Types of Degrees
Students deciding to further their education will be working towards a degree. There are several different types of degrees that come from different types of colleges, for different types of study.
A certificate can typically be earned in two years or less for those looking to develop a certain skill or be trained for a specific job. Certificates can be earned at community colleges and technical and vocational colleges. Some four-year colleges may offer them as well. Some jobs that may require a certificate are beauticians, chefs, welders and plumbers.
Students who plan on entering a technical or vocational field, may be interested in working toward an associate’s degree. Associate’s degrees can usually be earned in two years or less, and can be attained at all community colleges and some technical, vocational, and four-year colleges. An Associate of Arts (A.A.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.) can be earned after the completion of a two-year program. A.A.s are usually earned in humanities and social science fields. A.S.s are awarded to those studying in scientific and technical fields. An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) can be earned after completion of a two-year technical or vocational program. There is also the option to use the credits from an associate's degree toward a bachelor's degree.
Students attending four-year colleges are typically working toward a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are also referred to as undergraduate degrees. They require the student to take a core of general education courses, including English, math, science and social sciences, in addition to focusing on one main subject area as a major. There are different types of bachelor’s degrees, such as the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). B.A.s are usually earned in humanities and social science fields. B.S.s are awarded to those studying in scientific and technical fields. Some colleges offer additional degrees, such as the Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) or the Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.). A bachelor’s degree not only prepares one for a good career, but is also necessary for those planning to work toward an advanced degree, such as a master’s, doctorate or professional degree.
Upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, a student may choose to attend graduate school and pursue a master’s degree. A master’s degree can help advance a career and may be required for certain professionals, such as physical therapists, engineers and social workers. Getting into graduate school is competitive and usually requires that a student take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and complete specific undergraduate courses. Those planning to pursue a master’s degree need to talk with a college advisor to ensure the right classes are being taken in preparation. Most master’s degree programs take at least two years to complete. Like bachelor’s degrees, there are different types of master’s degrees. Some of the most common are Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Business Administration (M.B.A) and Master of Education (M.E.).
The doctoral degree typically follows the master’s degree. However in some fields, a student may be able to proceed directly to the doctorate without completing a master’s. Attaining a doctoral degree generally takes anywhere from three to five years, or possibly longer to complete. Most students in the humanities are awarded the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and students in education are awarded the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).
Graduate degrees in the fields of law, business and medicine are often referred to as professional degrees. The Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Doctor of Medicine (MD), are awarded upon the completion of Law, Business and Medical school respectively. Advanced degrees in other areas, such as journalism and architecture, may also be referred to as professional degrees.