Professional Degree

Ever heard of the professional degree, and you keep on wondering what exactly it meant? If yes, you should know that the degree is not an everyday degree like the bachelor, associate, and master’s degree

In this guide, more light will be shed on the definition of a professional degree. Who is it for? And what are the types? Professional degree vs. masters, which is the best, or are they the same.

And many students are also confused about whether the professional and academic degrees are different or similar. If you are in this position, then read this post to the end so that differences can finally be answered.

But for a foundation, it would be best for you to know that the degree is for professionals as the name implies, i.e., people in professions that require practice.

What is a Professional Degree?

Professional degrees are not so common, like all other academic degrees, and it is a degree that is more career-oriented than academics.

It is the degree that prepares the student for very practical professions. It is undergone to gain knowledge more about a specific field of interest. Most of the course requires the student to study in accordance with their field, I.e., learning with real and applicable experience in their chosen field.

The focus on practicable studies distinguishes the professional degree programs from other academic degrees, which tend to teach students basically from the theoretical and philosophical standpoint. Practical coursework is optional for this degree, and it is the foundation of the degree.

These degrees usually meet licensing and certification requirements, depending on the position. In accordance with the standards of a specific discipline, professional degrees can be found at various levels; it is mostly found at the Ph.D. level in the US.

The degree is often required in a special field such as medicine, pharmacy, education, and law.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Professional Degree?

The Professional degree years depend on the program, school, and the level of your smartness. The professional degree is found in many fields, so the year of completion can vary. As an instance, the year that will take a student pursuing a professional degree in education will be different from the student pursuing it in medicine. 

But generally, the length of study is five years, and the credit point per semester might differ according to the institution.

Professional Degrees Vs Academic Degrees

An academic degree is more research-oriented while a professional degree is focused on careers. 

Differences Between Academic Degrees and Professional Degrees

  • Academic degrees

An academic degree is based on the education of ancient Greece. It aims to acquire knowledge for the sake of itself so that students become better people and citizens of society.

The academic degree’s motive is to make the student grow to a level that they will also be a source of knowledge. The student must come to a point where they don’t only make use of the existing knowledge but also be contributors.

And that is majorly why the requirement to award the degree makes it compulsory for the student to write theses, dissertations, and teach undergraduate and also do project defenses. All these aim to make the student a rigorous critical thinker. 

Students undergoing academic degree studies are also trained to become colleagues and contributors to the existing knowledge in their field. 

The academic degree education encourages people to explore details and focus on becoming real experts in their fields.

The course academic degree is based on the technical knowledge acquired during the program, and students generally need to plan, organize, and conduct research to complete the course.

There are many situations that the academic degree would not get to use their certificate in their working place.

Finally, the degree can be applied to various professions.

  • Professional degrees

The demands of the employer in the various sectors can be met by a professional graduation diploma, emphasizing applied skills and practical conditions in the workplace. And none could resist the earning potential promised for these professionals in different fields such as science, engineering, or IT.

The idea of Doctoral or professional degrees originated from the law schools, which teach legal knowledge to prepare students not only to comprehend the theoretical and historical aspect of the law but also to start practicing it straightaway.

Many professional courses are offered that require that the students undertake an internship or project in their area of study before they graduate. It allows students to have access to the extensive training that is relevant to their workplace and to improve their resumes.

The degree is designed for the student to focus more on a specific course of study. While the academic degree might not be useful for a student in their profession, a professional degree holder will always use it because it is the reason for their employment in the first place.

Professional degree examples are Juris Doctor, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Similarities Between Academic Degrees and Professional Degrees

Both degrees have a lot of disparities, but one thing connects them; these are both acquired from colleges and universities.

Academic and professional degrees are both pursued to increase the knowledge and the earning potential of professionals in various fields.

The Most Common Type of Professional Degrees

Professional Degrees list are:

  • Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD): For a student who wants to work in the pharmaceutical industries.
  • Doctor of Education (EdD): Majorly for educational administrators and professionals.
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD): Obtained by student medicine and surgery.
  • Juris Doctor (JD): This prepares the student for a career in law.
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.): For individuals who want to become a dentist.

Career Opportunities With a Professional Degree

The professional degree jobs available are:

  • Pharmacist
  • Doctor of Medicine
  • Optometrist
  • Lawyer
  • Nurse
  • Health Service Manager
  • Veterinarian
  • Business Administrator
  • Podiatrist
  • Dentist

Tips for Selecting a Professional Degree Program

  • Consider the profession

What professional degrees do specifically is to prepare you for a particular job. So, always ensure that you pursue this career before enrolling in a professional program. Research and talk with people who have started working in the field or are currently undergoing internships. This will allow you to decide whether you are ready to commit your time and money in obtaining the degree.

  • Cost

Some of the professional degrees can extend between one of five years, and the cost can be high. Before applying, be sure to consider the cost of the program. Consider getting financial assistance (if any). Although you hopefully can use the money you get from your first job after school to pay off the loans, you need to ensure that you will not incur the debt you cannot pay.

  • The reputation of the school and program

Carefully study the reputation of any program you apply for.  Inquire in the office responsible for Admission about the number of graduates recruited directly after the program. Ask about the number of students that passed the licensing exam. If possible, contact numerous alumni for more information. This will allow you to be sure you are spending time and money on a professional degree that can provide you with the career you need. Another thing is the reputation of the school, is the school fully accredited and you need to carefully research what employers in your field say about the school. This will prevent you from wasting time and money in a school that employers will not want.

  • Joint degrees

If you are already sure of your career and have a profession in mind, then you can consider taking joint degrees while applying to college. There are colleges and universities that have an option for students to pursue their bachelor’s and professional degrees concurrently. This will help you save a lot of time, and you would not worry about applying for a separate professional degree after graduation, and it will be faster than a regular two-year master’s degree. However, only do this if you are sure of the profession you want to pursue.

5 High Paying Professional Degrees

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

This degree leads you to become a Medical doctor, and it takes students four years in medical college before they can earn the degree. The four years include working in the various hospitals and the offices of different doctors. Getting this degree is one of the ways you can secure a high salary because medical doctors earn between $228,441 and $441,185 depending on the working place.

Doctor of Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., Pod.D.)

Podiatry is the care of the foot, ankle, and lower legs. And also, the assessment and the diagnosis of problems and provision of treatment and surgeries for the foot and ankles. They are called Podiatrists, and becoming one meant you had completed a four program as a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine. Although some of the courses taken by them will be similar to Doctor of Medicine, they are both different. As a Podiatrist, you can earn a median salary of $127,740 in a year.

Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

A pharmacy doctor has to do with administering medication and giving adequate information about the medicines to the patient. They are called Pharmacists, and in order to earn the degree, you must have completed a four-year program in pharmacy and must have secured your license. This is also a high-paying job as you earn around $124,170 annually as a pharmacist.

Juris Doctor (J.D.)

An individual studying this course will eventually become a Lawyer. And you must have completed a 3-year law program that incorporates both classroom work and real practices in law firms. You must also be called to the bar bypassing the license exam in the state before you start practicing. As a practicing lawyer, you could earn an average salary of $119,250.

Master of Science in Nursing – MSN

With training, associate, and bachelor’s degree in Nursing, you can become registered. But if you want to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), then you must consider pursuing a Master of Science. The length of the program is two years, including coursework and Practical. A Nurse would expect to earn a median salary of $110,930.

Is a Professional Degree Worth It?

Most professional degrees can be very expensive, and you might need to let go of the idea of acquiring them if it is not going to be worth the investment, although some are lucky to have employers that help them provide the fund necessary to acquire the degree. Another important thing you might still need to consider is if the professional degree will be worth the time and effort you want to invest in it. Is it going to contribute to your career? Is it going to increase your marketability and improve your skills? A lot of students embark on acquiring a degree they are not even sure will pay off in the end. Before you enroll in any degree, make sure the qualification you acquire from the program is respected and accredited by professional bodies in your field. Because there are two things to getting a professional degree, it will improve your knowledge, and it must increase your chance of getting employment. Finally, after you must have answered all these questions, you can determine whether a professional degree is worth your time and money. However, it is generally a degree that everyone who wants to work from a higher pedestal in their career should consider pursuing.


As a professional, if you are looking for a way of increasing your chance of earning more or you want to be selected for an executive position in the organization, then a professional degree is your best bet. The main thing is finding the one that aligns with your career goal and investing your time, money, and effort into it.

Frequently Asked Questions
Is a professional degree higher than a bachelor’s?

Yes, it comes after the bachelor’s degree, and some fields require that you have a professional certificate apart from the bachelor’s degree certificate.

Is a bachelor’s degree a professional degree?

It might be classified as a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree depending on the program.

Is an MBA a professional degree?

Yes, it is a professional degree with a specialization in business and management.

Is a law degree a doctorate or professional degree?

A Law degree is a doctorate because it is a Terminal degree in the US, and it is a professional degree because students pursue Juris Doctor (JD) in law school, and it is a professional degree.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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