Explore Coterminal Degrees
Is a Master's Degree Right for You?
The coterminal degree program at Stanford allows you to begin work on a master’s degree while you are finishing your bachelor’s degree. The graduate degree does not have to be from the same department or school as your undergraduate major. The degrees can be combined in a way that adds coherence and depth to your educational program or enhances your professional or personal interests.
Graduate School and Other Options
Pursuing coterminal admission to a master's degree is one of many options available to you for achieving depth, breadth and advanced study in your education. Choosing a graduate program typically requires research. As you consider your big picture future, also consider how, and if, pursuing a graduate program fits into your vision.
There are many reasons one might choose to pursue graduate study via coterminal admission:
- Exploring in depth an entirely new field, or continuing to explore one’s undergraduate major field to an even greater degree
- Expand your cohort of graduate student peers while enjoying the continuity of your home campus
- Gaining a head start on the professional degree required for a career in your desired field
- Preparing for other post-baccalaureate studies (such as PhD programs), medical, law, or business school, or for work in certain professional fields
Also, make sure to weigh the benefits of other opportunities, which can be in addition to, or instead of, the coterm option, as they may align better with your overarching academic goals. These options include the following:
- Honors: Pursuing advanced work in your major through additional course work or completing an honors thesis or senior project.
- Comparing Majors Options: Completing a double-major, secondary major, or a minor to experience breadth through a field related to your major.
- Participating in research, overseas or off-campus study, public service endeavors, leadership opportunities to deepen your education through non-classroom experiences.
Comparing Stanford Coterms and Master’s Degrees Elsewhere
Benefits of pursuing your master’s degree through the Stanford Coterm Program include the following:
- You can start pursuing your graduate degree while still working towards your undergraduate degree.
- You can build on already established relationships with departments and faculty at Stanford.
- You don’t have to relocate and acclimate to another campus and community.
Benefits to pursuing a master’s degree at another institution include:
- You have the opportunity to work closely with a different group of faculty in your field.
- You get a more diversified educational experience.
- You might be able to enroll in a program where the master’s degree directly feeds into a PhD program.
Need Help with Your Future Goals?
A graduate program may be a clear way to support your future goals, however you may be uncertain, or undecided on your future personal and/or professional goals.
Whether or not you're ready to seek employment, researching things like job market outlooks for various fields might be helpful. It may also be helpful to evaluate your knowledge base and skills given your undergraduate education and experience. How might graduate study add to, or refine, those skills given the job market and/or any of your goals? What do you want out of a graduate program?
There are many people and resources on campus and beyond that can help you explore these and many other questions.
A great resource for students well BEFORE seeking employment. Some of BEAM's many offerings include:
- Career coaches
- Informal meetups with students/alumni/employers, industry specialists
- Life design classes and programming
- Design your Stanford, Designing Your Life, and Designing the Professional the TREE tool - helps you list your career interests and design specific goals to explore and pursue those interests
- While BEAM can help connect you to people in various industries, you may already be connected to people on or off campus with experience in areas that are of interest to you. Ask them questions about their work, what they wish they had known when they were students, etc. Most people are happy to talk about their perspectives and experiences.
- Don't forget about your Academic Advisors and faculty advisors. If your advisor has a background different from the areas of interest, they may still be able to help you make meaningful connections and/or link you to relevant opportunities. If you are considering medical school, law school, or business school, see the pre-professional advisors in Sweet Hall.
Faculty, Staff, and Other Students
Faculty are going to be the experts about the learning outcomes of a program. Program staff can also be very knowledgeable and are often willing to connect you to current coterms in those programs.
Want to passively gather information before talking to people? Here you can see what graduates of various programs did after graduation. Tip - remember to filter by graduation timeframe so you aren't looking at information that is very old or irrelevant. If you wish to connect with someone, you may want to try to find them on LinkedIn, other professional networks, or see if they have listed and email address in case they don't check their alumni database messages regularly.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and any other vehicle for self-reflection. Self-reflection can be challenging, especially when you are BUSY. CAPS could help you think through your values and goals for life beyond Stanford. What are your expectations for your life? How will certain career paths fit into that life? Will your work be an extension of your identity? How much professional life/personal life overlap is ideal for you? Planning for when you finish your undergraduate career can be understandably difficult and/or anxiety inducing. Sometimes addressing that difficulty directly can help you keep it from derailing your research.
There are endless opportunities to consider how your want to spend your time at Stanford and down the road. You have probably been overwhelmed by all of the speakers, visitors, programs, activities, and events you can choose to attend or participate in. Consider those options with a forward thinking lens. Read the newsletters you get in your email. Are there any classes that can give you information or provide ways to explore other areas of interest? How will your activities potentially give you meaningful information or experience when it comes to your time beyond your baccalaureate degree?
Consider your professional network
Your network can include other students, staff, faculty, people in the community, etc. List connections you've made so far via internships, volunteering, doing research, etc.
BALANCE IS KEY
Do not worry so much about post-graduation that you are unable to enjoy your time as an undergraduate. However, putting off exploring your options too long may limit them or leave you in a time crunch. Consider building a timelime of when you would like to explore some of the relevant bullets above, in addition to other avenues that may come your way.