4 reasons to extend your degree

June, 2010 · By Justin Bengry

Sometimes it’s just not the best idea to finish your undergraduate degree in four years. You might need more time.

Whether it’s because you want to take an extra credential or major, do a co-op or work placementtravel or study abroad, or you just need to slow down the pace, extending the length of your degree is a serious but viable option.

It can even make your degree stronger if you plan it effectively and use the opportunity to your advantage.

Here are four reasons you might want to extend your degree, and how you can use them to position yourself better after that degree is done.

Extra major

Completing a double major or adding a credential to your degree can make you more appealing on the job market. If you like languages, you may be able to combine it with business studies for a degree tailored to international business. If you like music, history or sociology, combining these with an education degree opens doors to be a music or social studies teacher.

Double majors and extra credentials show employers and grad schools that you are driven and motivated. And pragmatic combinations position you well for competitive fields.

Co-ops, internships and volunteering

Many of us finish our degrees with the classic problem: lots of education but no experience. But how do you get experience in the first place? You get it during your education as a part of your degree!

Co-opsinternships and volunteering are becoming an increasingly valuable addition to many undergraduate degrees. Some offer you the opportunity to earn while you learn, but each helps build contacts and network in your chosen career. Or you can just use them to give a career option you may be interested in a trial run.

If you choose this path, by the time you finish, you’ll already have practical skills, a stronger resumé and important references.


Taking time to travel is one of the most valuable experiences in life. Extensive experiences abroad show employers you are adaptable, pro-active and confident. But travel is often expensive and time consuming.

Study abroad programs and international internships offer another chance to live in another country, experience another culture, and gain a sensitivity to international issues and global concerns. They may last the summer, a semester or an entire year abroad. Some even allow you to count courses toward your degree.

But if you continue to take courses while living abroad, they may not all transfer back to your home institution. Always plan foreign study with an academic advisor.

Personal reasons

The transition to university can be a difficult one, especially for students studying in a new city or province. And the pace of courses in your program might be more than you expected. It’s OK to slow down. Many of us also have to earn an income while going to school. Undertaking a full course load at the same time might seem like a necessity in order to finish, but it could do real harm if your grades suffer, or if you fail classes. Repeating them only takes more time and money.

Be sure to look into summer courses, which you may be able to use as prerequisites for other classes, or as required elements for your degree.

It is important to plan ahead since extending your degree can be costly and confusing. Some programs require that students follow a set plan, and many courses have prerequisites that aren’t offered every semester. Make sure to weigh the benefits and consequences of remaining longer at university.

Will you be able to pay for that extra year or semester? Do you want added student loans? Sometimes the answer is yes, but before making any decision,discuss your goals and options with a counsellor or your department advisor.

This post was originally published at TalentEgg on 1 June 2010.


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