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What are the Different Types of College Degrees?

Associate and bachelor's are two of the most commonly pursued degree programs.
Colleges offer degrees that fall under specific courses of study that are organized within separate academic departments.
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  • Written By: Matthew F.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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In the United States, there are many types of college degrees. Since the 1800s, most accredited four-year universities have followed a uniform system, offering them at the bachelor, master, and doctor level. Community or junior colleges typically offer a two-year associate’s degree. All of these degrees have different focuses and programs, and different universities require various levels of education and various requirements, though they are similar throughout the country.

At junior colleges, which are usually smaller colleges serving a relatively small number of communities, college degrees are pretty standard. The associate’s degree is awarded after two full years of study, around 60 credit hours, and represents pre-professional areas of study. They are offered as either transfer degrees or career degrees. Associate’s degrees are generally completed with common elective courses, and the credits may or may not transfer toward completion of a further degree at a four-year university.

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The types of college degrees offered at universities begin with the bachelor’s degree. This degree is finished through four full years of classes, though it can be achieved in three or five or more. It usually requires around 120 credit hours and is certified as an undergraduate academic degree. The most common bachelor’s degrees attained in the US are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS). They usually require a certain number of elective courses, a declared major, and a number of higher level courses in the area of concentration. These degrees are equivalent to many of those awarded throughout Europe and Asia.

It's typically more difficult for a student to earn a master’s degree. The master’s is obtained after an additional one or two years of study after a bachelor’s. This degree includes many specialized courses and often professional work in a field, and as a result, someone who holds one might earn much more money in certain professions. Similar to the bachelor’s degree, it can be earned as an MA or an MS.

The next level of academic degree is the doctorate. This degree requires another one or two years of study, increasing the education time frame for earning the degree to 12 years. A doctorate can be required for some professions, like lawyers, professors, and therapists, and usually requires more fieldwork in the profession. In the United States, doctorate degrees also require the writing of a dissertation before a person can be declared a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.), or one of many others types of doctorates.

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Glasshouse
Post 3

It is possible to pursue a master's degree in a separate field from your bachelor’s degree; however, specific programs will require that certain prerequisites be met. As for your question about pursuing a Master's of Science in Engineering, you will probably have to gain a BS in engineering or a very closely related field because the math and science requirements are very stringent. There are some programs where a student could earn a master’s in a somewhat unrelated field, especially if that field can be used to enhance a career. Many science and arts majors can work towards an MBA in business. Obtaining a Master's in Architecture (MArch) is also a possibility; although a MArch degree for a non design major can take three or more years to complete. You would really have to check with an advisor from the school or program that you are interested in. Most colleges list their degree options on their websites as well as any course requirements necessary for acceptance.

PelesTears
Post 2

Is it possible to pursue a master’s degree in an unrelated field, or is a master’s program an extension of the bachelors program of the same course work? For example could I work towards a master’s of science in engineering if I have a bachelor’s of science? What if I have a bachelor’s of art?

Alchemy
Post 1

It is possible, and common, for students to go directly into a doctorate program immediately after their baccalaureate. The doctorate program may take a little longer than it would if that student first received a master degree and then went for his or her doctorate, but the overall post bachelors commitment will be a few years shorter. Most schools that offer this type of program will also credit the student's academic account with a master degree once the required course work is done. Taking the doctorate only route may be a wise choice for professions that often require a terminal degree (i.e. Psychology, or research intensive science careers). This format can also lessen the expense of pursuing a terminal degree.

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