My friend has a diploma (associate degree) in commerce. He has 35+ years of industry experience. He wants to do integrated master’s and PhD in business. How is it possible?

  • 1
    In which country? – The Doctor Jan 2 '18 at 21:32

The typical college cycle

The typical college cycle works like this:

  1. Start with a high-school diploma or equivalent.

  2. Do 2-years of undergraduate education; some get an Associate's degree for it.

  3. Do another 2-years of undergraduate education; most get a Bachelor's for it.

  4. Do 2-years of graduate education; many get a Master's for it.

  5. Do a few years of PhD work; successful students get a PhD for it.

It sounds like your friend's done Steps (1) and (2), and now they want to do Steps (4) and (5).

Your friend's atypical situation: rejoining the cycle & skipping a step

Your friend's situation is atypical in two ways:

  • They want to skip Step (3).

  • There's a significant gap between the earlier and later steps.

Skipping Step (3) is a tricky proposition. Basically, they'd need to find a grad school that will accept their application despite not having done Step (3), which won't be something all would be willing to do.

Unfortunately, doing Step (3) would probably require repeating Step (2) as well. It's probably unfair, but that's how the system currently works in most places; undergraduate continuation is lost after about 5 years.

Potential approaches to achieving this goal

This seems to leave them with four tactics that might work depending on the locality and a lot of happenstance:

  • Option 1: Repeat Step (2) by enrolling as an undergraduate, then go through the process from there.

  • Option 2: Re-enter the process at Step (3) by finding an undergraduate program that'll accept the prior Associate's. This may be unlikely.

  • Option 3: Skip ahead to Step (4) by finding a graduate program that'll overlook the absence of a Bachelor's, perhaps by arguing that 35-years of experience is a supplement.

  • Option 4: Enroll in an MBA program instead, then try to re-enter the typical college cycle at Step (4) or Step (5) with an MBA in-hand.

Option (1) might not be interesting to your friend, since it'd involve doing an extra 4 years of full-time college work before starting with the Master's/PhD program that they want to do.

Option (2) would be tricky, primarily since it'd probably be hard to find an undergrad institution that'd accept an Associate's from that long ago. Additionally, it'd still involve an additional 2 years of full-time college work before starting with the Master's/PhD program that they want to do.

Option (3) would probably be what your friend would like most. However, the Master's-level classes might be a bit hard for someone who's been out of academia for so long, plus a lot of graduate programs might spurn their application in the absence of a Bachelor's.

Option (4) seems more plausible than some of the others because MBA programs tend to value work experience far more than typical Master's programs, so it'd probably be easier for them to get in. However, MBA's are typically terminal degrees; I don't know if there're combined MBA/PhD programs. That said, a Business PhD program might be inclined to accept an applicant with an MBA, or else an MBA might qualify them to enter a traditional Master's/PhD program.

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  • 2
    This might be country/university specific, but option 3 is possible in some places. I know someone who was admitted into an MSc programme at a top university in the UK with an Associate-equivalent certificate + 10 years of industry experience, and graduated with a Distinction. That person later was admitted into a PhD program in a reputable university with no problem. – user66882 Jan 3 '18 at 2:45
  • @LilyEast I suspect that you're right that there'd be a lot of variance there. My primary experience with grad programs is in the US for STEM fields where a Bachelor's degree is a basic necessity, though the odds of someone getting into a Business program based on their industrial experience might be better than in STEM. – Nat Jan 4 '18 at 16:23

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