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Career Pivot: Getting a Graduate Degree That's Different From Your Bachelor's

Posted by Rebecca Esposito on Oct 31, 2019 6:28:00 AM

Left and right brain concept

Think back to your college graduation ceremony.

You’ve finally finished your undergraduate degree, you're decked out in a cap and gown, and your family and friends are asking questions about where you're headed and how you plan to achieve your professional goals. You probably felt a combination of excitement, nervous energy, and pride. But now that some time has gone by, take a minute to remember the academic subjects that were printed on that diploma, and ask yourself these questions:

Are you still passionate about the college major you chose to pursue?

Is your college major still relevant to your current career?

And more importantly, has your college major allowed you to land your dream career?

Here at Marymount University, we recognize that college students are young when they declare their majors, and even more don’t know what they’re passionate about when they do. Sometimes it takes a few years in the workforce before you have a good grasp on where you want to take your career. So, if you’re thinking about going back to school for a graduate degree, there are plenty of reasons why it’s perfectly okay, and sometimes even beneficial, to pursue a different area of study than your college major.

Let's dive into some of the factors you should consider if you're thinking about making a career shift — and address the value of actually pursuing a graduate degree that's unrelated to your bachelor's degree.

Pro Tip: RSVP for our Graduate Programs Open House on Saturday, November 2!

Examine the importance of your college major:

According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27 percent of college graduates have a job related to their major. When it comes to hiring, employers tend to look at the entire body of a candidate’s education – and it is rare that a declared major alone is enough to disqualify an applicant. It is more important to demonstrate academic and professional success, interest, intelligence, work experience, and drive. As a result, it is not uncommon to see humanities majors in the tech industry or engineering students in law school.

A major can be helpful when breaking into specialized fields, but few college graduates are pigeon-holed by their past decisions – so there’s no reason to let an unrelated undergraduate major get in the way of a compelling graduate education.

In other words, the world is your oyster. Don't be discouraged if your college major hasn't thus far allowed you to reach your professional goals — you have lots of options for doing so.

Understand what areas of study can complement each other:

Many graduate students are surprised to learn how much an unrelated undergraduate degree can complement a new field of study. Take liberal arts degrees, for example. Many majors fall under the umbrella of a liberal arts degree, which emphasizes a broad skill-set among students that is applicable to any graduate degree, no matter how specialized. These skills include critical thinking, communication, time management, teamwork, listening, and productivity. Clearly, these abilities are crucial for success in any field.

Students approaching a particular subject from a different undergraduate background are also often able to provide fresh and unique perspectives. Subjects that may seem to have nothing in common at first glance can turn out to be related in interesting ways.

For example, psychology majors often find that their understanding of human thought processes and behavior helps them to excel in business management. Another example: those who have a background in English or history will have mastered the soft skills and communication skills needed to be a fantastic human resource manager or counselor. These are just a couple of examples, but you can learn more here about the value of getting a graduate degree.

Explore graduate degrees that don't require a related undergraduate degree:

Marymount University offers a variety of graduate programs available to students from all undergraduate backgrounds. Believe it or not, there are degrees rooted in education, data, heatlh, and STEM that do not require a related bachelor's degree.

View of MU Ballston Center

Here are just a few of the graduate programs offered at Marymount that don't require applicants to hold a related degree:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Physical Therapy
  • Nursing
  • Information Technology
  • Health Care Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Education
  • Counseling
  • English & Humanities
  • Information Technology
  • Forensic & Legal Psychology

These are just a few of the graduate degrees offered at MU that don't require a related college degree. As long as students demonstrate the capacity for hard work, there are few closed doors. In the end, no matter what you studied during your undergraduate years, there is a world of opportunities available to you.

Research the region in which you want to work:

When you're working to make a career change, it's important to do research on where you want to work and live. For instance, if you're thinking about living and working in the Washington D.C. area, you should do research on the kinds of career fields that are growing in this area.

Consider the following blog posts that outline a few specific fields that are booming in the D.C. area:

Real-life examples of professionals who made a career shift:

Have no fear — you’re not the only one who studied something different from their current profession. In fact, pursuing a master’s degree that’s unrelated to your bachelor’s degree just might give you the competitive edge you need to take on this new career goal.

Here are a few examples for you to consider:

  • Lowell McAdam

You may not have heard of Lowell McAdam, but you’ve certainly heard of the company he leads. McAdam is the CEO of Verizon Communications, and he has a varied educational and professional background that prepared him to lead one of the world’s top communications companies. 

McAdam first earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, then went on to complete his MBA. McAdam also spent six years in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. McAdam’s ambition, experience, education, and military service proved to successfully shape him for unparalleled leadership.

  • Terri Tchorzynski

Terri Tchorzynski, a counselor at Calhoun Area Career Center in Michigan, was recently named the 2017 School Counselor of the Year. But Tchorzynski’s path to success didn’t include the typical counselor’s undergraduate background in psychology or sociology. 

Tchorzynski studied English and Education in college and began her career as a high school English teacher. However, she realized early on that she wanted to do more than teach kids, she wanted to help them, too. So, she earned her master’s degree in counseling and is now a celebrated leader in this life-changing field.

  • Liza Ryner

Thumbtack named Liza Ryner one of the top interior designers in Washington, D.C. in 2017. But Liza did not start out with an artistic background — at least not professionally. 

Ryner graduated with a B.S. in Finance. She then got her J.D. and practiced corporate law. When she decided she needed a complete change, she pursued a M.A. Interior Design from a school in the D.C. area. Her diverse background gives her an edge in D.C.’s interior design industry and clearly helps her run her business smoothly and with distinction.

Our programs are designed with your success in mind:

If you’re interested in making a career shift, you’ll be getting the most out of furthering your education by opening yourself up to entirely new areas of study, and maybe finding your true calling along the way.

Want to learn more about graduate school programs and degrees at Marymount University? As a private, Catholic school located in the bustling D.C. metro area, we offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines, all in a convenient, student and career-focused environment. Contact us to find out whether MU might be the right fit for you!


Are you interested in pursuing a graduate degree that isn't related to your undergraduate degree? Check out our digital resource page: 10 Graduate Degrees that Don't Require a Related Bachelor's!

Explore the Resource Page

Posted by Rebecca Esposito

Rebecca Esposito is the Associate Director for Graduate Enrollment Services at Marymount University. She works with students interested in all School of Business and Technology programs. Prior to joining Marymount, she worked with undergraduate students across the state of Texas, where she also earned her M.Ed in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Topics: Grad School Resources

About this blog

This blog is intended to help busy working professionals and recent college graduates to be informed about graduate school options. We explore various academic disciplines, professional development opportunities, and industry trends related to graduate education.

From what to look for in a graduate program to how to balance life, school and everywhere in between, we hope that our tips and advice will help you end up at the right school, in the right program, and at the right time.

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