student graduating with President Eyring behind her

BYU-Idaho is exemplary in its efforts to provide an education to thousands of individuals throughout the world. The university recognizes that because BYU-Idaho students come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied educational goals, there is often the need to provide students with a non-traditional degree experience. In the past, the university studies degree filled this role by allowing students to add more components to their degree. However, in the 2019-2020 catalog, the university studies degree was retired and the professional studies degree was introduced as an improved, renamed, and restructured version of the university studies degree.

Much like university studies, the professional studies degree is a very flexible choice that serves as a degree completion option for BYU-Idaho students and benefits individuals in unique situations. This new degree, however, is stronger and is more conducive to online learners through BYUPathway Worldwide. It offers two options for degree completion: acquiring one minor with one cluster/certificate (available for campus students only) or acquiring three certificates.

Completing three certificates is the standard structure of an online degree obtained from BYU-Idaho through BYUPathway Worldwide. Danae Romrell, dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, said that making the degree more compatible with BYU-Pathway Worldwide was one of the main determining factors for the change.

“We discontinued university studies and restructured things so that it would work better with Pathway Worldwide, and I think that’s a key piece. We needed to have a degree completion program that would work with Pathway Worldwide and university studies didn’t,” Romrell said.

With approximately 1,400 online students and 76 campus students enrolled in it, professional studies is a degree completion program that provides flexibility for students with unique circumstances who are still seeking a degree. For example, this major is beneficial for students who move for a spouse, students who return to school with many previously earned credits, students who need to graduate as soon as possible for a job opportunity, and students who are not content in their current major but have too many credits to switch. Professional studies is also helpful for proactive students who wisely choose the degree to use the electives available to prepare for their career goals.

Students are sometimes inaccurately viewed as taking the “easy way out” by enrolling in professional studies, but that is not the case. For a student to enroll in this program, they must go through an application process to explain why they need this degree and what electives they will take to make the degree stronger.

“We have professional studies students doing amazing things,” Romrell said. “They’re getting into grad school, and they’re getting really good jobs. Many are very deliberate about the electives they choose to use with professional studies.” 

Although this degree is tailored heavily toward online students, it is still available for campus students who can benefit from it. “As employees encounter professional studies students, we hope that they will encourage them and support them in their choice to complete the professional studies degree,” Romrell said. “They all choose the degree for a very good reason.”