q. How has your life or career been impacted since earning your second degree?

As a public relations professional, I worked closely with senior management at various organizations. My knowledge of business management practices enabled me to communicate with my superiors on their level using their language.

One side-story: When I relocated to Hawaii and joined the Blood Bank of Hawaii as their communications director, I was tasked with developing a plan explaining how I was going to spend my quarter-of-a-million-dollar budget in the coming year. Two days after being given the assignment, I handed a completed, comprehensive budget plan to our CFO. He was amazed! According to him, I was the FIRST Blood Bank PR person who (a) understood what a budget was all about and (b) could actually create one!

Q. What is your top piece of advice for someone considering pursuing a second bachelor’s degree?

I tell my students (and anyone else who will listen) to (a) take time and figure out what you really want to do, and (b) identify the academic program that will enable you to realize your goal. Don’t rush it; this is a serious investment of time and money. Make the most of the opportunity!

Next Steps and Support Resources for Earning a Second Degree

Before enrolling in a second degree program, students can review the following resources to learn more about the benefits of earning another degree and the tools they can use along the way to help them.

Studentaid.ed.gov allows students to review the financial aid available to them as students pursuing their second college degree.
Ed.gov offers students resources for higher education, including what they should know before pursuing a second degree.
Students can use this website to search for the right bachelor’s degree and explore programs across U.S. colleges and universities.
On this site, students can learn about getting a second bachelor’s degree and consider reasons earning another degree might be a good option for them.

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