Three-Year Degrees Pros and Cons

Posted July 26, 2012 by

“I could have learned all this in one semester.” That’s the groan of graduating college students as they look back on their four-year bachelor programs. Colleges load curricula with general requirement classes that don’t support students’ majors – all for the sake of “culturing” students.

And that “culture” comes at an expensive price. That’s why a lot of colleges are beginning to offer three-year degrees. They’re cheaper, quicker, and they get students into the workforce or graduate programs sooner.

In most of these programs, students take more but shorter classes in the fall and spring and some take classes over the summer.

President Barack Obama is calling to increase the number of American college graduates, hoping to become the global leader in grads by 2020. Colleges are trying to make their programs more accessible by shaving a year off. This also accelerates the degree pipeline, opening up more seats. In 12 years, these colleges can graduate four classes instead of three.

Also, more students are entering colleges with credits attained from Advanced Placement classes. Some even have a full year’s worth of credits, making the three-year degrees a legitimate option.

Most colleges do not offer standardized three-year programs. So, students have to sit down with a counselor and map out their curriculum. When students create their own curriculum – instead of being forced to take one – they can be significantly more motivated.

A three-year degree could also keep students focused on their studies. Freshman year has become known as the “exploring year” of college, as students try out a bunch of different classes, figuring out what they like. They don’t have that luxury with a three-year program.

But, you can’t argue that less education is better. A four-year degree will prepare students for the workplace better than a three-year degree. The benefit could be marginal and not worth the extra tuition or lost opportunity cost of a year’s salary. But, you never know how a random, general education class could help you.

Consider two marketing graduates: one has a three-year degree, the other a four-year degree, applying for an entry-level marketing job. The position is for an environmental activist client. The three-year grad has no education in the field, but the four-year grad took some geology, political science and environment preservation classes. The four-year grad gets the job.

A lot of businesses operate on old principles, and a three-year degree is a newer trend. So, the senior managers might have negative perceptions of three-year degrees, believing you need those extra classes to be cultured and to succeed. In a three-year program, you probably won’t be able to pick up a second major or multiple minors.

A three-year degree does not create as many opportunities to gain valuable experience through internships and organizations. At most, you could have two internships – and none if you take summer classes. Compare that to a four-year grad’s three potential internships. Again, the four-year grad has better job opportunities.

Three-year programs are great for students who want to go to grad school, as these students will save money on schooling and cost of tutoring but still have plenty of time to earn practical experience through internships and organizations. But, three-year programs could be disadvantageous for students who want to enter the workforce after college. In most cases, they just cannot compete with four-year grads.

This guest post article was written and provided by Janice Mitchell who is a stay-at- home mother and has homeschooled her children with the help of for over 10 years.

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