Accelerated programs enable students to save time and money and jumpstart careers.
As a high school student searching for colleges, Samantha Flomenberg was already thinking about graduate school.
Initially interested in accounting, Flomenberg knew she had many years of schooling ahead of her, and wanted to accelerate the process to jumpstart her career.
“I sought a school where I could continue on for a master’s right after having completed my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “Widener’s 4+1 program stood out in my search.”
Through 4+1, undergraduates meeting certain academic requirements can apply their junior year for one of several Widener master’s degree programs. During senior year, they take classes counting toward both degrees, allowing most to earn their bachelor’s and master’s in a compressed five years.
This way, students like Flomenberg save time and money otherwise spent on tuition and graduate school applications. They enter the workforce earlier than their peers carrying a graduate degree, often leading to higher starting salaries and a lifetime of greater earnings potential.
Similar accelerated programs are offered across the academic disciplines at Widener, positioning students on a fast track to career success.
Undergraduates can pursue accelerated 4+1 bachelor’s / master’s degrees in engineering, business administration, business process innovation, taxation and financial planning, and social work. Incoming qualified graduate students with a bachelor’s degree in social work can also complete their master’s full time in an accelerated one-year format versus the typical two.
The university’s 3+3 program in physical therapy leads to a doctorate in six years instead of the typical seven, and there are 3+3 offerings with Widener's Delaware Law School and Commonwealth Law School. Several accelerated graduate options also exist for nurses interested in pursuing higher degrees.
“In an increasingly competitive economy, these accelerated programs give students an added advantage in the job market. Many reach their long-term career goals more quickly,” said Kim O’Halloran, associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies and Extended Learning.
In some professions, a graduate degree is not a requirement but an unwritten expectation for advancement. It’s why Flomenberg, who switched majors from accounting to finance, still eyed a master’s degree.
"I figured I would need a master’s degree eventually just to stand out amongst my peers in the business world," she said.
Through the 4+1 program, Flomenberg graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in finance, and then in 2018 with a master’s in taxation and financial planning. Today, she’s a financial analyst for myCIO Wealth Partners in Philadelphia.
In other professions, a graduate degree is mandatory. Physical therapists, for instance, cannot practice without a doctorate. The 3+3 PT program not only trims off a year, it offers select incoming undergraduates a reserved seat in the graduate program.
“The 3+3 reserved seat program helps students avoid the uncertainty of getting into the competitive physical therapy graduate program market, and helps us because we know we are getting strong students that have been through our rigorous undergraduate programs,” said Jill Black, interim associate dean and director of the Institute for Physical Therapy Education.
Georgia Spano set her sights on physical therapy early on, and turned to Widener “to get there as fast as possible,” graduating in 2016 from the 3+3 program.
“When I speak with other PTs about their undergraduate and graduate education, I frequently get the response of ‘I wish I would have done that’ in regards to 3+3,” said Spano, a facility director at an outpatient PT clinic and an early intervention therapist.
Time and money aside, Widener’s accelerated programs provide the added benefit of an uninterrupted track to a post-bachelor’s degree. And that can be helpful since many find that once they enter the workforce and begin a career and family, it’s difficult to return to school.
“I used to suggest students wait a few years and come back, but I’ve made a 180-degree turn,” said Kenn Tacchino, professor of financial planning. “You’re already in a steady mode, living like a student.”