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Financing a second bachelor's?

  1. Feb 1, 2012 #1
    I'm close to graduating with a B.S. in 'applied mathematics.' I'm at a bit of a crossroad because I'm not happy with my degree. I should have realized that studying exclusively math wasn't for me, but I couldn't afford to transfer to a better school with a real science and engineering departments, and it's too late now.

    Anyway, I'm considering working for a bit and then going back to school, possibly for a second bachelor's in an unrelated field (chemistry, physics, or engineering.)

    How does financing a second bachelor's degree typically work? From what I've read, it seems that federal loans (FAFSA) have a hard cap on the amount one can borrow over a life time, even if the loans have been paid off. Does this mean one would have to pay for a second degree in 'cash'? Do universities typically offer second bachelor's students any institutional grants or scholarships?

    I understand that this is probably a university-specific matter, but please share any personal accounts because it would help to give me a better idea of how financing a second bachelor's may work. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2012 #2
    I would personally try to find a job that either pays or reimburses you for additional coursework.

    I know that is easier said than done, especially with the economy and state of everything right now. You may want to consider doing remedial work for a year or two and then getting a masters in whatever it is you want. Applied math undergrad will pretty much let you just focus on whatever science/engineering stuff you want (rather than have to learn math concurrently).

    As far as what my friends who are working relate to me: their companies often offer reimbursement for courses taken towards a masters degree that's applicable to, well something the company could use you for later. Like you enroll in the course (if you don't have cash up front you may consider a small credit union loan for whatever the price of the course is ~ couple hundred to a thousand or so depending on institution), and then when you're done and get a decent grade the company will give you money for having done it. Some will even pay all of the tuition and fees, just depends.

    My cousin's company gives reimbursement of 100% if you get an A, 75% for a B, 50% for a C and nothing if you can't pull a C. A friend of mine pays 50% himself (upfront) when he enrolls in a new course each semester and takes the outstanding tuition bill to his company who matches it and pays the rest off.

    I'm pretty sure both of them have to sign some legal stuff where they agree to stay with the company for 2 years or something or if they don't they'll be required to pay back whatever the company spent on their education expenses.

    I wouldn't recommend going back full-time. I'm in huge debt from undergrad and medical school and it's hard finding work, at least in my geographic area (which I prefer to stay until my fiancee graduates in May). I'm looking at getting a job wherever we move and then doing another masters part-time through my job (hopefully).
  4. Feb 1, 2012 #3
    Don't employer reimbursements typically come with stipulations, i.e., you have to work with us for x years or we'll bill you the cost of your tuition? Either way, I plan on getting a job in the oil/gas industry as a field engineer and working for a good 4 years or so. The money is very good (although the hours and work conditions are horrible), so I should be able to pay off my current loans and fund most to all of a second bachelor's without any need for employer reimbursements. I'm just curious as to whether universities typically offer grants or scholarships to second bachelor's students, and my primary concern is what happens if I run out of money before I complete my second bachelors. Will I be forced to take out private loans? Am I completely ineligible for any other type of federal loan?
  5. Feb 1, 2012 #4
    You can probably get more loans? most of what I was saying earlier is you should highly consider not getting a second bachelors, but instead either study remedial stuff on your own or take a few undergraduate courses, and then go for a masters degree.

    As far as I'm aware, most universities require a certain amount of credits to be completed at their institution and would only give you credit for part of your first bachelors. Like they'd credit you for 60 credits of your gen eds or something (assuming your old school and new school overlap in requirements) and then you'd probably still have to take a "final" 60 credits at the new school to finish a B.S.

    Getting a M.S. seems much more practical considering you can probably take 3-4 (9-16 credits depending) remedial classes and then start the M.S. program in whatever you're looking at, complete the 30 or so credits required for the masters.

    A point that didn't come across that well in my previous post is that, both people I know who are doing continuing education through their employer are doing it for their M.S. / M.Eng / M.B.A. / etc... and I'm also pretty sure those companies don't offer those things if you're only working towards a bachelors degree.
  6. Feb 1, 2012 #5

    I've thought about going for a master's, but it's just too much catch-up. Not only the upper level classes but also the lower level classes. The quality of instruction at my university is not that great because even in spite having a high GPA, I still feel clueless. I kind of want to re-learn most the basic coursework in a structured classroom environment. :redface:
  7. Feb 1, 2012 #6
    Probably should reconsider. The only purpose in getting a degree is so that it looks good on your resume, and having two bachelors looks bad. Note that statement was with respect to getting a *degree*. If you want to just learn stuff, that's great, but you can take courses on the side with or with distance learning, and you'll find it a lot easier to do if you don't try to put it into a degree program.
  8. Feb 2, 2012 #7
    There's always an option of leaving the first degree off my resume. o:)

    I want a second degree because I'm not qualified to go directly to graduate school in science and engineering. If I get a second bachelors then I would plan on going to graduate school. (No, I don't have any fantasies of working in academia because I realize the chances of it happening are pretty much nil.)

    I know there is an option of taking courses not as part of a degree, like you suggested, but it comes at a price. Students without an ABET accredited engineering bachelors cannot gain or cannot easily gain a PE license in some states, and I don't think non-degree seeking science students are typically eligible for undergraduate research.
  9. Feb 2, 2012 #8
    In fact there isn't. One of the first things that HR will do is to look at the dates, and it's really hard to leave something out without an obvious gap.

    You really need to check to make sure that this is in fact the situation, and if it is, you should really look into the possibility of taking extra courses in addition to the bachelors.

    This matters if you are want to go into civil engineering, however PE licensing is irrelevant for electrical or software engineering (and I believe someone mentioned that it wasn't important for mechanical engineering, but someone else will need to confirm.)
  10. Feb 2, 2012 #9
    Look into studying outside of the USA for an MSc.


    One with either a mathematics or physics degree is eligible to apply for this MSc course. One should also take the GRE in the appropriate subject, i.e, math in your case. I don't know why they are that flexible but my educated guess is you'll probably have to do a bit of catch-up, physics wise.
  11. Feb 2, 2012 #10
    PE licensing aside, do companies typically hire applicants with an MS in engineering and no work experience? It seems that BS level internships offered through schools require progress toward an ABET accredited BS and most graduate schools don't offer (or at least advertise) any type of internship programs.
  12. Feb 6, 2012 #11
    ^ Could someone comment on this? I mean it does seem like a better idea to take classes to prepare for a MS (versus going back for a second bachelors), but I don't want to end up unemployable or unable to go graduate school because of no research experience.
  13. Feb 6, 2012 #12
    In electrical engineering and computer science, yes, but a lot depends on the general state of the economy.

    They exist, although things can be quite informal.
  14. Feb 6, 2012 #13
    I know of one school in Massachusetts that does a formal graduate engineering co-op ( in mechanical at least, possibly other engineering too). School 6 months, work 6 months until you graduate. No bullsh$$ either. I'm talking real work experience where you are paid well and are expected to perform.
  15. Feb 7, 2012 #14


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    Getting a second bachelor's degree is a complete waste of time and money.
  16. Feb 7, 2012 #15
    I agree with twofish on his first statement. Most times getting a second bachelors is unnecessary unless it's really something that you want to really do, for example, one of my former coworkers who had an electrical engineering degree and was working as a full time software engineer decided she wanted to become a nurse. She did her second bachelors in nursing and is now happier than ever working where she wanted to be. You'll also notice this contradicts what fss said which I hope you don't take to heart.

    I guess it really comes down to what a second degree really means to you.

    On the other hand, I also disagree with twofish in that two bachelors looks bad. After I graduated with a CS degree, I worked full time professionally while taking 1 class a semester towards getting a second bachelors degree (self-financed) in mathematics. After completing the degree and putting it on my resume, I've never had one disparaging remark regarding having two degrees.

    In fact, I'm more inclined to believe that people typically view having two degrees as a good thing. Any average or below average intelligent individual will generally think "1 college degree..you must be smart.....but 2 degrees!! wow you must be really smart! you're hired" and the individuals that are on the higher end of the bell curve will think usually think 1 of 2 things: 1..."you have two degrees...man i wish i had the time/money/motivation to continue my education and pad my resume but kudos to you for doing it...you're hired" or 2 "this guy is like me and loves to learn, he has great potential...you're hired".
  17. Feb 7, 2012 #16

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    There is a different between having a EE degree, getting a second degree in nursing and applying for jobs as a nurse and having a EE degree, getting a second degree in nursing and applying for jobs as an engineer.
  18. Feb 7, 2012 #17
    Im working on my second bachelors because it keeps my student loans in deferment and saves me money, both monthly and overall.

    edit - although, this applies more to working on a bachelors rather than getting one.
  19. Feb 7, 2012 #18
    I'm also debating the merits of a second bachelors, though largely because my first degree is in the humanities (sociology and anthropology) and I would like to enter engineering. I have worked for a couple years since graduating with my B.A., and I'm thoroughly disenchanted with the variety of employment one can go into ( and expect reasonable payment) with this qualification. Currently I don't see a real viable route to enter into a graduate school in engineering / physics (I'm looking to get into renewable energies, ideally) without doing the coursework of undergrad.

    Luckily the program I am applying for is only 3 years compared to 4, but still; would having a BA be a liability for someone entering the engineering industry? I had top-notch marks in Sociology (it is, in hindsight, something easy to get high marks in) - do you folks think a " Joe Smith, BA, Bsc, Msc" would look a little odd on a resume? My thought is that it will either look like I really don't know what I want to do with myself, or it will look like I have a versatile skillset. Or both, or neither.

    Urgh, if I had a nickel for every minute I spent trying to anticipate what employers think...
  20. Feb 7, 2012 #19


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    I don't think neccessarily looks bad at all to get a second degree - particularly if the second one is a professional degree. Take medical doctors for example. The MD is actually a second undergraduate degree and they tend to do okay.

    Another option is always technical training. My brother-in-law for example completed his paramedic training after receiving a degree in biology. He seems to love his work now and has really excelled in the field. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that the degree gave him a solid education and the technical training gave him particular employable skills.

    What looks wishy-washy is when you do a second degree without much more purpose or direction than you had with the first. And that's because, well, doing that kind if IS wishy-washing.
  21. Feb 7, 2012 #20
    There sure is a different! I'm confused as to why you felt this needed to be said.

    To try to make sense of it, I'll say that it seems that the OP assumes that engineering is unrelated to applied mathematics...which I don't believe is necessarily true but to each his own. It's just as well since the career/education path he is claiming to want to take is generally in the same vein so the comparison between the two degrees is not so vast.

    IMHO, I think the OP should just do what feels right. If you want to get a second degree, definitely don't let fear [from employers, elitists, etc] stop you from doing it. If you don't want a second degree, don't get it...continue to do whatever it is you were going to do in the first place.

    But just to add more personal experience information stuff. No you cannot get governmental financial aid such as Pell grants if you already have 1 bachelors. Although you can get federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans while pursuing a second undergrad degree.
    ALSO read university policies before attempting your second undergraduate degree, it might be the case that if a university confers a degree upon you like a bachelor's of science, then you might not be able to get a second one. The loop-hole is to try to obtain a bachelor's of arts.
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