What are the Different Types of Degrees I Can Earn?

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.

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