At just 23 years old, Byanca Avitia is poised to graduate next year with both her bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. By then she'll have enough college credits to qualify to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, solidifying her dreams of becoming an accountant.
So just how did this millennial work through years of study so quickly? Avitia credits a strong work ethic and DePaul's combined bachelor's and master's degree programs with fast-tracking her accounting career.
"I think the combined degree program gives me an advantage over students who do not complete the program because I am able to expand my knowledge of accounting and prepare to take the CPA exam," says Avitia.
Two Degrees, One Program
DePaul's combined degree programs allow undergraduates to enroll in graduate classes during their senior year to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree. The idea began with combined degrees for accountancy or economics majors who wanted an accelerated path to earning master's degrees in those disciplines.
This fall, the Driehaus College of Business expanded its BS/MS offerings to allow students to combine any DePaul undergraduate major with master's degrees in entrepreneurship; hospitality leadership and operational performance; human resources; management; or real estate. Read more about DePaul combined BS/MS degrees.
By enrolling in a combined degree program, undergraduate students can take up to three classes paying undergraduate tuition and have those classes also credited toward a graduate degree. It's a program that saves students significant amounts of money since undergraduate tuition is normally one-third the cost of graduate tuition. And the program can help students earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in as little as five years.
But beyond the cost savings, students enrolled in combined degree programs say they see it as a big advantage when it comes to their professional careers.
For Avitia, that means entering the fast lane toward an accounting career. "This program gives students the opportunity to develop their skills as an accounting professional," Avitia says. "It is a great way to earn enough credits to sit for the CPA exam and it is also an excellent way to prepare for the examination. The graduate accounting program provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to grow as a business professional."
Initiative Helps Students Ease into Graduate Studies
For Tyler Failla, the opportunity to earn his master's degree in accounting in a year rather than two years by combining it with his bachelor's degree was very "enticing." Failla also said the combined degree allows him to acclimate to graduate studies.
"I was able to ease into graduate work because I was only enrolled in one graduate-level class per quarter," says Failla who will work at Ernst & Young upon completion of his master's degree. "By taking one graduate class per quarter, I was able to better acclimate to the expectations of a graduate curriculum, specifically the faster pace at which the courses progressed and the additional emphasis on examinations as a large portion of my overall grade."
Apply Early for Program
Students considering enrollment in the combined degree program should talk with advisors in their program's department office during their junior year, says Ellen Dawson, associate director in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. "If students wait until their senior year it may limit the number of graduate courses they can take."
For Avitia, a first-generation college student, the prospect of earning her master's degree is more than just about accelerated pacing. She notes colleagues at her current job admire her for investing so much energy into her education. But most of all, she knows it makes her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico and never finished high school, immensely proud of her.
"I am thankful for their support to continue my education and know that obtaining my master’s degree will make them proud."
Learn more about combined degree programs at DePaul's business school.