Racing time, money and employment: Students pursuing ladderized programs

For the past decade, De La Salle University (DLSU) has been offering ladderized programs in selected degrees. Ladderized programs are a ‘fast track’ to earning a higher degree, allowing enrolled students to get credit for higher graduate courses immediately after completion of prerequisite courses. In other countries, ladderized programs are commonly referred to as ‘accelerated programs’, or ‘combined programs’.

For the past decade, De La Salle University (DLSU) has been offering ladderized programs in selected degrees. Ladderized programs are a ‘fast track’ to earning a higher degree, allowing enrolled students to get credit for higher graduate courses immediately after completion of prerequisite courses. In other countries, ladderized programs are commonly referred to as ‘accelerated programs’, or ‘combined programs’.

The University’s Bachelor’s-Master’s ladderized programs are available in the Behavioral Science, Economics (Economics & Applied Economics), Industrial Engineering and the Information Technology departments. Likewise, ladderized graduate programs for both master’s and doctorate programs are available in a number of College of Liberal Arts departments.

“You graduate with a double degree in bachelor’s and master’s,” Industrial Engineering (IE) Vice Chairperson Bryan Gobaco explains, “One of the reasons inoffer siya kasi mahirap sa students na after they graduate, go into a job, they would like to pursue a master’s degree. Because sa requirements ng job, they have a hard time coming back to school.”

Entry into ladderized program is not for all. These programs are either by invitation of the department, or have set a minimum Honors or cumulative grade point averages. Interviews, alongside submission of other academic requirements, are also part of the screening process.

The ladderized life?

“It’s difficult, so that’s one.”

Though a common sentiment among interviewees from ladderized programs and traditional programs alike, aside from quickly shifting into more rigorous master’s courses, being in a ladderized program means extending the standard period of stay in the University as an undergraduate student.

From one of the first few batches of Industrial Engineering ladderized graduates, engineering professor Dr. Charlie Sy shares her experience. She explains that it is common for the IE ladderized program to have less than five students per batch.

“I think it would be a good investment in my case… all I had to do was add a few more terms and I get two degrees,” says Sy. “My grade was above the cutoff [of 3.0]. Sayang naman if nandoon na yung opportunity, why not take it?”

Experiencing his master’s courses for the first time this term, BSMS Economics student Anton Arguelles  shares the same sentiments. “I was attracted to the ladderized program because it’s a major time and money saver in contrast to the traditional way of attaining a master’s degree,” he says, mentioning his enthusiasm for Economics.

Students in ladderized programs have the added benefit of cutting tuition costs, as well as shaving a year off the otherwise separate pursuit of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The biggest challenge is the workload. By nature, ladderized courses mandate heavier academic loads in order to graduate with two degrees ahead of time. In addition, seminal papers and theses are often held up to graduate standards.

Currently tackling his thesis alone, Arguelles comments,  “If you don’t step up, this course will slap you. Only a few people are meant for this course, hopefully I am one of them,” he adds.

Though rigorous and rewarding, depending on a student’s career track, there are instances where a bachelor’s degree would suffice.

The corporate job market

The job market for multinational companies is large, and is a niche that many Lasallians enter upon graduating. Common positions include human resource (HR) management, information technology, sales and supply chain management.

For instance, Procter & Gamble (P&G) Philippines HR Assistant Manager Earl Ganuelas (BS-ENT, ‘13) explains that P&G does not hire trainees, but directly hires managers and entry level positions. According to Ganuelas, the company highlights well-rounded personalities and skills.

“Academic performance is an important factor, but it is not the only one or the most important one,” he states. “The difference, however, would be in the starting salary as well as career progression, which may be faster owing to one’s previous work experiences or skills acquired through graduate degrees.”

When asked what Unilever Philippines looks for in its applicants, Management Trainee for HR Patrick Gamo (AB-PSM, ‘12) shares that they look for co-curricular experiences, degree programs taken, grades, and manifested qualities.

With regards to applicants possessing a master’s degree upon applying, he quips, “Master’s is just really something that adds to your skills, but it’s not necessary.” He adds, “If you’re going for a manager’s [position, then] maybe… it’s about how you handle yourself or the skills that you have or the potential that you have.”

Former University Student Government President Cabe Aquino (BSMSECO, ‘12) vouches for her course and professors. “Being in the ladderized program allowed me to specialize and focus in Economics, which was my chosen expertise. Pursuing the ladderized track works if you’re clear on what you want to build on,” she says.

Regarding job opportunities, Aquino shares, “The opportunities that I had were dependent on the kind of career that I wanted, which was more on brand management and on marketing. What employers found most outstanding in me was more of my leadership experience and skills in managing a team.”

Gobaco acknowledges this as another consideration for students of their ladderized program. “[Students should consider] if they really want to continue or to build a career path based on IE,” explains Gobaco. “Would they like to be professionals in the corporate world? Or would they be entrepreneurs, for example? Sometimes, in that case, the master’s degree won’t be that attractive.”

Academic prowess

Ladderized program graduates who choose consultancy, research, teaching and similar tracks may find better prospects. Fields like these place higher value on academic specialization.

“The traditional reason why you take up [our] ladderized program is for you to be a professor,” explains student Manuel Jopson (IV, BSMSECO). He clarifies that his experience in the Economics program has been closer to this path.

Jopson expresses confidence in skills developed during the ladderized course, noting closer ties in the academe and opportunities to train and assist in teaching introductory courses. For professor Sy, such was the case. She mentions she taught temporarily at DLSU before going abroad to study some more, then returned.

“There are certain advanced courses that are taught [after bachelor’s] and most of the students miss out on that and don’t consider that in the thesis topic. In my case, we were able to explore those advanced topics,” explains Sy. “I had a well defined research topic, it helped me get accepted in the National University of Singapore. They gave me a scholarship. I could directly take my PhD.”

The decision of taking a ladderized program is something to be carefully measured by prospective students. The faster pace, specialization, and cheaper tuition is good for long and taking up the ladderized track is ideal when the career track places a premium on the pedigree. The networking and skills learned by graduates of these selective courses may also prove to be appealing for employers, but diligence, focus, and a results-based attitude are expected from students with ladderized degrees. This academic track might not sit well with the common restless Lasallian.

Gabriel Hipolito

By Gabriel Hipolito

Michelle Sta Romana

By Michelle Sta Romana

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