While there are many different kinds of college degrees out there in the big world of academia, you can categorize them into four different units:
Let’s go through the types of college degrees and see what differentiates these accomplishments from one another.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list of every single kind of degree available, but rather a summary of the most common.BROWSE ALL MAJORS >>
These degrees are 2-year schooling programs and prepare students for entry-level jobs in a variety of fields. Or for transferring to a 4-year college or university. They are usually offered by community colleges and tend to require 60 credits.
- Associate of Arts (A.A.). An A.A. is a base education in the liberal arts, and includes courses like history, mathematics, and English literature.
- Associate of Science (A.S.). An academic foundation for science fields. It’s typically a transferable degree rather than one that outright prepares you for an immediate career.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS). These are for students who wish to enter the workforce immediately. They have specializations or areas of focus to give students a more in-depth education in their chosen field.
Students earn bachelor’s Degrees from 4-year colleges and universities. These programs and are the culmination of undergraduate studies. They offer a more intensive and in-depth understanding of a field than an associate degree and provide a well-rounded education. Most Bachelor’s require 4 years of work and at least 120 credits.
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). An undergraduate degree in either liberal arts or sciences—or both.
- Bachelor of Science (B.S.). A B.S. is usually awarded to specialized scientific fields and students who studied economics or natural sciences. Whether a student receives a B.S. or a B.A. for these studies depends on the individual school’s decision.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). A degree pursued by students who desire a professional education in either the visual or performing arts.
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS). This is a professional degree awarded to students who study a highly specialized field.
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA). Also known as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). This is usually a three-year program instead of four. It prepares students for careers in business, including entrepreneurship, management, and more.
- Bachelor of Engineering (BE). Bachelor of Engineering degrees can take anywhere from three to five years to earn. They can also be known as Bachelor of Science Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering Science, and more. These degrees cover everything from aerospace engineering to civil engineering.
Students who specialize in a certain area of study earn graduate degrees, usually known as Master’s Degrees. You cannot earn a Master’s unless you have already earned a Bachelor’s. And graduate schools are more difficult to get into than undergraduates. They often require students to take an exam (GRE), earn around 30 to 50 credits, and work on a thesis paper or capstone project during the program.
- Master of Arts (M.A.). Students who study subjects like: Communication, English, History, Humanities, Social Sciences, and the like earn an M.A’s. Some schools will also include mathematics and natural sciences in this program.
- Master of Science (M.S.). Students that earn this graduate degree study sciences, engineering, or medicine.
- Master of Business Administration (MBA). An MBA is a professional graduate degree awarded to students who study business management and the science behind it.
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA). An MFA is a creative degree earned by graduates studying arts. MFA’s cover creative writing, photography, poetry, theater, performing arts, and more.
The highest and most prestigious form of degree are doctoral degrees. These types of college degrees prepare students to be the top experts in their field and oftentimes take several years to accomplish. Students typically have to write an intensive dissertation or complete a research project and earn around 60 credits. Individuals earning a doctorate must have published academic research.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). – This highly acclaimed, terminal degree covers a number of different areas of studies. Once earned, the recipient may use the title “Doctor” with their names and add “Ph.D.” after.
- Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). A terminal medical degree required for those who wish to practice medicine. Those who earn this esteemed degree add “M.D” after their name.
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Also known as a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), students must pass a licensing examination in order to practice dentistry.
Some doctoral degrees can be known as professional degrees and vice versa.
Professional degrees can vary in subject matter and program length, but they are generally for very specific fields. They are usually earned after completing a Bachelor’s degree. They can cover a wealth of industries from chiropractic to education and veterinary medicine to engineering.
These are just a few examples:
- Juris Doctor (J.D.). Also known as the Doctor of Law degree, this professional degree awarded to those who sufficiently pass the bar examination and are therefore considered lawyers.
- Doctor of Chiropractic. Individuals in this field will learn about chiropractic medicine, disorders of the spine, and the musculoskeletal system. The program can take around 3 to 4 years.
- Doctor of Physical Therapy. Also known as a Doctor of Physiotherapy (DPT), this degree can be considered either a professional degree or doctoral. Studies can take between 3 and 4 years.
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Veterinarians have to go through extensive training to earn their DVM. Schools that offer this degree are very difficult to get into, and completion of the program can take around 4 years.
Some schools allow you to take joint college degrees or joint programs while earning your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate. These are also called double majors. Colleges and universities tend to have different criteria for their joint degrees, so students interested in earning two degrees or a double major should talk to their academic advisor about the program and expected workload.
There are plenty of specialized degrees out there for you to choose from, but these are the most common ones you’ll hear about. If you’re interested in earning a specialized degree in your intended field, make sure to talk to your school’s academic department or your advisor for advice!
Interested in exploring majors, degrees, and careers in your field of interest? Use our College Major Search Tool to see requirements on different programs that you might be interested in. Plus, you can view additional information on the field, available jobs upon completion of programs, top schools for that major, and more.
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