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An Ultimate Guide to Different Levels of College Degrees

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The entire portfolio of a professional is typically made up of degrees either from the undergraduate or graduate levels. It is the measure of the academic qualification for any student.

They are awarded by universities and colleges, and the institution can either be public, private, or a community college. The degree is always awarded after the successful completion of the course work and after spending the designated time.

It might take between 2 to 8 years to earn some degrees, depending on the one you want to pursue. Some degrees are at the intermediate level while some are at the advanced level. It is important as a student that you understand the various kinds of degrees available so you can know the one that will help you achieve your goal.

So, we will explain more about the different types of degrees, why you should pursue a degree and explanation of other specialized and professional degrees.

Why Do Degrees Matter?

It does not matter what career you want to pursue; the degree is the best foundation on which you can build your career and goals. While some employers may celebrate having a skill than a certificate, they will still require your degree. 

In fact, what will position you in the first place for the job is the degree, whether a graduate or an undergraduate. And obtaining a degree has served as something that people now see as a must. Some even go to the extent of accumulating debt just because they want to obtain the degree.

So, why does the degree matter?

  • Job opportunity

The degree serves as the ticket to access a lot of job opportunities. Most of the jobs available are mostly accessible by the degree graduate. More than 50 percent of jobs available go to the graduate. The rate of unemployment is always higher with high school diploma holders than graduates from a degree program. 

It makes you choose your desired job, and you won’t be restricted to a particular type of job because you have a lot of job opportunities for yourself.

 And even apart from the job opportunities, you can pursue a college degree to connect with a lot of people. Because while studying, you will meet colleagues, professors, and mentors in your field of study.

  • Earning power

The more degree level you have, the more your potential earning increases. Based on data from the bureau of labor, apparent differences between the earning potential was listed.

An individual who does not have a high school diploma might earn in a week an average of $520 and $27,040 in a year. 

Those having diplomas from the high school might earn up to an average of $712 in a week and $37, 024 in a year.

An individual with an associate degree can expect to earn $836 in a week and $43,472 in a year.

While an individual who has graduated from a four-year bachelor program can expect to earn an average of $1,173 in a week and $60,996 in a year.

  • Prepares you for a career

The world is changing, and the labor market is equally changing. And technology, education, and healthcare are considered to be the three fastest-growing areas. They have developed so frequently that only the most competent become successful. 

Earning a degree will help you master specific skills and the knowledge necessary to succeed in this field.

Although some degree might not lead you directly for a job, they allow you to a career that you are studying towards and eventually will land you a job.

  • It will help you become more marketable

While there are a lot of people seeking jobs and a lot of opportunities available. Also, many unemployment, but with all these, some jobs are still available for high professionals with the right skill to fit in.

And getting a degree is your best chance at getting qualified for these positions.

What Are the 4 Types of Degrees?

There are different degrees available, and you can always make your choice according to the career you have in mind. While all degrees are good, some are specifically created to help students fulfill certain career goals.

For example, if you want to become a college professor, you will have to study more than someone who wants to work in technology firms. So, different degrees for different career goals.

Before explaining the four types of degrees, it would be best to know that the degree has two general categories: undergraduate and graduate degrees, and all other degrees fall under their umbrella.

Undergraduate Degree

After a student has graduated from high school, the first-degree level is the undergraduate. It serves as the connecting bridge for students to have access to graduate studies. All qualifications aside, if you don’t have your undergraduate degree, you cannot study further.

The undergraduate degree is further divided into two:

Associate Degree

The associate degree takes two years to complete and has a wider focus because the student gets to study different topics from a different field, general, core, and an elective subject. The associate degree gives the student the opportunity to have technical and vocational skills to make them employable in the labor market.

The undergraduate degree is also further divided into two: an Associate of Arts and Associate in Science. 

The former focused more on the general subject; it is most suitable for students who have not yet decided what they want to pursue. Essentially good as a transfer degree, as it prepares the student for an advanced study in a four-year college to pursue their bachelor’s degree.

While the latter focuses more on making the student ready for the labor market right after the program has been completed, the program is more specialized than the Associate of Arts that involves general topics.

An associate degree is commonly awarded by junior or community college. The two years are equivalent to freshman and sophomore in the university.  

The associate degrees commonly available are:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Bachelor’s Degree

The program is also the first level of study after leaving high school. You can decide to go for this program or study as an associate before pursuing it. It is a 4-year college degree, it might be different with institutions, but the standard duration is four years.

The undergraduate program is more specialized than the associate degree because the student is expected to major on a specific subject of interest from the second year in college. It might be operated based on a semester or a quarter system. 

A semester system for the degree includes a 15-credit hour in a semester, making it 120 credit hours after four years. And this is equal to 180 credit hours for a school operating on a quarter system.

The format of learning is also different, depending on how flexible you want the learning to be, it can be full-time, part-time, online, or distance learning. And there is even option that can help you graduate from the program spending less than four years. It is called an accelerated degree.

In accelerated degrees, the course work is compressed, and the breaks might be skipped so that the student can graduate in at a duration lesser than four years. 

The degree can either be undertaken to further into an advanced study or directly used to pursue a career. It is further divided into precisely four categories. Although there are more than 80 different bachelor’s degrees accredited in the US, but the commonest are these four, and they are awarded according to the field of interest.

Bachelor’s degree is mostly the minimum requirement for most jobs available in the labor market. These are the major types of degrees that are more common:

  • Bachelor of Art (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

Graduate Degrees

The graduate degree is an advanced level of learning; it is mostly for professionals who did not give up on pursuing higher degrees or people who want to increase their knowledge to meet the ever-changing needs in the marketplace.

Depending on the course, it can be between two to eight years; it is the next level of degree in college after the undergraduate, and most times, you will need the undergraduate degree as a prerequisite before you can be considered for admission for this program. 

The format for learning is mostly part-time, the student will be able to combine work with studying, and some graduate degrees require that you have some professional experience before you can undergo them, although some institutions can allow full-time.

The level of specialty in these programs is more than the associate and the bachelor’s degree. And you will personally encounter the professors during this program. The applicant is not always much, so each student will be closely monitored. 

The two most common graduate programs are Masters and a Doctoral degree.

Master’s Degree

The length of the study of a Master’s degree can vary between one and a half years or two years. It is the first-degree program after the undergraduate studies. In order to be admitted into this program, you would need the undergraduate degree as the prerequisites. 

The Master’s degree is more specialized than the bachelor’s degree; the student will now focus on a specific field. After they graduate, employers will see them as specialists in that area. 

The least graduation requirement in this degree program is completing 36 to 54 credits in a semester. But if the school uses a quarter system, it will be in the range of 60 credits to 90 credits. 

The degree helps the professionals to be considered for high paying jobs. The degree is mostly awarded by Public universities and colleges. The format of learning is mostly part-time or online, but some institutions still consider full-time learning. But the commonest option is part-time because the program is for professionals who want to increase their marketability in their workplaces.

Master’s degree is commonly categorized into four, although there are other specialized and professional masters. The commonest include the following:

  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Masters of Art (MA)
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Masters of Fine Arts (MFA)

Although, with many people pursuing businesses and management careers, the MBA has become relatively popular among Master’s programs available.

Doctoral Degree

The highest at the graduate level, not many get to study at this level. It is mostly undergone by people that love research or that want to work in the Academic Environment. Depending on the institution and the program, the duration for this program can extend to eight years. 

This is more specialized than any form of degree, and the requirement for admission is the Master’s degree and other requirements. The people studying the programs are always grown up adults who are looking forward to being appointed in an executive position in their workplace.

The mode of learning is mostly part-time, online, distance learning, and the executive. The executive is for people who want to study on weekends. The applicants are seen as professionals, so the assessment is always stricter. 

The minimum semester credit for graduation is 48, and the student must also submit a research thesis before completing the program. The student has more personal relationships with the professors, but they are expected to take on the project individually. 

While there are many types of doctoral degrees awarded, below is the common list of degrees at the Doctorate level.

  • Doctor of Philosophy 
  • Juris Doctor 
  • Doctor of Medicine 
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery 
  • Doctor of Education 
  • Doctor of Arts
  • Doctorate in Creative Arts

Additional Degree Types

Transfer Degrees

The transfer degrees are used to change from one institution to another. The transfer is always based on points, and the applicant must have the required point before being considered for admission. The transfer degrees are the Associate of Science and Associate of Arts degrees. 

As a student, after completing your two years for associate degrees, you can use the point earned to move to a four-year college or university in order for you to earn a bachelor’s degree. It is mostly offered by junior colleges.

Professional Degrees

This is a degree that enables students to be prepared specifically for their field. It is mostly for courses such as medicine, law, and the pharmacy where specialized knowledge is needed rather than general. 

The duration for the degree is always different and varies according to the institution and the course of study. But it can be between one to five years. Examples are the law and medical degrees.

Specialist Degrees

The specialist degree in America generally requires more semester credit hours than the Master’s degree. The program can either be earned in a year to three years of continuous academic activities. The mode of study can either be part-time or full time. An example is an Education specialist (Eds).

The program involves that the student research more, and it trains the students for graduate studies in fields that require special techniques. It is above the Master’s degree but ranks below the doctoral degree. And it is more common in the education field.

Professional Certificates

The professional certificate is evidence to confirm that an individual is experienced and has the necessary skills to do a particular job or task. An individual is seen as a worthy recipient after he/she has successfully passed exams set by the association responsible for the prescribing standard of a specific industry. 

Examples include certification for human resources, project management, and networking.

Conclusion

These academic degrees make up the different levels while climbing up the academic ladder. The more you move up, the more specialized and complicated it can become. But even with difficulties comes many opportunities attached to studying advanced studies. 

So, navigating your way through the top in academics becomes less difficult when you have everything planned. What do you want to study? Which level do you want to stop? What degree will help you to achieve both personal and career goals in no time?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself as you apply for any degree. It is not enough that you just apply for a degree. It would be best as a student to do so with a goal in mind. Do you want to use the degree for immediate employment or use it as a stepping stone to further your learning?

Frequently Asked Questions
What degree is 2 years of college?

The associate degree is an undergraduate degree that students will complete in two years, mostly in community colleges.

What degree is 4 years of college?

It is the traditional bachelor’s degree undertaken in either a private or public institution.

What is 6 years of college called?

It is called the Master’s degree because it is awarded after two years of academic work. So, in addition to the four years spent as an undergraduate, it is equal to six.

What is the highest degree you can get?

The highest degree you can get is at the graduate level, and it is the doctoral degree.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the girlfriend of the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a thorough career guidance website for college students. She's currently trying her luck in the ever-changing digital world, ensuring the smooth stream of informative content on the site. When she isn’t working, you’ll find Helen reading on the beach, making her home, and playing the piano.

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