PHOTO: Courtesy of Hugh Green
With doubts about the value of a bachelor's degree, many Americans are taking different routes to careers. Hugh Green (r.), a student at Emory University, is going straight to his master's degree in five years. He's pictured here with his sister Abigail Green, who was accepted to Emory, too.

Bachelor's degree of doubt: Going straight to a master's is cheaper

The value of a bachelor's degree is in doubt: one route is to go straight to a master's degree through new accelerated programs. Emory University junior Hugh Green will get his in only five years of college.

Between honors classes in high school and a higher-than-average course load in college, Hugh Green is just a few credits away from qualifying for a bachelor's in environmental studies. And he is only finishing his junior year.

But instead of jockeying to leave the graceful campus of Emory University early, Mr. Green applied to stay on an extra year.

To build toward a career in architecture or urban planning, he could complete his bachelor's and invest three more years – and about $100,000 – in a master's degree. Or he could forgo the architecture degree and opt for a five-year bachelor's/master's program in a related field.

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"The idea of designing appropriate communities and buildings so that they would maximize health and not create problems down the line drove me in the direction of public health," he says.

So instead of graduating in 2013 with a bachelor's of science, Green will now graduate in 2014 with both his bachelor's of science degree and a master's from Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

There were also, he says, "more practical reasons. There just are not jobs in architecture right now, and I don't have the money to go to school for architecture. Paying tuition for a fifth year and graduating with a master's just seemed abundantly practical."

In a world where he is competing globally for work, this puts him right in line with the so-called 3-5-8 model being recommended by many in the European Commission for European universities – three years for a bachelor's, five total for a master's, eight for a PhD.

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