Why is Getting a Degree Important?

Idaho Career Information System

Not all jobs or careers require a college degree. However, having a degree or certificate improves your professional choices. In addition, investing in a degree program is valuable. This is because employers often prefer to hire, train, and advance people who have a degree.

What is a certificate or diploma?
Many community colleges and technical/vocational schools award certificates and diplomas. You may also earn a certificate or diploma after completing on-the-job training. Certificate and diploma programs can take only a few weeks or up to two years to complete. Note that the courses you take for these programs may not transfer to four-year schools.

What is an associate degree?
All community colleges offer associate degrees. An Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) degree is granted to students who complete a two-year program of study. An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) is awarded to students who complete a two-year technical or vocational program. These programs often require an apprenticeship.

The credits you earn at a community college often can be transferred to a four-year school. Each school has different rules about what credits it will accept from other schools. If you know which school you are going to attend, check to see what courses it accepts. The benefit of transferring credits is that you can use the credits you completed for an associate degree towards a bachelor's degree.

What is a bachelor's degree?
There are two kinds of bachelor's degrees: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). These are degrees that you receive upon successful completion of four or five years of full-time college or university studies. These are also known as undergraduate degrees.

A Bachelor of Arts degree is also known as a liberal arts degree. This degree generally requires courses in humanities, math, English, sciences, social sciences, and languages.

A Bachelor of Science degree generally does not require as many liberal arts or humanities courses. It may prepare people for careers in accounting, engineering, and education. Like the Bachelor of Arts, it requires general courses in math, English, sciences, and social sciences.

What is a master's degree?
Students who complete one or two years of study after receiving a bachelor's degree earn a master's degree. Admission to graduate programs (masters or doctorate) can be competitive. Students often must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) when applying for admission to graduate school. Some programs require specific undergraduate courses. Thus students who want to go to graduate school should work with an advisor ahead of time to be sure they satisfy admission requirements.

What is a doctoral degree?
The doctorate, or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), is awarded to students who successfully complete a program of two or more years beyond the master's degree. Some students start on a Ph.D. after receiving a bachelor's degree and receive a master's degree during the course of their studies.

What is a professional degree?
A professional degree prepares people to work in professions such as law, medicine, or architecture. Study for a professional degree often requires at least six years. In general, you spend four years working toward a bachelor's degree and then spend another few years working toward your professional degree.

What are transfer credits?
Transfer credits are course credits that move from one school to another. These credits may apply to a degree. For example, if you successfully complete courses in writing, math, literature, social science, and biology at a community college, you usually can transfer the credits you receive to a four-year school. You should work with a school counselor to be sure your credits will transfer. Even if you may not continue your education for several years, it is still a good idea to find out if your credits will transfer.

If getting a bachelor's degree is good, is getting a master's degree or Ph.D. even better?
Career-wise it is important to know what training a occupation requires. Sometimes people have more education than a job requires. This may cause an employer to wonder if that person will be challenged or happy in the job. You may also price yourself out of some companies' pay range. For example, if you choose to pursue an M.B.A. degree because you heard that you would earn more money or because there are jobs, some firms may not be able to afford your skills. Depending on the job, you may or may not be paid more for your additional education. It is also important not to rush into a graduate program until you know what you want to accomplish with it. The more you know before you start a program, the more you will get out of it, and the more employable you will be.