Do you have to relinquish one degree to get another?

My lovely wife earned a BFA degree in Creative Writing a few years ago. She now wants to go back to college to earn a MS in Speech. She understands that she will have to take some undergradate science courses.

However, when she went to the Academic Advisors at the college, she was told that she would have to relinquish her BFA to get the Masters. Does that make sense? It sounded just plain wrong to me, but I’m not an academian.

Anyone have any answers?

Zev Steinhardt

That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Once you earn a degree you have it for life. There is no need to give up a degree.

No, you don’t give up the degree…you can get a new one, though. Maybe your wife can get another bachelor’s degree (along with the BFA) after she completes the required courses for her Master’s…and then she’ll get the Master’s.

There just has to be a misunderstanding somewhere along the line. You can hold as many simultaneous academic credentials and degrees as you have time, money and ability to handle.

My advisor here at college has a PhD in Psychology and a PhD in Computer Science. He didn’t have to give one of them up or anything.


As I understand it, you can only achieve standing as a holder of a Bachelor of Arts once, and it is a BA regardless of the major. You can complete major requirements for other disciplines, but once you’re a BA, you’re a BA and completion of other major requirements will not bag you another BA.

But, you can hold multiple Bachelors of Science, or a BA and a BS.

That’s as I understand it. May some academe now disabuse me of my notions.

Perhaps some confusion comes from the fact that, although your wife already holds a BFA, she must nevertheless complete some additional undergraduate coursework to pursue the Masters.

Mrs. Kunilou has three degrees in three separate disciplines. No one ever suggested that one degree made the others invalid.

I think you’re mistaken, Ringo. I know two people with two separate B.A.'s in different disciplines.

zev, something doesn’t sound right there. Lots of BFAs go on to get an advanced degree and they don’t have to relinquish anything.

Is it separate BA’s in different disciplines, or a BA for separate disciplines? I did two majors in college, but since both were science, I only have one BS, with two major fields of study. A friend did a major in biology and another major in classics, so has separate degrees (a BS and a BA).

Is the issue that one usually states one’s highest degree in a field? If so, what’s being said is that the Masters she’s going for supercedes the BFA she already earned, i.e., it’s a continuation of education in the same field.

I don’t think that would be the issue partly_warmer, because they are separate fields. The BFA is in Creative Writing while the MS would be in Speech.

Thank you everyone for your comments. I figured that it was strange as well. I didn’t think that one would have to surrender one degree to get another, but I figured I’d check it out with my more knowledgeable friends.

Now then, if she goes back to the college’s academic advisement office and gets the same yahoo (or another yahoo who tells her the same thing), what would be the next step to follow?

Zev Steinhardt

Ask to see such a clause in the school’s catalog, charter, or rules. It sounds like nonsense to me, but a school can make any rules that it wants to for the conferring of a degree (accreditation aside).

Care to mention the name of the school?

CUNY. Brooklyn College.

Zev Steinhardt

How exactly does one relinquish a degree? Should she raise her right hand and state, “I hereby disavow my BFA”? Even if she did have to go through some sort of relinquishment process, what’s the big deal? She could still hang her BFA diploma on the wall. She could still state on her resume that she earned a BFA in 1993 and her MS in 2005. The whole thing sounds like beaurocratic horseshit to me.


Hmm. Looking at CUNY/BC’s website, I suspect that what they mean is that her BFA isn’t useful toward the MS. She might have to enroll as a nonmatriculated graduate student and fulfill the matriculation requirements. None of this is necessarily true, and none of it has anything to do with relinquishing the degree.

I was thinking the same thing, Nametag. When I initially enrolled in a Ed.M. program a few years ago, I was told that I was missing some of the prerequisite courses to be admitted. I took the courses as nonmatriculated undergraduate (even though I already had my B.A.), passed, was then admitted to the program, and received my master’s a year later!

BTW, the undergrad courses I had to take were all psychology-oriented, as my B.A. program had no such requirement. Seeing that Zev’s wife has a B.F.A., she’s no doubt in a similar predicament.


This has to be some kind of misunderstanding. I have also never heard that one cannot have more than one BA. I would like to see an authorative source for that.

Although off-topic, I once met Seymour Papert’s (then ex-) wife and she told me that she once gave a talk in Vienna and was introduced as
Professor Doctor Frau Professor Doctor Doctor Papert
Explanation: she was a professor with a Phd and was the wife of a professor who had two PhD degrees (math and psych).

Sorry for in advance for the slight hijack, but if somebody has a BA completed, and decides to persue a BS, would it take 4 more years of school, or would some of the classes from the BA carry over? Would that be the same thing as a Double Major?

i recall reading on the MIT website ( that you cannot apply for a PhD. program with them if you already hold ANY other PhD. degree.

wait lemme find the relevant section…

If I already have a PhD degree, can I apply for another PhD in EECS?
No, we will not admit an applicant who already holds a PhD degree (even if it is in a different area such as Physics or Math).

(EECS is Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)

The University of Toronto Faculty of Law has a degree trade-in program. If you have a bachelor of law from them, you can mail it to them and they will mail you back a doctor of law degree. You don’t even have to send any box tops or coupons. Ne shitteth vous pas.