Types of Degrees: From AA to BA and Beyond

typesofdegreesStruggling to find the right degree for you? Between all the different types and the possible subjects you can study, deciding which one is most viable for the career you’re hoping to pursue, and the most affordable, it can be a tough decision to make. This guide will provide you a break down of all the different types of degrees, fields of study, and some possible career choices stemming from each, hopefully making that decision just a bit easier to make.

Don’t be stuck your first year of college grasping at whatever choice “seems” best for you. Prepare the best you can with this guide! If you’re still in the process of hunting and applying for colleges, check out this course on how to choose the best college for you, and then this course on how to write a college application essay.

Types of Degrees

There are two major types of degrees: undergraduate and graduate. Within these types are numerous subcategories, and for each subcategory, a plethora of fields you can specialize in. If you’re a high school student looking for college hunting and application advice, check out this college counseling seminar. You can also check out this course on mastering college admissions.

Otherwise, read on for more information about each type.

Undergraduate Degrees

If you’re just getting started with your academic career, an undergraduate degree will be your first step. These degrees offer an academic foundation in a certain field of study, and are required to move onto the more specialized graduate degree programs. You can earn your undergraduate degree in a community college, and/or a four-year college or university.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is the most basic type of degree. Depending on your field, you can get an Associates of Art or an Associates of Science degree (AA or AS). Both are obtainable at a community or a junior college, or even a trade or vocational school, and take about two years to earn. That’s about $8,000 for 60 hours of academic credits.

You do not need an associate’s degree to move on to other degrees. In fact, if you’re studying for your associate’s degree through a vocational school for a specific trade, you can aim for your Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) degree, and often jump right into the career you want. An associate’s degree is great for trade work that don’t require huge amounts of academic work to qualify.

Many students looking to earn their bachelor’s degree later down the line, but studying for their associate’s in the meantime, do so because they’re trying to save money for a four-year university. This, or they’re trying to take a break from rigorous academic work after high school. Whatever the reason, earning your associate’s degree before moving on to a bachelor’s is an acceptable option.

Remember:

  • Offered at community, junior, and vocational schools
  • Costs an average of $8,000
  • Takes an average of two years to earn

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is a step up from an associate’s degree, and generally considered the starting point for most students who go straight off to a four-year university. It’s rare you’ll find a community college or a junior college that offers bachelor’s degree programs, if at all.

These degrees are more advanced undergraduate degrees, typically take about four years to earn, and can cost anywhere from $20,000 for a public college to $40,000 at a private college, though this cost usually includes room and board in addition to college tuition. Still, that’s a lot of money! Check out this course on personal finance from college to career for some money managing tips.

Those seeking a bachelor’s degree can typically choose between two groups: a Bachelor of Art or a Bachelor of Science degree, though there are many more depending on your specific degree, and which country you’re obtaining it in. It isn’t entirely uncommon to see Bachelor of Education, or a Bachelor of Philosophy, or a Bachelor of Music degree in some countries.

Note that while it takes about four years, on average, to earn your bachelor’s degree – so much so that it’s become almost synonymous with “four year degree” – this is not always the case. With budget cuts to many schools, at least in the United States, it’s becoming tougher for students to get into the classes they need on time, meaning extended college careers that can go five or even six years before a student can earn their bachelor’s. While this can’t be helped, you can learn how to manage your time better while you’re in school with this time management for college survival course.

Remember:

  • Offered at four-year public or private colleges and universities
  • Costs between $20k to $40k
  • Takes an average of four years to earn

Graduate Degrees

Graduate degrees are obtained in – you guessed it – graduate school. After attending a public or private four-year university and obtaining their bachelor’s degree, a student can move on to graduate school for more specialized training in their field. These degrees are much more advanced, though they take a shorter amount of time to obtain than a bachelor’s degree. Still, the work load is about the same, if not more difficult, depending on your field of study, and may even require work as a teacher’s assistant.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is a step up from a bachelor’s degree. Students should pursue their master’s degree if they want to specialize in a field of study. These degrees can be obtained from a public or private university, but either way the college must have a graduate program. It takes about two years to obtain, and can cost anywhere between $24,000 to $35,000… and yes, that’s on top of your bachelor’s degree.

Like other degrees, you can obtain your Master of Arts or Master of Science degree depending on your field of study. Graduate degrees are tough, and take extensive academic commitment. Check out this course on stress management and remember to take care of yourself, even in school!

Remember:

  • Offered at public or private universities with a graduate degree program
  • Costs between $24k and $35k
  • Takes an average of two years to earn

Doctorate Degree

The doctorate degree is one of the most advanced of the degrees, and requires a master’s in order to obtain. The actual degree you’ll be obtaining is known as a Ph.D, or a Doctor of Philosophy degree, though this does not mean it is only offered for the field of philosophy. Ph.D degrees are offered for everything from medicine to film, and more. Those who obtain their Ph.D are granted the academic title of doctor.

How long it takes to obtain a Ph.D degree varies on your field of study. For law, it can take about three years, for instance, while for something like computer engineering, it might take more. Some Ph.D degrees require more than four years to obtain, and cost between $25,000 to $36,000 dollars. They, like a master’s degree, must be obtained at a public or private university with a graduate degree program.

Remember:

  • Offered at public or private universities with a graduate degree program
  • Costs between $25k to $35k
  • Takes between 3-4+ years to obtain

Types of Fields

What type of degrees you pursue depends on what kind of field you’re looking to study, and what you want to do in terms of career. Take some of the example fields below.

Computer Science and Engineering

With a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Engineering, you can become a software developer, or even make a living doing freelance programming, designing apps and other projects for clients. You can pursue a career in game development, or move on to your master’s in computer science, though this really isn’t necessary unless you plan on teaching. Many entry-level computer science and engineering careers only require a bachelor’s degree, if that.

Check out this introductory computer science course and get a head start on your studies.

Literature/Writing/Journalism

With a bachelor’s degree in English, literature, or other fields based on the written word, you qualify for a number of different jobs, though not many of them will be based on writing. The best thing to do is pick a specific field of writing, and specialize in that; for instance, copy writing, technical writing, or even copy editing. If you want to teach, you should move on to your master’s and doctorate degree.

Art

With a degree in art history, fine art, or a specialized art degree in a specific medium, like graphic design, painting, and more, you can do freelance art design for companies or individuals, go into animation and film, or pursue a number of other digital media jobs like video games. With art history in particular, you can curate exhibits, or even move on to become a professor of the arts.

No matter which job you decide to go with, though, finding a job can be tough in this economy. Check out this course on how to land your first serious job, and this one on how to perfect your resume.

Resume workshopping doesn’t mean much if you’re not actually qualified for the job, though! Make the most out of your time in school. Check out this course on useful study tips for more information.