Can You Get a Master's Degree in a Subject You Didn't Major In?

Lately I’ve been entertaining the idea of getting my Master’s Degree. I got my bachelor’s in… well, never mind that. But it wasn’t in English or journalism, which I’m thinking about doing now.

Simply put, can you get a Master’s in a subject you haven’t studied?

Certainly, yes, especially if it’s a professional or vocational masters, like journalism.

MBAs often have undergrad concentrations in areas besides Business.

Yep, although usually you’ll need to take some leveling work. Two examples:

  1. I got my B.A. in History and my M.S. and (soon) Ph.D. in Geology. While working on my M.S., I had to take about 18 extra hours of undergraduate Geology and Math that weren’t required for my B.A. (would’ve been more, but I was a Geology minor).

  2. My wife got her B.S. in Geology (English minor) and is working on her M.A. in English. Her committee evaluated her transcripts and decided that she didn’t need to take leveling work, even though she doesn’t have as many undergraduate English hours as your typical English grad student.

I’ve known other people in similar situations. In general, it seems that if you are going into a hard science–even from another science–you can do it, but expect to take some leveling work. If you are not, it’ll depend on the graduate faculty at your school, your committee, etc.

I got my M.A. in Public History. The program was for people who wanted to specialize porfessionally in museums, archives, historic preservation, etc. rather than in traditional academia. Most of the folks in the program–myself included–had undergrad degrees in History, but a few had degrees in related fields, particularly Archaeology and Anthropology. A person who had an undergrad degree in, say, Chemical Engineering wouldn’t have been accepted to the program, since he/she would have to do so much remedial work on proper research methods, styles of writing, etc.

Undergrad in Accounting, 4 months from finishing my Master’s in CIS. Had to take 2 undergrad classes to fulfill necessary requirements. It could have been more, but there was enough overlap that I didn’t have too much to make up.

What is CIS?

“Commonwealth of Independent States”??

Probably Computer and Information Studies (or Services).

My undergradate degree was Government, but my master’s was in Information Systems (part of the Business school). I had taken a few computer courses as an undergraduate, and also had to take five more undergraduate computer classes as prerequisites before I could enter the master’s program.

Yup. Undergraduate in History/Political Science; graduate in English. As long as you meet the qualifications for the major, you can get a Masters in anything you like, and you can often get qualified merely by taking a few extra undergraduate courses.

Sure, no problem. I know a guy with an MFA in creative writing whose undergrad degree was in teaching. Check out the web page of your favorite local English department. As a f’rinstance, from U of Michigan’s page,

B.A. in Film Studies, M.S. in Library Science. Few universities offer undergrad courses in library science and master’s programs look down their noses at undergrad work in l.s.

Yepper, I have an A.B. in Economics and an M.A. in Education.

The program you want to get into has a lot to do with it. Journalism, as in the OP, and for example my own Library and Information Science, both draw many applicants from other disciplines. Most places you can’t even get an undergraduate degree in these, though. However, I eventually want to go back and get my doctorate in medieval history, and to be accepted there you’d need either significant history coursework or a history major, which I have. I assume some similar degree would be considered, or outside work (for example, in a museum) may be weighed in your favor. But to get your masters’ in journalism, you assuredly don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in it, or even in a related field like English.

Bachelor’s in Astronomy, Master’s (and eventually, PhD) in Physics. But even with that much overlap, I was still set back about a year by undergrad classes I had to take.

I had a BS in math and an MS in math, and wanted to study geophysics. I would get a PhD, but geophysics was offered in the geology dept, so I’d end up with a PhD in geology. I’d had no geology courses, and my advisor tried to dissuade me from ever taking any.

They were just so damned interesting though.

BA in History, begin a MS in Information Science (library science) next month.

B.S. in Chemical Engineering, M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering…

I know someone who did an undergraduate degree in, I think, anthropology with no undergraduate math. He wound up getting a master’s and PhD in math and now professes that subject at Northeastern U.

Yep – B.A. in Creative Arts (an interdisciplinary major); Ed.M. in Middle School Education/English.