Where to apply for a Master’s Program with a three-year undergraduate degree?

Graduation Cap and Certificate On road

So, you’ve completed your Bachelor’s education. Maybe you chose an undergraduate course with a duration of three-years or one with a duration of four years. In either case, the options you have are:

  1. Get a job right after college
  2. Work at your family’s business
  3. Sit at home waiting to get married
  4. Get a master’s degree from India
  5. Get a master’s degree from abroad

Now you might personally have many more options, but these are the ones that the majority of undergraduate freshers get.

If you choose options A through D, you’re fine. Click off of this blog and get on with your life as normal because this blog won’t add any value to your life. However, if you chose E, you need this blog.

Which master’s degree to choose?

I remember a young me thinking a BA in English was followed by an MBA in English. Fortunately, I had good educators and now know that it was not so. A BA in English can be followed by an MA in English, an MSC in English, and even an MBA but not in English.

Now it might be easy for you to decide the major, i.e. English in this case, for your post-graduate or master’s degree. But have you decided which type of master’s degree would suit you best?

There are broadly two types of master’s degrees; subject-based, and professional degrees.

Subject-Based Master’s degree

Subject-based master’s degrees follow a bachelor’s degree in the same subject. These can be looked at as extension courses to the students’ majors during their undergraduate education. The following are the different types of titles for subject-Based Master’s degrees.

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS, MSc)
  • Master of Research (MRes)
  • Master by Research (MPhil)
  • Master of Studies (MSt)

Professional Master’s degree

Professional master’s degrees are supplementary degrees done to switch the field of education. These are best suited to applicants who did not study the same major in their undergraduate degree. The following are Professional Master’s degrees.

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Library Science (MLS, MLIS, MSLS)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Master of Laws (LLM)
  • Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MA, MALS, MLA/ALM, MLS)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Master of Music (MM/MMus)
  • Master of Education (MEd, MSEd, MIT, MAEd, MAT)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)
  • Master of Architecture (M. Arch)

What to do after choosing a master’s degree?

You don’t need to be a genius to understand the Indian education system. You score high and you can get into almost any post-graduate school you want. Business schools and other post-graduate schools abroad, however, do not work this way. While scores do matter to them, they prefer a wholesome profile over exceptional grades.

A wholesome profile is what we Indians call an “all-rounder’s” profile.

Another thing, that might have more importance than a “wholesome profile” is your reason for pursuing the post-graduate education. Simply because you wish to get into a certain course, the post-graduate school won’t be inclined to accept you. Instead, they will grill you to make sure that giving you an admit doesn’t produce returns higher than the opportunity cost they will incur by rejecting all the other applicants.

The formula to ascertain them of your need to get a post-grad education is as follows.

Past (AHA moments) + Post-graduate education (Current handicaps) = Short-term and long-term goals

Past: The AHA moments are moments from the past year or two that have made the applicant identify the need to do have a post-graduate education. These are moments that have motivated the applicant to work towards their short-term and long-term goals and made them realize that in order to do so, they would require a certain education.

Post-graduate education: The current handicaps are the gaps or the absence of the skills required for the applicant to function smoothly in their short-term or long-term goals. A good reason for pursuing a post-graduate education would have the applicant detail how an MBA would help them overcome their current handicaps and acquire the said skills.

Short-term and Long-term goals: Finally, the reason for pursuing a post-graduate education consists of the goals you have post-MBA.

Once you have this story figured out, getting into the post-grad course of your choice would be a much easier task.

The dilemma of the three-year undergraduate degree

You must be wondering why the duration of your undergraduate degree is important for a master's program abroad. Let’s demystify this one step at a time.

The eligibility criteria for admission to a master’s degree in the US is a 12+4 education. This means one must have studied for four years after graduating from high school, to be eligible for a master’s program. Most undergraduate courses in the US are four-years in duration, thus they do not consider the Indian three-year undergraduate degree as a complete degree.

Another country that follows the same model in Canada.

Now India follows the ways of its ex-colonizer, the United Kingdom. In the UK, Australia, and many other European countries, the average undergraduate degree is the same length as India. This makes it much easier for an Indian student to gain admission to a post-graduate course in any of these countries as far as the education eligibility criteria are considered.

It is still preferable to check with your target school to find out what their criterion for eligibility is in this case.

What do top schools say about the three-year undergraduate degree for master’s programs?

Schools in the USA seem divided in regards to whether or not allowing an applicant with a three-year undergraduate degree to apply to a master’s program is a good idea.

There are three variants of opinions:

  1. Schools that clearly state that a three-year undergraduate degree is considered incomplete, and an applicant must gain another degree to compensate for the same.
  2. Schools that are lenient in this criterion and accept the Indian three-year undergraduate degree as a valid education for a master’s program.
  3. Schools that neither fully accept nor fully deny the validity of a three-year undergraduate degree. They rely on international organizations such as WES to provide credibility to individual applicants’ degrees for the purpose of admissions.
Man with Hands on face and a question mark animation

What to do if your target school doesn’t accept a three-year undergraduate degree?

To quote Shahrukh Khan, “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost (the movie isn’t over yet)”.

One obvious solution to this problem is to get another degree and apply at least two years after you had originally planned to. However, that is one lengthy and exhausting solution that I’m sure you would like to avoid.

You’re in luck as the World Education Services (WES) will help you do just that.

The WES is a non-profit organization that provides international students credentials to be able to study in the USA and Canada. The WES recognizes some Indian degrees as equivalents of a US undergraduate degree.

These degrees must, however, be:

  • Passed in Division 1.
  • Awarded by institutions accredited by the National Admission and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

While there are many organizations providing credential evaluations, WES is the most reliable for Indian students.

Flags of USA and Canada

List of universities in the USA and Canada that accept a three-year undergraduate degree

Since the UK, Australia, and most countries in Europe and Asia follow the three-year undergraduate system, applicants can be eligible for most master’s degrees in these countries.

However, since the USA and Canada demand a 16-year education for a master’s degree, it is necessary to know which schools in these two countries allow applicants with a three-year undergraduate degree to apply to their master’s program.

Schools that accept applicants with a three-year undergraduate degree to their master’s program.

Having a three-year undergraduate degree might put you at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a master’s degree abroad. However, with the right tools, combating the same isn’t an issue.

However, as explained previously, don’t get into the race to make it into a post-graduate school abroad just for the sake of it. It is a big financial and time commitment, and one that would incur a high opportunity cost.

If you do decide to get a post-graduate education, pay special attention to the “What to do after choosing a master’s degree?” section of this blog. Your application will be much more important than your GPA or entrance exam scores alone.