Grad School Myth #1: You need a related bachelor’s degree
This myth held me back for months from believing that I could easily go from being a journalist to becoming a counselor.
Considering that I lacked a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I never thought I’d be qualified to apply to a Master’s in Counseling Psychology program.
I had a B.A. in Communications and only writing and editing experience. I had never worked with people one on one or stepped foot in a psychology statistics course. The only psych knowledge I had was from two freshman-year courses that I had taken 7 years ago. I wasn’t exactly on my way to impressing a master’s application board.
I was sure I’d have to re-do my bachelor’s, this time in psychology. Yet as much as I wanted to work with people, I simply didn’t have the time, money, or desire to get another undergrad degree. I was 25. I didn’t want to start over, I wanted to move forward into a better career fit. Simply: I wanted all of the work I’d done up to this point to count, not have to be erased.
I finally decided to stop assuming and start asking. And, as usual, I discovered my assumptions were wrong.
The truth is, many master’s programs don’t care what subject your bachelor’s degree is in or that you lack a job in the field. In fact, my program directors welcomed my journalism background, explaining that people with diverse life experiences make for better counselors. No two clients are the same, I was told, so therapists shouldn’t all be cookie-cutter versions of one another.
However, even though many master’s programs accept people with unrelated bachelor’s degrees, it wouldn’t be smart to go into graduate-level classes blind. Which is why most grad schools require career changers to take certain prerequisite courses prior to applying.
What are prereqs?
Prereqs are a list of bachelor’s-level courses you must take to ensure you’ve learned the basics before starting in a grad program.
Say you’re an English major who wants to change careers to become a Nutritionist. You’ll need an nutrition degree to get hired but feel that it would be a waste to get a second bachelor’s. Instead, you’d rather spend your time and money toward a Master’s in Nutrition so that you can come out with a higher level of qualification and perhaps even make a higher salary. This idea would even make you feel like you aren’t taking a step back!
The only problem? You’ve never even taken Nutrition 101 before.
That’s where prerequisites come in. They’re the list of core courses (ex: Nutrition 101, Chemistry 101) that you must take to get up to speed for the material you’ll learn in the master’s program. On average, you’ll have to take 3-4 classes, which could take you 6 months to 1 year. But that’s better than having to re-do a bachelor’s degree. Prereqs essentially allow you to take the most important undergrad courses for the new field so you can then jump up to a master’s degree.
Each grad school has its own list of prerequisites, which are often found under the program website’s Admissions Requirements or FAQs, and most schools require you to get at least a “B” in the class for it to count.
To be clear, prereqs won’t “count toward” your master’s program or affect your grad school GPA. They’re just the required steps you need to take before you begin grad-level classes.
In another post I’ll talk about the easiest way to take prerequisites.