Guidelines for Developing and Implementing Dual Bachelor’s-Master’s Degree Programs

Last updated: August, 2021

Faculty may use this document as a resource that provides a set of guidelines for the development and implementation of academic programs that combine undergraduate work and master’s degree work. Students are increasingly requesting flexibility in earning more than one degree from the University, including a desire to participate in a coherent course of study leading to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. While this scenario is possible for some students – in particular those who arrive with numerous AP, IB, or other college credits – there are guidelines that must be met when considering such programs.

The University encourages dual programs in appropriate disciplines to provide exceptionally strong students with substantive educational opportunities that enhance the quality of these students’ experiences.

Program Requirements

All policies and guidelines governing both the graduate and undergraduate degree programs must still be met in the dual degree program, including admissions standards, credit hour requirements, course credit transfer policies, residency, registration and enrollment restrictions, and graduation requirements. Individual school and external accreditation requirements must also be met.

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) is the accrediting body for the University. SACSCOC requires the following:

In the spirit of encouraging collaborative and educationally stimulating opportunities for undergraduate students that lead to meaningful graduate education and workforce development, coordinated dual bachelor’s-graduate degree programs can be proposed that would enable students to work on both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously. This means that 12 credit hours toward a master’s degree may be taken while pursuing the Carolina undergraduate degree and double counted toward the Carolina graduate degree program. The double counted work must be at the more advanced graduate level (at minimum, numbered 400 and above) and have approval from the graduate program.

Students must fulfill all other requirements for both degrees, including applying to the undergraduate major when appropriate, an official application and admittance to the master’s program, core coursework, program credit hour requirements above the SACSCOC minimums, special projects and seminars, and a thesis or approved substitute. Faculty retain oversight for developing and approving which advanced, graduate level courses may double count. Below are several examples to illustrate possible dual degree program tracks.

Example 1: An advanced undergraduate student is in a program that requires 120 hours for the undergraduate degree and 30 hours for the master’s degree. The student may take up to 12 hours of graduate level coursework prior to earning the bachelor’s degree that will count toward both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. Upon official application and admittance to the master’s program, the student must then earn at least 18 hours while enrolled as a master’s student for a total of at least 138 hours at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Example 2: An advanced undergraduate student is in a program that requires 122 hours for the undergraduate degree and 36 hours for the master’s degree. The student may take up to 12 hours of graduate level coursework prior to earning the bachelor’s degree that will count toward both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. Upon official application and admittance to the master’s program, the student must then earn at least 24 hours while enrolled as a master’s student for a total of at least 146 hours at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Example 3: An advanced undergraduate student is in a program that requires 120 hours for the undergraduate degree and is interested in pursuing a dual master’s degree program that is open to a variety of undergraduate majors and requires 48 hours. The student may take up to 12 hours of graduate level coursework prior to earning the bachelor’s degree that will count toward both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. Upon official application and admittance to the master’s program, the student must then earn at least 36 hours while enrolled as a master’s student for a total of at least 156 hours at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Program Approval

All dual bachelor’s-master’s degree programs will follow normal campus guidelines for review and approval of new academic proposals. All home academic school approval processes must be followed. The Graduate School will also route the proposal through its Administrative Board/Academic Policy Committee before a program can be established and offered to students. The home school or unit for the undergraduate degree should be consulted simultaneously with The Graduate School.

Sponsoring programs should consult with appropriate faculty and staff as early as possible to ensure program development accounts for all guidelines and policies in effect. Both units can assist with reviewing the proposal and confirming how all policies will apply. Examples of approved proposals are available on request from The Graduate School. Proposals should include the following:

Programs will be reviewed periodically as part of the Office of the Provost’s Program Review process occurring approximately every eight years.

Program Implementation

Undergraduate Advising

Curriculum Considerations

Graduate Admissions

Financial Aid and Funding

Note: For proposals involving brand new degree programs not yet authorized on campus, the campus and University System guidelines for degree program development will be in effect. Information on planning and establishing brand new graduate degrees can be found online at: Planning and establishing brand new graduate degrees.

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