What are the Benefits of a 4+1 Program?

August 24, 2023
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Build toward your future with an accelerated combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program at Purdue Northwest!

Are you considering graduate school to enhance your career prospects? Do you want to complete a master’s degree in one year instead of two or more? A 4+1 academic plan can help passionate and motivated students fast-track an advanced degree and elevate their career options, all while saving time and money.

PNW offers several 4+1 pathways in science, engineering and technology areas of study. Keep reading to learn more about how these academic plans work and if one matches your area of interest.

What is a 4+1 path of study?

PNW’s 4+1 paths of study are designed to help motivated students like you earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at an accelerated pace. It can help reduce your tuition cost as well! Leaving college with both of these degrees can expand your career opportunities and provide you with more industry knowledge and a competitive edge in the professional world.

What 4+1 plans are offered at PNW?

PNW offers 4+1 plans for the following paths of study:

Foivi Triantafyllou

“It’s a great opportunity to do a 4+1 plan because you can start earlier than others, remain in the same school, work in small class sizes and receive valuable research opportunities.”

Foivi Triantafyllou
B.S. Biological Sciences ‘23, M.S. Biological Sciences ‘24

What are the advantages of a 4+1 plan?

  • Time — A 4+1 plan effectively allows you to finish a bachelor’s and advanced degree in five years of full-time coursework. If the degrees were completed separately, a full-time student would take six years to finish.
  • Cost — Less time in the classroom also effectively means less in tuition payments.
  • Advanced skills and competitive qualifications — Earning an advanced degree along with your bachelor’s degree provides enhanced academic knowledge, makes you a more appealing job candidate, qualified for higher salaries and ahead of the curve for future leadership roles.

How does a 4+1 plan work?

Undergraduate students in a 4+1 plan of study will begin taking graduate-level courses during their final year of undergraduate courses. The credits from these graduate-level courses will be applied to the student’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

An undergraduate student must complete 120 credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree at PNW. Undergraduate students that take a full course load, or 15 credit hours per semester, can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

Master’s programs included in 4+1 plans require 30 credit hours. Students in the 4+1 program will take 9 credits during their final year of undergraduate studies and complete the remaining courses during a year of graduate school. A full course load of graduate-level coursework is considered 9 credit hours per semester.

By overlapping credit hours between undergraduate and graduate school, a student can reduce the time of completion for a master’s degree and finish the required total of 141 credit hours for a 4+1 plan.

Joan Giner Rodriguez


“I already know the professors and some of my classmates from undergrad, which is very helpful. I know what they expect of me and I’m comfortable with them.”

Joan Giner Rodriguez
B.S. Mechanical Engineering ’23, M.S. Mechanical Engineering ’24

When do I apply for a 4+1 plan?

Undergraduate students in one of the qualified areas of study can express their interest in a 4+1 plan any time! Students should plan to speak with their academic advisors about their interest by their third year of undergrad. Discussing this option earlier allows for more flexibility.

Interested students should also schedule time to meet with graduate program directors in the College of Engineering and Sciences and the College of Technology.

Undergraduate students will have to submit their application to PNW Graduate Studies no later than the second semester of their final year. During their final year, students planning to enter a 4+1 path of study can add graduate courses to their schedule but will need permission from the graduate program directors.

What if I don’t finish in 5 years or feel this isn’t the right fit for me?

No problem! A 4+1 degree is designed to be finished in five years only if you are taking a full-time course load. If other life events, obligations or commitments come up that require you to reduce your course load, your academic or faculty advisors can help you adjust or get back on track later.

Or, if you feel a 4+1 path isn’t the right fit for you, taking graduate courses will not count against you. You can exit a 4+1 plan and still graduate on time with the necessary credit hours for a bachelor’s degree.

Mia Flory

“I feel this program has provided me with a better understanding of the background of manufacturing along with broadening my knowledge beyond just mechanical engineering, and possibly will spark my interest in things I never thought I would pursue.”

Mia Flory
B.S. Mechanical Engineering Technology ’22, M.S. Technology ‘23

What if I receive financial aid or scholarships?

Undergraduate and graduate tuition are billed differently, and you will need to research what financial aid and scholarships can help support your tuition costs.

See opportunities for graduate program support

Learn more about paying for college

Will a 4+1 plan be helpful for me?

To answer this question, it’s important to know your “why.” Pursuing an advanced degree can open many doors for your career, from higher-paying positions to accelerated job advancement. Master’s degrees expand on the knowledge gained from undergrad with even more critical thinking and research abilities that will benefit you professionally and personally. Master’s degrees can also equip you with more skills and credentials to offer employers or prepare you for a doctoral degree path of study.

While there are many upsides to earning a master’s degree, some careers do not require it for growth. PNW’s academic advisors, graduate program directors and Career Center staff are great resources for background information, expected outcomes and guidance.

Keaton John Wellman

“It is easy to collaborate with professors and colleagues in a tight-knit program to grow my professional network. I have the ability to take part in courses that not only extend my Electrical and Computer Engineering knowledge but also correspond with what I want to specialize in in the job market.”

Keaton Wellman
B.S. Computer Engineering ’24, M.S. Electrical and Computer Engineering ‘25

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4+1 Programs at PNW

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