Is it possible to get admission to a master's program in economics without finishing up your undergrad?

I have completed 105 credits so far for my BA Honours in economics and math degree, and still need 15 credits to graduate (120 required for graduation). However, a case of academic dishonesty could lead to my suspension from my current university. I know that I made a mistake at such a crucial time in my undergrad, but I can only learn from it.

The problem also I'm having is that some universities will not even consider my application as result of academic dishonesty. Apart from this my application is quite strong in terms of doing well in economics courses, strong letter of recommendations, and GRE score..

I have already published an economics paper in an undergraduate journal and feel as if there isn't anything to learn about economics from my university.

I can study economics independently and work to get "food on the table" and have some real-world experience under my belt before embarking on a journey as an intellectual.

  • 3
    I am afraid you must get bachelor degree in order to get into graduate school with your past record, unless you want to get in a diploma mill graduate school.
    – Nobody
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:28
  • @ Well, I already applied to some master's programs in economics and what if I get offers now? Are they going to actually check that I finished my undergrad? Is there a possibility of me going to summer school for the university I do my master's to make up for it?
    – user9378
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:44
  • I don't know how did you apply. Let's say you get into a graduate school, what are you going to say when somebody asks you where did you graduate from?
    – Nobody
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:49
  • 1
    @scaaahu Well, I applied on-line before I get suspended. If I do get an offer then I will email them and tell the truth. There's no point of deceiving anyone regarding this matter.
    – user9378
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:54
  • I think the info you provided in the comments are useful for people to answer your question.
    – Nobody
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:58

5 Answers 5


I don't think there's much room for optimism. Offers of graduate admission are generally preconditioned on actually completing the previous degree. Moreover, having your previous degree candidacy terminated on account of academic dishonesty will make you "radioactive"; very few graduate schools are going to want to bring in someone who got suspended for plagiarism or cheating. (Given that the entire research enterprise hinges on being able to trust reported results, why would a school want to take a chance on someone who has already clearly violated those principles?)

[More generally, however: I do know of an economics professor whose PhD is in fact his only degree; however, the circumstances behind that are so unusual that they're unlikely to be replicated any time soon. (Basically, he followed a professor from Germany to the US while he was still an undergraduate in the days when the Diplom system was in full force.)]

  • I think the best I can do is to take the time-off to work and then transfer my credits to another university.
    – user9378
    Jan 2, 2014 at 14:57
  • 6
    It might be easier to apply for readmission to your old university after a year or two. Suspensions are rarely permanent. Talk to your faculty advisors about this possibility NOW.
    – JeffE
    Jan 3, 2014 at 1:26
  • @Jeff I don't think it's a good idea to apply for readmission to my old university because of the social stigma attached with AD. It would be really awkward for me to attend the university especially since it's a small place and everyone knows each other by name.
    – user9378
    Jan 3, 2014 at 2:14
  • It's still worth asking.
    – JeffE
    Jan 3, 2014 at 13:30

Simply put, there is a small chance you could get into an MA program without a BA, and there is a small chance you could get into an MA program with the stigma of academic dishonesty on your record, but there is virtually no chance of getting into an MA program when you have no BA because of academic dishonesty.

I would recommend you do what you can to make amends and get the BA. If you can say that you were suspended due to academic dishonesty but turned over a new leaf, persevered and finished the degree, then you have somewhere to start from. But if schools get the impression that you were kicked out for cheating and never bothered to go back and fix that, it will be a huge red flag that will make it nearly impossible for you to be accepted in good faith. (You could still get accepted by lying or hiding your past, but you admirably mentioned in the comments that that's not what you want to do.)

  • Doesn't "suspended" essentially mean that you're banned from taking courses, in other words were kicked out?
    – user10433
    Jan 4, 2014 at 0:55
  • 2
    @rocinante: It depends on the nature of the suspension, but as JeffE noted in a comment on another answer, suspensions are often temporary and some sort of "make-up" plan can be worked out.
    – BrenBarn
    Jan 4, 2014 at 1:15
  • @rocinante: where I am from, we say Suspended meaning banned from taking units for (usually) 1 semester, and Expelled, meaning kicked out banned from reenrolling in course Jan 4, 2014 at 15:49

As others have said, no. What credibility do you think you have for your other good grades when you admit you cheated? It's entirely possible that you cheated other times as well and were simply more clever about it.

Moreover, most low-tier universities don't suspend students for cheating if it's the first offence. You get a zero in the course and move on to take it again or take another comparable course. The fact that suspension is on the table likely means that you cheated before.


My best advice would be to take a time off and go back to complete your undergrad. Even if this is going to cost you time and money, it will pay off at the end. You might want to also consider a transfer into another institution who is willing to accept you in, with the credits you've already earned in your current institution. I personally don't know any "accredited institution of higher education" who doesn't require a Bachelor degree,especially in these days of higher and tougher competition. Furthermore, most graduates institution will ask a Bachelor, GRE, etc.... as part of the routine application process.


I don't think this is really worth an answer but I have low reps and I can't comment yet.

Theoretically -- if you get an offer now, some schools (I did my PhD at a top-tier institution in the US) will not bother to check that you have a bachelor's degree; mine certainly didn't. You might even get away with it, if no one bothers to check your bachelor's degree (admittedly not very important if you become a full-fledged academic).

Realistically -- what you are asking is quite impossible, especially because you have committed an act of academic dishonesty. If someone finds out (and chances are good that they will find out, since academics like to chat and gossip at conferences), you could have your admission offer revoked, or even your degree revoked.

Besides, your situation is somewhat unrelated to your question. Most institutions will ask for transcripts from ALL universities that you have attended, whether you received a degree from them or not.

  • Like I said above in one of the answers: I will wait for a year and then finish my undergrad and then start applying. Not trying to 'game the system' but I don't think anyone can find it out through conferences because I'm well liked by my econ profs and the AD issue was on a math course. These things are supposed to be confidential. I have applied to some master's programs with my Fall results, do u think they will ask me abt my winter results as well? Do they also want to look at the bachelor's degree certificate? My record is quite strong in my major subject.
    – user9378
    Jan 2, 2014 at 20:23
  • 1
    I'm well liked by my econ profs and the AD issue was on a math course — Yes, these things are supposed to be confidential, but word gets around anyway. One of your econ profs might wonder why you vanished, and ask your previous semester instructors.
    – JeffE
    Jan 3, 2014 at 1:28
  • Do they also want to look at the bachelor's degree certificate? — Most likely, yes.
    – JeffE
    Jan 3, 2014 at 1:28
  • @JeffE I see that you are a professor. Does your institution actually check for a bachelor's degree certificate? Mine certainly didn't. When a classmate of mine asked about this to the department chair, he just shrugged and said that it really wasn't that important to them.
    – user10408
    Jan 3, 2014 at 3:00
  • 1
    I believe mine does, yes.
    – JeffE
    Jan 3, 2014 at 13:27

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