UMass Amherst Department of Political Science

Accelerated MA Overview

The Accelerated Master's Degree in the Department of Political Science is a flexible and individualized plan of graduate study for undergraduate students at UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, Amherst College, and Smith College.

How does it work?

The Accelerated MA is a 30-credit master's degree open to students at the Five Colleges with a 3.5 overall GPA or better. It allows Five College students to complete a bachelor and master's degree in a total of five years. The full bachelor and master's program is 150 credits.

Students may apply for admission into the degree program during the fall semester of their junior year and may begin taking graduate classes in the spring semester of their junior year.

Each student accepted into the master's program will take a total of three graduate courses (9 credits) while still an undergraduate. Students will be classified as undergraduate students until they complete all requirements for their bachelor degree AND the three graduate courses (129 credits). Once all these requirements are fulfilled, the students will be formally admitted into the graduate program, where they will complete an additonal 21 graduate credits. The 9 graduate credits taken while an undergraduate may count toward both the undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Accelerated MA students may pursue two options within the degree: one with a thesis (recommended for those who plan to pursue a PhD) and one without a thesis. If students do not write a thesis, they are required to submit two seminar papers (from any course that counts toward the master's degree and which received an A- or better) to the Graduate Program Director for review.

For more details and the distribution and methods requirements of the degree, please review the graduate program rules.

If you still have questions, please read through our Frequently Asked Questions.

And if you are ready to apply, visit our Admissions page.


Download our Accelerated MA brochure [pdf]



Key Benefits to the Accelerated MA Program

Tailored Curriculum

Each student in the Accelerated Master's Degree program works with a faculty mentor to create a plan of study that fits the student's interests, needs, and career aspirations. By keeping the number of required courses to a minimum, the master's program allows maximum flexibility and an individualized education.

Preparation for advanced graduate work

As an accelerated degree, it gives students who are contemplating a PhD the opportunity to see if graduate school or a life in academia is really for them. It allows students to gain in-depth knowledge, craft graduate-quality writing samples, develop close relationships with faculty, and demonstrate an ability to complete graduate-level work -- all of which will strengthen PhD and law school applications.

Competitive Advantage for Jobs

The Accelerated Master's Degree is also beneficial as a terminal degree. The 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected employment for political scientists to be "faster than the average" and that holders of graduate degrees would "have the best employment prospects and advancement opportunities."

Higher Salary

According to the National Science Foundation, the median salary of recent graduates with a master's degree in political science is $21,000 higher than that of recent graduates with only a bachelor's degree.

Cost Effective

Importantly, the Accelerated Master's Degree is a cost-effective option for your graduate education. Since you complete one third of your coursework while still an undergraduate, the time to completion is reduced by one semester. In other words, you can pay one third less than what you would have paid for a traditional MA in political science by pursuing the Accelerated Master's Degree.

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