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Another degree

Taking a second degree expands your knowledge and allows you to change or adjust the course of your career

Anna Cunha

In pursuit of opportunities to change field or simply to take a new direction in the same profession, many graduates are returning to university to get a second degree. For candidates who already have a degree, higher education institutions in Brazil use selection processes that differ to the traditional entrance exam and the National High School Examination (ENEM), including analysis of résumés, academic transcripts, application letters, and interviews.

“For anyone looking to expand their professional opportunities, second degrees are coming to be seen as an advantage because they provide a more solid and in-depth education than the content offered by specialization courses,” says Alexandra Geraldini, associate dean of undergraduate programs at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP).

The decision to study a second undergraduate degree, however, should bear in mind the time needed, since the number of course hours and frequency of classes are usually greater than required for short courses. Distance education (DE) and technology programs, for example, last an average of three years and represent an alternative that is often more feasible for people who need to work at the same time as they study.

Choosing a new degree

1. If your plan is to change field, gather information about the job market for your new intended profession
2. Check how much time you have available for your studies
3. Consider the possibilities of technology training or distance learning
4. Calculate the costs of studying a new degree
5. Assess the possibility of obtaining discounts by studying a second degree at the same institution as your first
6. Analyze the opportunities that your new degree could provide in the long term

As well as professionals eager to discover new horizons or supplement their existing knowledge, there are some who seek a new degree because they are unhappy in their chosen field but do not want to give up on their course entirely, because they have already completed most of the disciplines. “In some areas, there is also a legal issue, of prerequisites. A degree in pedagogy, for example, as well as teacher training, is mandatory for anyone who wants to work in educational management,” notes Geraldini. “Lawyers and business administrators who work at auditing companies, meanwhile, can pursue a degree in accounting to allow them to sign balance sheets,” she adds.

Universities with undergraduate admission processes for people who already have a degree generally only offer spaces not filled via the entrance exam. At PUC-SP, there are vacancies on most programs, with the exception of medicine, law, international relations, and psychology. “Since these courses are very popular, all spots are filled via entrance exams and the ENEM,” explains Geraldini. She points out, however, that graduates can apply for spaces that arise during courses due to dropouts or transfers. To compete, candidates have to present a copy of their school transcript to verify the equivalence of subjects they have studied, and an application letter describing their interest in the course. Interviews, and in some cases a general knowledge test, are also part of the process. “Our analysis is most heavily focused on the candidate’s academic performance—the grades and results shown on their résumé,” she explains. At PUC, information on vacancies for graduates is published in notices at the end of each semester. The institution receives an average of one hundred admissions via this route every year.

At the University of São Paulo (USP), graduates can enroll on less competitive courses if there are spaces available after entrance exams and the transfer period. The rules vary according to the notices published by each department. For the most popular courses, admissions are granted based exclusively on entrance exam results or ENEM grades. At USP’s School of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (EACH), graduate applicants are selected once a year via a specific knowledge test, interview, and analysis of résumé and school transcript. The number of spaces offered is not fixed.

With an average of 450 to 500 places offered every semester at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, degree holders are not required to take a test if the number of applicants is smaller than the number of spots available. All they need is to present the requested documentation and be approved by the course leaders. “If the number of applicants is greater than the number of places, we start to analyze their grades, hold interviews, and test general knowledge,” explains Milton Pignatari, head of the institution’s selection process. He highlights the fact that most candidates seeking a second degree are applying to completely new fields, suggesting a desire for a totally new career path. “In approximately 90% of the cases, we see situations like psychologists wanting to study law, or engineers who want to study business administration. Professionals are rarely interested in a related field,” he says. Studying a new area of interest in depth or fulfilling an old dream are some of the most common justifications given by candidates.

Anna CunhaIndecision when choosing a first degree can also lead to people searching for a new profession a few years after graduating. “Young people feel they have to decide on their careers aged just 17 or 18, which can cause a lot of uncertainty,” says Rogério Massaro Suriani, academic advisor at the Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation (FAAP) in São Paulo. This often leads them to choose courses in broader fields, such as business administration, for example. “As time goes by, graduates who are already working start looking for a second degree more consciously, with more certainty about the field in which they want to work,” he adds. With a degree in naval and ocean engineering from USP, Suriani himself decided to change career, taking a second degree in digital technologies and media at PUC-SP. “Having started working in education as a professor and in the field of educational technology, I felt the need to pursue more specific knowledge,” he says.

Teaching degrees
Graduates with teaching degrees who intend to work in different fields can claim equivalence with pedagogical disciplines, as long as the content and workload of the two curricula are equal. “The leaders of each course are responsible for approving these equivalences, however, since there may be differences in nomenclature from one institution to another,” says Pignatari, from Mackenzie. If an equivalence is confirmed, a new teaching degree can be completed in four or five semesters. Teaching degrees studied in person are incompatible with those studied remotely when it comes to this type of equivalence.

It is possible, however, to find institutions that offer a second degree in just one year. Bachelor’s and technology degree holders who wish to work as teachers, meanwhile, can study specific pedagogical courses that last from six to 18 months, including via distance learning. But the chosen teaching degree must be related to their original course.