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Types of Degrees: A Simple Guide to College Degrees

September 29, 2009 By: Category: Choosing a College, Types of degrees

You’re planning to continue your education beyond high school and perhaps you’re a little confused about which degree is right for you and your career goals. This post aims to give a simple breakdown of the different types of degrees out there:


types of degrees photo by gadget dude

Types of Degrees: The Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree can be obtained through community colleges, junior colleges, business colleges, and even four-year colleges. There are many types of associate’s degrees including A.A. (Associate of Arts) and A.S. (Associate of Science) or specific types of associate’s degrees like A.E. (Associate of Engineering) or A.D.N. (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) to name a couple. Some students obtain an associate’s degree in order to transfer their credits from a community college to a four-year institution with the intention of completing a bachelor’s degree program. An associate’s degree requires a minimum of 60 semester credits. Traditionally, there are general education requirements, major requirements, and electives. Others work toward an associate’s degree in order to go directly into the workforce into careers where an associate’s degree is required or preferred.

Types of Degrees: The Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree takes four years of course work and can be obtained from a four-year college or university. Both a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) and B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree prove that the graduate has taken a major focus in a particular area of study, has proven themselves able to perform in basic college level education, and has taken electives that fit their preferences and goals. A B.A. may be less specialized than a B.S. (meaning that a B.S. requires taking more units within the major). For instance, in order to achieve a B.S. in economics, a student may need to take higher-level economics courses compared with someone achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Typically, however, Bachelor of Arts degrees are given for majors such as languages, humanities, history, and literature. Bachelor of Science degrees are often designated for technical fields like biological science, engineering, and computer science.

Types of Degrees: The Master’s Degree

A master’s degree usually takes anywhere from one to three additional years of study. In order to be admitted to a master’s program, one needs to obtain a bachelor’s degree and must fit requirements such as high grades, professor recommendations, and possibly research proposals. The master’s degree is awarded based on performance in both coursework and research. Similar to the bachelor degree program, there are also diplomas awarded in Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.).

Types of Degrees: The Doctorate Degree

A doctorate is the highest academic or professional degree. It shows that a student has performed at the highest level of study within a given field. Research doctorates show that research done by the student is at peer-level and is publishable within an academic journal. This degree is known as a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy). Typically the student submits substantial research in the form of a thesis or dissertation. The time it takes to complete a doctorate degree can vary greatly. Professional doctorates such as the M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) are for students engaged within a particular profession rather than the study of a particular subject (such as English Language and Literature).

You should note that this information refers to types of degrees within the United States only and requirements differ from country to country. There are also many other types of degrees within the main categories mentioned above. What’s important is to find out what kind of education you need to fulfill your professional goals. Whatever you pursue, be sure to follow the path to a diploma. Classes take time, money, focus, dedication, and hard work. Your diploma (whether a certification, A.A. B.S., M.A, or Ph.D.) is the only proof you’ll have of your investment. Now go forth and learn!