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A batch of new fast-track opportunities this fall will allow academically qualified VCU students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from numerous areas of study in as few as five years. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

VCU launching 20 new accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree opportunities

The accelerated programs across the university will save students time and money.

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Virginia Commonwealth University is launching 20 new fast-track opportunities this fall that will allow academically qualified students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from numerous areas of study in as few as five years.

With the addition of the new accelerated pathways, VCU nearly doubles the number of programs to more than 40 fast-track opportunities. As a result, more students will be able to save time and money in their pursuit of an undergraduate and graduate degree.

“This past year has shown the importance of being creative and flexible with our academic offerings,” said Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “These additional accelerated programs allow us to better meet our students’ needs and support them as they advance their careers, with minimal debt and on their own timelines.”

Expanding VCU’s fast-track program offerings represents one piece of a larger strategic effort, led by academic affairs, to provide students additional ways to build the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to advance their careers.

“We want to think beyond just a degree itself, and instead about the array of credentials and competencies students need to be successful,” said Deborah Noble-Triplett, Ph.D., senior vice provost for academic affairs. “Accelerated programs, as well as alternative digital credentials, stackable credentials and enhanced certificate programs, are ways we can provide students with the flexibility to build these competencies without compromising content or quality, allowing students to attain the degree or credential in a shorter increment of time."

In the College of Humanities and Sciences, 12 accelerated opportunities are being added. They include options in chemistry, English, math and exercise science that will offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the same field.

The offerings also include accelerated options that will allow students to combine different areas of study. In the School of World Studies, undergraduate students will be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in foreign language, concentrating in French, German or Spanish, and then go on to earn a master’s in business with a concentration in marketing management from the School of Business. Another option will offer students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology to seek a master’s in counselor education from the School of Education.

“Master’s degrees are associated with many important benefits for our students, including higher salaries after graduation and more job and advancement opportunities within careers,” said Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., associate dean for research and operations in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Further, master’s degrees allow students to specialize, which provides them with the skills needed to engage in careers more closely aligned with their interests and passions.”

The new accelerated opportunities reflect VCU’s recognition that education can be costly and that student debt loads are rising, Langberg said. “Accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs allow students to graduate more quickly with a master’s degree, reducing the tuition burden and helping them move quickly into higher-paying jobs,” he said.

Four new accelerated pathways will launch in the School of Business in the following areas: decision analytics, supply chain management, finance and information systems.

The School of the Arts is adding two accelerated opportunities. One offers a B.A. in art history and leads to a master’s degree in art history, and the other offers a B.A in fashion with a concentration in fashion merchandising that leads to a master’s in business with a concentration in marketing management.

The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs is launching two accelerated options in its criminal justice program. Criminal justice majors concentrating in either forensic crime scene investigation or justice will have an opportunity to go on to obtain a master’s degree in criminal justice.

The new opportunities will join existing accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree programs in the College of Engineering, the College of Health Professions, the College of Humanities and Sciences, the School of Business and VCU Life Sciences.

Accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs share undergraduate and graduate level courses, meaning that an undergraduate student in their senior year would be able to take graduate level courses, with up to 12 credits counting toward both degrees. This significantly reduces the amount of time and cost to complete the two degrees.

“Creating these accelerated programs has taken a team effort: I appreciate the collective work of the schools and colleges on this initiative,” Noble-Triplett said. “As we continue to share the vision for a more innovative and robust set of options for students to achieve their academic goals, faculty in the schools and colleges have responded with decisive action. We are excited about the progress we have made over the last year, and look forward to what is yet to come.”

Students are typically identified as eligible for an accelerated opportunity at the beginning of their junior year. Students are required to be at or above a certain grade point average to be eligible.

This spring and fall, accelerated programs across VCU will work to identify interested and eligible students and advise them about which graduate level courses to take.