There are a lot of different types of degrees available depending on where you are on your education journey. The undergraduate degrees available are associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees. There are also post-graduate degrees such as master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Each of these types of degrees is then broken down further into specific topics of study.
Associate degrees are a type of undergraduate degree that generally takes two years to complete. You can get an associate degree from community colleges, technical schools, vocational colleges, as well as some four-year colleges.
An associate degree is usually cheaper to obtain per credit hour than a four-year degree, and the credits that you earn through an associate degree can be transferred later on to a four-year university as long as the institution you earned them from is regionally accredited.
The most popular types of associate degrees are Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), an Associate of Applied Science (AAS). Associate degree programs usually have three parts: general education requirements such as math, science, and language, major requirements that allow you to fulfill your specific major, and electives that allow you to choose topics of interest to you.
Bachelor’s degrees are a type of undergraduate degree that typically takes four years to complete. Bachelor’s degrees are offered at all four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Currently, bachelor’s degrees are the most sought-after undergraduate degree among employers looking to fill entry-level positions. Bachelor’s degrees are also a requirement for entry into most postgraduate programs.
There are several different types of bachelor’s degrees available, depending on what you decide to major in. The following are the most common:
- Bachelor of Arts Degree – Students who choose to study a program in the liberal arts such as language, music, or communication will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.
- Bachelor of Science Degree – Students with majors in natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and information technology usually receive a Bachelor of Science degree.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree – A Bachelor of Fine Arts program is a professional degree in which most of the coursework is focused on visual or performing arts.
- Bachelor of Business Administration Degree – A Bachelor of Business Administration degree covers majors dealing with management strategy, decision making, or organizational psychology.
In comparison to a bachelor’s or associate degree, master’s degrees are more focused on a specific discipline. Master’s programs require a lot more work, a higher level of commitment, and more hands-on experience than undergraduate degrees.
A master’s degree is usually pursued after completing a bachelor’s degree. They are usually completed in one to two years depending on the program and major that is being studied. Many people choose to pursue a master’s degree because it allows them to further their knowledge and skills in a specific field, and it opens up more doors for better job opportunities in the future. This also means increased earning potential.
Similar to a bachelor’s degree, there are several different types of master’s degrees that you can get.
- Master of Arts – A Master of Arts is awarded to students who are studying within the fields of fine arts, humanities, theology, social sciences, history, or philosophy.
- Master of Science – A Master of Science is awarded to postgraduate students who study within the fields of science and social sciences.
- Master of Fine Arts – A Master of Fine Arts can take between two and three years of study and is awarded to students who do hands-on work in the fields of visual arts, filmmaking, creative writing, or performing arts such as theater, dance, or music.
- Master of Business Administration – A Master of Business Administration, commonly referred to as an MBA, is a popular degree program for people who are interested in starting their own business or want to learn more about business strategies and leadership. MBA’s focus on the scientific approach to business and those who hold this type of degree are often more sought after by employers.
Obtaining a master’s degree is essential if you plan on earning a doctoral degree or continuing your education in other ways. Many doctoral programs require that all applicants have a master’s degree in the field in which they want to pursue their doctorate.
A doctoral degree is an advanced graduate degree. It usually follows a master’s degree and in most fields is considered a “terminal degree.” This means that it is the highest academic degree that you can receive in your chosen field.
While many other types of degrees can be completed through part-time study, a doctoral degree is a time-intensive, full-time degree. Often, doctoral students will study for 40 to 60 hours a week. The same amount of time you’d likely spend at a full-time job.
Doctoral degrees are usually research-focused and are studied under the supervision of a professor or professional mentor. The heavy research required for a doctorate makes it a popular degree for those who are interested in becoming researchers or scientists.
A doctoral degree is also becoming a requirement if you plan on going into fields such as psychology, education, and medicine. Doctoral degrees generally take 2-5 years to complete, depending on the level of research required. Sometimes they can take even longer.
There are two main types of doctoral degrees that you can receive:
- Research Doctorates – Research doctorates are very research-intensive and they focus almost exclusively on academic research. Popular research doctorates are Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D.
- Professional Doctorates – Professional doctorates are professionally oriented degrees that focus on a specific profession. Students who are trying to gain a professional doctorate typically focus on a very specific skill or knowledge acquisition. A popular type of professional doctorate is the Doctor of Business Administration.
As you begin to prepare for college and your career goals, it is important to outline what it is that you want out of your education. With so many options and types of degrees available, you want to make sure you choose the one that is best for you and your future.