The University of Maine is offering accelerated graduate programs in a variety of majors. These programs allow currently enrolled undergraduate students to earn their a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in less time, usually taking five years as opposed to the usual six or more years it would take to receive the same education elsewhere. For this reason, the accelerated graduate degree program is often dubbed as the 4+1 program, referring to the number of years it takes to complete. Many programs of study offer this opportunity, and some accelerated degree programs are open to all majors.
Students need to apply for a 4+1 program either at the end of their second year or the beginning of their third year. Often, students who apply for these programs and are accepted must take graduate-level classes in their fourth year at UMaine. This allows students to earn their degree faster and gives them a strong base of knowledge before they begin their graduate year.
Sara Gundermann is a third-year food science and human nutrition major with a concentration in food science who hopes to pursue a master’s through UMaine’s accelerated program . Food science is an interdisciplinary science that combines chemistry, biology, physics and engineering to study parts of the food industry like product development and food processing. Gundermann wanted to attend UMaine because of the specific 4+1 program that UMaine offers with food science. She applied for the 4+1 accelerated degree program in the fall 2020 semester and hopes to complete a master’s in food science with the thesis option. Students can choose whether or not they complete a thesis with a degree in many disciplines, but the thesis option typically leads to more opportunities after graduation. In the STEM fields, a thesis option gives students more opportunities to conduct research in a lab under a graduate advisor.
Getting a master’s degree and completing a thesis in one year was very appealing to Gundermann, as it will save her a lot of money in the long run and will provide her with the tools she needs to succeed in the workforce.
“I chose the thesis option because I am interested in doing research and development for a food company,” Gundermann said. “It looks good to employers to show that you have research experience and can conduct your own research. It also is a great way to get hands-on learning [experience] along with typical classroom learning.”
If students are interested in the 4+1 program, it can be helpful if they begin networking within their department early on. A student’s academic advisor can be a key ally when it comes to determining if the student would benefit from enrolling in a 4+1 program. In Gundermann’s experience, she found that applying to work in labs provided her a way to meaningfully connect with professors within her department.
“I have had the fortunate opportunity to be involved in several labs on campus the past three years at UMaine. Working in the labs has really helped me to develop relationships with the professors and graduate students of the department,” Gundermann said. “All of the professors are doing research in different areas of food science, so it has helped me to explore the major. Also, by being close to professors and the graduate students, I was able to hear about things like the 4+1 program as well as speak to people who are currently doing the program.”
After Gundermann graduates from the 4+1 program, she is interested in doing research and development for a food company. “This means I would be designing new products as well as researching past products to determine how to adjust them to fit the wants of consumers,” Gundermann said.
Undergraduate students who may be interested in a 4+1 program can reach out to their academic adviser, or find more information at https://umaine.edu/graduate/programs/accelerated-programs/