USM Graduate School Expands 4 + 1 = Done! Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Options   

Published 6:09 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Undergraduates at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) who have proven themselves academically and wish to pursue an advanced degree can do so at an accelerated rate with programs offered through the USM Graduate School.

The 4 + 1 = Done! initiative allows undergraduate students in designated degree programs to complete their bachelor’s degree in four years while also sharing some coursework along the way with a master’s program in the same or related discipline; this can be accomplished as soon as just one additional year. Some of these accelerated options equip graduates for “Bright Outlook” occupations which are those in fields expected to grow rapidly in the next several years or have many job openings. More information about the Bright Outlook designation can be found at Bright Outlook Occupations (onetonline.org).

Many Bright Outlook* jobs require extensive training and preparation, and applicants holding master’s degrees have an advantage in a competitive job market. However, many college students complete their education with only a bachelor’s degree because of the time and expense required to pursue a master’s degree. USM helps students address these issues by providing the opportunity to earn a master’s degree more quickly and at a lower total cost with the following accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree options:

  • Chemistry (Biochemistry) Bachelor of Science (B.S.) to Master of Public Health (MPH, epidemiology and biostatistics emphasis, face-to-face format)
  • Child and Family Sciences B.S. to Master of Science (M.S., fully online format)
  • Criminal Justice B.S. to M.S. (fully online format)
  • English Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) to Master of Arts (M.A., face-to-face format)
  • Library and Information Science B.S. to Master of Library in Information Science (MLIS, fully online format)
  • Mathematics B.S. to MPH (epidemiology and biostatistics emphasis, face-to-face)
  • Public Health (Health Education) B.S. to MPH (health promotion and health behavior emphasis; B.S. is face-to-face; MPH is fully online)
  • Public Health (health policy and administration emphasis) B.S. to MPH (fully online)

The USM School of the Humanities’ English Program is the first at the university to implement the 4+1 and Done framework with an accelerated path to a master’s degree in English. Dr. Monika Gehlawat, professor of English and associate director of the USM School of the Humanities, developed the accelerated B.A./M.A. degree path for the English program after noticing some of its best students graduating with a bachelor’s degree being uncertain of what their next professional or academic steps should be.

“They would come to me and say they wished they could stay in school longer and take more English courses. I did some research and found that universities across the country had models for ‘4+1’ programs that encouraged strong students to earn a master’s degree following graduation,” Dr. Gehlawat said. “Working with the English department chair and the Graduate Dean, I proposed a plan for our most competitive undergraduate majors. The idea was for them to apply their junior year and, if admitted, take 6 hours of 400/500 level coursework their senior year.

“If they continued to be interested in the rigors of graduate work, they would stay on for a fifth (M.A.) year. In terms of progress to degree, our program promises that admitted students can complete both the B.A. and M.A. in five years. However, if a student wanted more time to complete and defend the master’s thesis, they would be allowed to take it.”

One of the English Program’s most recent graduates of its B.A./M.A. accelerated plan earned their degree in summer 2021, Dr. Gehlawat noted. “He was a semi-finalist for a Fulbright Scholarship, has numerous current and forthcoming publications, and is now a fully funded Master of Fine Arts student at North Carolina State University. This success story reflects how an added year of mentorship from familiar faculty and the enlivening influence of graduate seminars motivates talented undergraduates to push themselves to graduate-level work and, ultimately, a more competitive position from which to apply for future opportunities.”

“Holding a master’s degree can open doors in today’s job market, especially in professions that require advanced training and skills,” said Dr. Karen Coats, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School. “USM’s accelerated options prepare our students to gain that competitive edge more quickly while still experiencing all the value of the traditional route to the master’s degree.”

Contact the USM Graduate School at 601.266.4262 or visit the website (https://www.usm.edu/graduate-school/) for more formation about the 4+1= Done! initiative.