The ABCs of University Degrees: Understanding Your Options
- On July 29, 2015
- Associate degree:An associate degree requires a 2-year program that prepares students for entry-level positions or for vocations (such as medical assistant or electronics technician). Associate degree programs are offered by 2-year community colleges or by technical schools, although most 4-year colleges/universities also offer associate degrees. You can choose to earn an Associate in Art (A.A.), which focuses on areas such as liberal arts, education and social services, or you can earn an Associate in Science (A.S.), which focuses on fields such as engineering or computer science.
- Bachelor’s degree:The most common degree in undergraduate school, the bachelor’s typically takes four years to complete. Students take classes in a major area of study to earn either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. The difference between the two bachelor’s degrees is that the Bachelor of Arts requires students to take many liberal arts classes for a more overarching education, while a Bachelor of Science degree demands students take mostly classes focused on their major.
- Master’s degree: The master’s degree is for students who want to further specialize in a subject after their undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. Master’s programs are typically two years long. To be accepted into a master’s program, you are usually required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), have a bachelor’s degree, and meet the master’s program’s minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement. Much like the associate and bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees may either be in arts (M.A.) or sciences (M.S) as well as other, more specific fields.
- Doctorate: The doctorate is the highest degree you can earn. Most doctoral programs require a master’s degree, although some may only require a bachelor’s. It takes several years to complete a doctoral program and as part of the degree, students are typically required to publish original material and complete a dissertation (a lengthy research paper defending an idea). There are many types of doctoral degrees, depending on the industry:
- Ph.D: Doctor of Philosophy (this is general and can be awarded in any discipline)
- J.D: Juris Doctor (to practice law)
- M.D: Doctor of Medicine
- D.D.S: Doctor of Dental Surgery
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