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December 1, 2023

Degree Types

With so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to choose the right type of degree for you.

To make that process a little easier, you should try to get your head around what these different types actually mean, so that you have one less thing to worry about while making your choice.

One of the key differences between the following types of course is the time it takes to complete them. Online certifications can be completed as quickly as just a few months, whereas a bachelor’s degree will take four years to complete. Graduate or doctoral studies require a much larger commitment of both time and money. Deciding which type of degree suits you best is an essential step in taking your education to the next level.

Online Certifications

For a high school graduate looking to obtain a new set of skills, an online certification program might be just the thing for you. Obtaining one will allow you a wider range of career options, and give you something to stand out from the competition. This type of course is available for all levels of education, all the way up to doctorate studies, so virtually anyone can benefit from them. There are also a great choice because of their flexibility, allowing you to fit your studying around your free time, and some courses can be completed in only a matter of months.

Each institution will offer different options, and credits obtained during the course can typically be put towards future college programs or other educational courses. Some programs may also have additional licensing requirements, so check this out before you apply.

Associate's Degree

An associate’s degree is a fast, simple way of gaining a better education and thereby improving your job prospects. They can typically be earned either from a public community college, or a similar private institution. Associate’s degrees take an average of two years to complete, and the credits obtained during the course of your studies can then be put towards a more complex degree if you should choose to study for one at a later date.

An associate’s degree is becoming an increasingly popular choice in recent years, with the number of degrees awarded increasing by 37% since 2007. Many fields are now asking for this type of degree as standard from job applicants, and it allows one to enter such diverse areas as entry-level medical positions and business administration. Furthermore, it’s a great way to start off slowly before transferring to a bachelor’s program later on. Possessing an associate’s degree makes you a more attractive candidate across the board.

Bachelor's Degree

Thanks to its extreme versatility, and the variety of ways it can be put to use both in the job market and as the basis for further education, the bachelor’s degree remains the most popular choice of course. This type of course typically lasts for four years, and can be used to show employers that the individual has obtained a comprehensive education in their field, which will likely bring with it many transferrable skills as well. An undergraduate degree allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the wider world, and helps individuals to become more confident in their daily lives.

A bachelor’s degree also has significant implications for one’s potential earnings. As reported by the American Community Survey (ACS), those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn an extra 2.8 million dollars compared to someone without this level of education. Further research from the ACS in 2009 shows that a significant number- around one in three- choose to major in science or engineering, since these field offer the highest average earnings for employees.

Not everyone is interested in working in these fields, though, and there is a virtually limitless choice of course for those with more specific goals in mind. The thousands of different institutions across the country each offer their own selection of different bachelor’s programs, where you will be able to pick whichever major suits you best. Knowing what each type of degree covers is essential in order to choose one that suits your needs.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

A BA focuses on developing effective communication skills, a deeper level of critical thinking, and the ability to understand how various different disciplines interconnect. This type of course encompasses humanities, social sciences, and the arts; a degree in English is a good example of the sort of thing a BA covers.

Bachelor of Science (BS)

A BS is built around using analytical and problem-solving skills to attain a greater level of understanding of one’s core subject. Such courses include natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.

Bachelor of Arts and Science (BAS)

A BAS is a fairly uncommon choice, as few American institutions currently offer this type of course. This style of degree program combines elements of both the BA and the BS, to provide students with a broader knowledge of fields such as social and natural sciences and mathematics. Cultural and diversity studies also fall under this category.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

As the name implies, a BFA presents students with the opportunity to focus on their inherent talents in areas such as music, dance, and art. This type of degree with typically consist of a combination of studies in the arts, and more general studies.

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

A BBA program gives students the opportunity to hone their skills in a variety of business-related areas, including HR, management, and business law. It will also typically balance more general classes with the opportunity for students to explore their specific interests in greater detail.

Bachelor of Technology (BT)

An excellent complement to a vocational or technical background, or to an associate's degree, the BT supplements a student's existing education with supervised practice, internships, and work-study courses. This degree program places great emphasis on practice as opposed to theory.

Regardless of what type of bachelor’s degree one studies for, most universities will require 120 successfully completed credit hours before they award a degree. By the time the student has reached 60 hours, they will typically require you to choose your major. A bachelor’s degree can either be used to get a step up in your career, or as the basis of further study, such as a master’s.

Master's Degree

A master’s level of education allows students to build upon the knowledge gained at undergraduate level, while also focusing their studies on a more particular area of their field. Graduate students may choose to continue with the same subject they studied at bachelor’s level, or they may instead opt for a completely different subject. In the case of the latter, additional undergraduate classes or courses may be necessary before students can be admitted.

As employers demand a more specialized workforce, a master’s degree is the ideal way for employees to demonstrate that they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their field. Not only does a master’s degree bring with it an increased average income, but it also allows one to more quickly progress in one’s career. Those with a master’s degree are better equipped to deal with the various challenges they may face in their line of work.

Obtaining a master’s degree takes at least a year and a half of studying, although the average length of most programs is two years. Master’s degrees may be obtained in virtually all fields of study that a bachelor’s may be obtained in. These courses are typically taught in a mixture of classes and seminars or conferences, and will also usually require the completion and defense of a lengthy master’s thesis of research findings.

A master’s degree can cost a lot of money to complete, and as a result there are a variety of loans and grants available to students from both public and private bodies. It’s essential to discuss the various funding opportunities open to you with relevant personnel at your college, so that you know how you are going to pay for your master’s studies.

Doctorate Degree

Doctoral degrees represent the highest level of education in any field. They are sometimes also known as “terminal degrees” because of this, since one’s education has been taken to the absolute limit by obtaining one of them.

Obtaining a doctorate is a lengthy process, requiring students to complete between 90 and 120 credits before producing a doctoral dissertation, an essay similar in form to a master’s thesis. Different institutions and courses will require a different amount of credits, and some require an internship or practicum in place of the dissertation.

Doctoral degrees come in four basic types

Professional Doctorate

This type of degree is awarded for carrying out applied research, or for using research as a means of professional advancement. These doctorates are typically handed out in fields in which research forms an integral part of one’s career, such as medicine, psychology, or law.

Research Doctorate

After achieving a master’s degree, students are then able to obtain a research doctorate, which is awarded on the basis of research which has been published in peer-reviewed journals. The most widely attained degree of this type is the Ph.D., of Doctor of Philosophy.

Higher Doctorate

In some countries, mostly located in Europe, students are able to undertake a higher level of doctoral studies. This type of degree is handed out based on a formal portfolio of previously published research from a candidate. These are typically awarded to recognize a higher contribution to one’s field than a regular doctorate.

Honorary Doctorate

When individuals go above and beyond the call of duty to contribute to their field, or carry out charity work, then many universities may waive the lengthy requirements for a doctoral degree, and award what is known as an “honorary doctorate” in recognition of their achievements.

Whether it’s online or on campus, you’ll likely need a master’s degree or equivalent to gain acceptance into a doctorate program. However, in some cases schools may allow students to progress to doctoral studies straight after finishing their undergraduate course.


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