Types of College Degrees: Find What’s Right for You

Backs of ecstatic students in graduation gowns holding diplomasWhen you’re looking at your options for college, it seems there’s an endless list of degrees and schools you need to choose between. It’s an exciting time in your life, but daunting because you have to pick one of the hundred different fields to devote the next few years of your life to learning. This guide covers the most common degrees so you can understand what they all mean, and help you make your choice of the right college degree for you. Once you’ve had a read through it all, don’t miss this course and get all the help you need in finding the perfect school.

The crux of the issue is making sure that the college degree program you enrol in is tied to your career goals. If you want to graduate and become a public school teacher, you’re going to need to study and get a teaching certificate. The same can be said for almost all white collar professions, whether you want to become an accountant, or a lawyer – you need a degree that supports your planned profession. In line with this, be sure to check out this course, as it offers a practical look for high school students looking to apply to college.

In addition to selecting the program, the next step is to ensure you meet the prerequisites for study. Many of the programs, especially the advanced degrees require you to hold previous qualifications or degrees before you can even apply. There are also grade requirements for particular degrees, so be sure to do your research and learn what you need to achieve in order to apply in that course. If you want a hand getting into your dream college, check out this course which also has great tips for international students.

Once you’ve found the right degree for you, don’t forget to think about how this fits into your life. There is a substantial amount of time you need to spend in class, and studying, to be successful in your education, and it is also quite expensive to attend. Don’t let this put you off by any means, because for millions of people education is both a liberating and rewarding experience that helps you build a strong foundation for a career. All you need to ensure is that you have a plan, and you stick to it with success.

To give you an idea, these are the different types of degrees available:

Certifications, Certificates, and Diplomas

These degrees typically focus on a particular field within an industry. Students can elect to study from a wide range of programs including Paralegal Studies to Medical Assistants. Certain technologies offer these programs as they require specialist skills, training students as web developers and repair technicians. You can expect that these degrees can be passed relatively quickly, and range from short programs around 6 weeks, to more in depth degrees that are up to a year.

Associate Undergraduate Degrees

This is the most basic college degree, and typically runs for two years. Community colleges are where these programs are usually on offer, as well as career colleges, and some traditional colleges also offer associate degrees. You can also complete them at schools who offer distance learning. In certain fields like medical assisting, graduates with Associate’s degrees will have learnt the necessary experience that qualifies them for immediate employment in their profession. In other fields, an associate’s degree is more akin to a set of preparatory coursework, like business administration where the programs are equivalent for the first two years. Some students who begin with their associates degree transfer into a four-year bachelor program to earn their degree.

As follows are the most common fields of study, and students are typically required to complete 60 hours of coursework:

  • Associate of Arts (A.A.): Students are required to complete classes like general education and more specific subjects that are directly related to the degree program. You’ll find that you can get an A.A. degree in liberal arts, like English, music or history.
  • Associate of Science (A.S.): Students are focused on science, but there are also many classes devoted to general education. The most common A.S. programs are chemistry and biology.
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S): This program is designed to get students ready to join the working world, and there are several different fields within this degree, like business and engineering.
  • Associate of Engineering (A.E): A program with a specific focus on engineering
  • Associate of Applied Arts (A.A.A.): A program with a specific focus on applied arts
  • Associate of Political Science (A.P.S): A program with a specific focus on political science

Bachelor Undergraduate Degrees

A bachelors degree is the standard four-year college degree, but for some fields it can stretch to five. You’ll find that this type of degree is offered in hundreds of different subjects, at campus universities all over the country, and online through many different schools. Typically, a bachelors degree is a prerequisite for all graduate programs.

As follows are the most common fields of study:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.): This degree offers students the most flexibility in their field, and is one of the most common. The primary focus is on arts, but there are many general education classes that students are required to attend.
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.): This degree is normally focused on the fields of accounting, engineering, physics and business, but specialist sciences are also available. Again, there are many general studies courses that are required classes.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.): This degree is targeted at professionals who want to make their career through the visual arts. Professional actors, dancers, singers, painters and sculptors are some of the many candidates you’ll find studying this degree. Recently, the scope of this degree has expanded, and you can also now find specialization in digital media and even web design.
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.): This degree is aimed at students that are aspiring to be a general manager. You’ll learn the ins and outs of management strategy, organizational psychology, and how to make effective decisions in your team.
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.): A common degree program that all aspiring architects must complete.

Graduate Degrees (Masters)

Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, many students opt to continue their studies.

Masters degrees are typically targeted on a particular field of study, and are completed after two years. There are hundreds of different fields you can choose to specialize in, and their status varies dramatically in a workplace. As an example, a physician’s assistant may need a terminal master’s degree to practice medicine, however in arts and sciences the programs are more aimed at continued training and research.

For business students the Master of Business Administration *(MBA) is the most common graduate degree, and they come in a variety of fields of specialization. Most students take a general MBA, but others choose to specialize in accounting, marketing, or even the management of not-for-profit enterprises. Depending on the college, MBA programs can be offered both online, and on-campus, and range from accelerated (9 month) programs to the standard two year time frame. In addition to this an Executive MBA is targeted at experienced professionals, with an average 10 years experience, and a desire to learn about high-level leadership.

As follows are the most common fields of study:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.): This covers a wide range of graduate studies, typically education, social sciences, communication and music.
  • Master of Science (M.S.): The major focus of this degree is on research, in a wide range of science, health and social science professions.
  • Master of Research (M.Res.): This degree is focused on the training and processes required to successfully carry out research. Many students who intend to do their PhD take this course to begin with.
  • Master of Philosophy (M. Phil.): This is a degree that is research only, and another step towards getting a PhD. Many students begin with this course, and after 1-2 years of study change their program to the PhD.
  • Master of Laws (LL.M.): This is a one year degree, that can also be taken over 2 or 4 years part time. The focus of this course is to build on the general skills you’ve earned in your professional law degree, and specialize in a particular area.
  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.): This degree is designed for management professionals with working experience, and is an intense and demanding degree. The goal is to forge future business leaders.

Doctorate Degrees

There are a number of different doctorate degrees available, and they form the highest form of degree you can attain at a college.

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

This degree is most commonly earned by scientists and professors. It’s cost and amount of years differ within each field, but you can expect completion from anywhere between 5 to 10 years. Graduates who are studying for their PhD are referred to as “doctoral candidates” and you’ll often find them teaching undergraduates, or assisting with the faculty research in addition to their studies.

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Candidates that hold this degree are usually administrators in the education system, principals and professors. In a teaching certification the training that primary and secondary school teachers receive is based on the science of education, doctorates spend their time working on educational theory and administration.

  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

The standard degree held by all physicians is the doctor of medicine. It normally requires four years of coursework, where the MD is received, and then for practicing doctors another internship and residency has to follow. This allows hands on medical training to be received at a working hospital, and can take anywhere from 3 to 8 years to complete, depending on the specialty of the doctor.

  • Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.)

After successfully completing a three year course in law school, most law students go on to do their JD. Alongside the requirement to pass the bar, this credential is possessed by nearly all practicing lawyers.

Choosing the right degree for you can be tricky, but it is definitely not impossible. All you need to really do is discover where your interests really lie, do your research and create a plan that will enable you to get into your school of choice. This course will help you to learn everything you need to know about college admissions, or have a look at this recent post on how to prep for college. Your future really is in your own hands!