What is a First Professional Degree?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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First professional degrees are academic degrees that are earned on the basis of the development of practical skills related to the day to day function within a particular profession. This is in contrast to undergraduate degree programs, where the emphasis is more on analysis of the subject matter and theories that underpin a given field. In most cases, a first professional degree is pursued after the student has obtained an undergraduate degree and has a firm grasp of both theory and analysis as they relate to the field.

While the exact structure of a first professional degree program will depend greatly on the educational standards set by the nation of residence, there are several elements that are more or less common in most situations. First, the professional degree program normally requires the successful completion of an academic degree program associated with the same field. The idea behind this process is to ensure that the student is familiar with the basics of the profession, including general theory. During the pursuit of the degree, the concepts and information attained in the undergraduate program will set the stage for practical application during the course of the professional degree studies.


Next, a first professional degree program is often associated with a field or profession that is regulated by government in some manner. The regulation may be somewhat indirect, such as in the case of a professional degree concerned with religious studies, or a profession that has a broad and direct impact on the nation, such as medicine, engineering, or law. Essentially, if there is a need for some licensing process above and beyond obtaining educational credentials, the profession in question is likely to be among those fields that require graduate and possibly post-graduate work before a government agency grants the license.

Last, it is important to note that some professions may view this type of degree as one more step on the road to a successful career in a given field. Once the academic degree and the first professional degree are obtained, the student may continue his or her studies by pursuing an advanced professional degree and possible a terminal academic degree. Each of these types of degrees adds something to the professional proficiency of the student and helps to expand the ability of the student to function within a given field.

Depending on the demands of the profession involved, there are instances where the first professional degree also serves as the terminal academic degree. This is true when no additional degree programs are available to further expand the bank of knowledge and experience of the student. When this is the case, the first professional degree encompasses the practical application of theory in skill-based work such as an internship, as well as the in-class requirements that accompany any type of formal schooling.


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Post 3

I would like to know a list of schools that offer a professional degree course in petroleum engineering in the US. Thanks.

Post 2

Moldova - I know that it is a difficult field of study. In fact they don’t even recommend that you work the first year of law school because it is so hard.

just wanted to say that I would love to earn a degree in psychology. I really would like to work as a cognitive behavioral therapist and help people modify their behavior so that they could enhance their quality of life.

I wouldreally like to work with children that suffer from ADHD because I really feel bad for them and think that people misunderstand them.

I would also like to do research in the field and will probably need a doctorate degree because I really want to study intelligence and provide intelligence testing for children like I.Q. testing.

Post 1

I have to say that earning a professional degree takes a lot of drive and ambition. My sister earned JD degree from Brooklyn Law School and has been an attorney in New York City for the last twenty-five years.

It was not easy. After she graduated from law school, she had to take the New York Bar Exam which was really intense.

I think she had to take it twice which is really nerve wracking because you can’t practice law until you receive your license.

She told me that after she passed the second time, that she would never take another bar exam again.

I also know plenty of people that go and even graduate from law school but don’t practice law because it is not what they thought it would be.

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