Earning a Master's Unrelated to Your Bachelor's Degree

Many working professionals consider going back to college to earn a master's in a different field than their bachelor's degree. Get expert advice on how to earn an unrelated master's degree and explore popular industries and salary potential.

Choosing a college major is always a bit of a gamble. For some of us, our initial choice turns out to be the wrong one. A 2017 report from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that nearly 30% of all undergraduates change their major at least once. Many others, however, see their initial choice through to graduation, only to discover their true career interests lie elsewhere. Suddenly, a graduate degree seems harder to obtain.

Sound like you? You're not alone. Keep reading to discover key considerations and expert tips on how to get a master's degree in a field that differs from your bachelor's.

How to Earn a Master's Degree in a Different Subject

Often, pursuing a master's in a different field than a bachelor's takes a great deal of commitment and effort, but it can be done. First, you should expect to spend more time preparing for the admissions process than other prospective students. Keep the following considerations in mind before applying, during admissions, and after acceptance.

Undergrad Crossover

While unrelated master's degrees can be obtained, the process is much easier for applicants with some relevant crossover from their undergraduate program (i.e., switching from one science discipline to a different science discipline).

Standardized Tests

Not all master's programs require standardized test scores for admission. If pursuing an unrelated discipline, consider taking a relevant test and providing scores anyway to show your initiative and current knowledge/skill level.

Admissions Statement

The graduate admissions statement is your opportunity to make a convincing argument for your acceptance. Sell your interest in the new discipline, and discuss any work you've done to help bridge the academic gap.

Required Prerequisites

Undergraduate prerequisites are an inescapable part of most master's degrees. Fortunately, some colleges offer prerequisite tracks specially designed for new students who need to "beef up" their transcript before starting core courses.


Consider earning a non-degree certificate to boost your fundamental knowledge of the new subject. Online colleges and massive online open courses (MOOCs) offer certificates in countless specializations.

Related Experience

Proven experience often carries the most weight in a master's program application. Whether job shadowing, interning, or pursuing entry-level work, try to gain as much relevant, real-world experience in your desired subject as you can.

Key Competencies

Once enrolled, focus your attention on successfully completing the learning outcomes of your master's program. Although gaining additional experience in your new field is important, staying focused on your education is key.

Seeking Advice

Remember, college advisors are there to help you. Don't be afraid to reach out with questions. Advisors can provide invaluable insight to help you navigate prerequisites, admission, and degree completion.

Assessing the Jump: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Is an unrelated master's degree right for you? Deciding whether and when to pursue advanced education is a highly personal decision often impacted by a number of factors, including budget, career goals, and local employment trends. To help assess your desired pursuit of an unrelated master's degree, consider the questions below.

    Expert Tips: Preparing for Your Master's Program

    Let's put aside research and self-evaluation for a moment to hear from the experts. Read on to gain valuable tips and actionable advice to prepare you for the pursuit of an unrelated master's degree.


    Lynne Fleisher

    Lynne Fleisher
    Lynne Fleisher is currently Director of Clarion Online and Associate Director of Extended Programs at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Lynne possesses an M.Ed. with a concentration in technology. In addition to coordinating all distance education programs, she created and delivers an online orientation every semester to all newly registered online students at Clarion University. Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers 10 online graduate programs and 13 online certificate/endorsement programs. Its first graduate program, a master of science in library science, launched in 2001. The school offers a myriad of online student support services, including advising, tutoring, a writing center, disability support services, career services, and counseling services.


    Susan Staub

    Susan Staub
    Susan Staub is currently an Admissions Counselor for Graduate Programs at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Susan possesses an M.Ed. with a concentration in literacy. Working with all graduate programs at Clarion University, she has a unique understanding of each program and its requirements and delivery. Clarion offers 27 degree, certification, and endorsement programs. Its graduate programs include several that have achieved the highest accreditation available in their fields.



  • Prepare a Career Statement: Take some time to think through why you want to change your career. Admissions teams will want to know why you are pursuing a master's degree that is unrelated to what you've studied in the past. Provide details on how your previous work experience and studies have prepared you to succeed in the master's program.
  • Update Your Resume: Set aside some time to freshen up your resume. Order the most important work experience and volunteer items first. Be sure to highlight previous responsibilities related to your new academic goals. Remember, many skills gained through work experience can tie back into academics (teamwork, leadership, professional communication, etc.).
  • Prepare a Goal Statement: Provide explicit detail on how your previous studies and experiences have inspired you to obtain the higher credential, a master's degree. What made you decide you want to continue your education? What are your future goals? Were you inspired by your studies while obtaining your bachelor's degree or throughout your work experience? You can never underplay the significance of these experiences and skill sets.
  • Gather Letters of Recommendation: Regardless of whether letters of recommendation are required, still submit them. These professional references will help provide a dynamic case for you to be accepted into the program. Admissions teams will be interested in hearing about your success in previous positions.
  • Seek Out an Interview: In addition to your application, try to set up an interview with your school's admissions team to share your interest and further explain your desire to obtain a master's degree. Not only will this help put a face to your name, but it will also show you are willing to take the extra step to obtain admission into the program.

Additional Resources for Prospective Grad Students

Still unsure about earning a master's degree in a different field than your bachelor's? Check out the links below. Resources include grad school application tips, scholarship information, and networking sites.

  • GradHacker: This collaborative blog, run by and for graduate students, acts as a digital roundtable to discuss all aspects of the graduate student experience. Writers share their challenges, successes, tips, and hard-earned lessons. 
  • Grad Resources: This faith-based, nonprofit service organization provides assistance to struggling graduate students. Resources include on-campus seminars, online articles, on-call mentors accessible via phone or email, and a 24/7 crisis hotline.
  • Graduate School Scholarships: This page offers must-know information regarding scholarships for graduate school. Explore relevant financial data, a suggested scholarship applicant timeline, and the most common facts and misconceptions about scholarship opportunities.
  • How to Choose a Graduate Program: Not all graduate programs are created equal, and what works for one student might not work for another. The in-depth information on this page can give your program search a boost.
  • National Association of Graduate-Professional Students: NAGPS is the only national student-run nonprofit advocating for the interests of graduate and professional students at the local, state, and national levels. NAGPS members can access exclusive resources and discounted insurance rates.
  • Paying for Your Master's Degree: Uncertain how to cover the cost of graduate education? This page covers all the top options in detail: employer tuition reimbursement, federal financial aid, work study, scholarships, loans, and grants.
  • Phinished: This forum strives to provide a supportive, non-threatening environment for graduate and postgraduate students to connect online. Though designed primarily for struggling thesis and dissertation writers, all graduate students can register and participate.
  • r/GradSchool: This subreddit provides an active discussion board for prospective, current, and former graduate students of all disciplines. Share your questions, triumphs, and defeats with a supportive community of people like you.
  • Taking a Gap Year Before Graduate School: Taking a year off between undergraduate commencement and initial graduate school enrollment is a growing trend. Learn more about the pros and cons of graduate gap years on this page.
  • Writing a Successful Grad School Statement of Purpose: When applying for an unrelated master's degree, you might lack the experience of other candidates, making it even more important to write an impactful statement of purpose. Check out this page for tips.