What Are The Different Types of Academic Degrees?

Published on: March 10, 2022

Choosing a degree is an important decision and can have a massive impact on your future as well as career prospects, so it's not something that should be done uninformed. There are a wealth of different degrees to choose from, but it is not just the subject matter that differs. Students also need to decide on the type of degree they want to earn. This quick guide should clear things up for students who are still unsure what all the jargon related to degrees means and what it takes to achieve them.

Associate Degree

Associate Degrees tend to fall into three different categories and generally take between a year and two years to complete. An associate degree also typically requires 60 credit hours for completion. In most cases, a high school diploma or equivalent is required for applicants, although some institutions may also request the submission of test scores depending on the school.

Associate degrees can either help prepare students for an entry-level position in their field of study or provide the foundational coursework for a bachelor's degree. The associate degrees that are designed to prepare students for a career right after completion are sometimes called occupational degrees. On the other hand, associate degrees that are used to prepare for a bachelor's degree are sometimes called transfer degrees. Students must take care to ensure that the institution offering the associate degree is accredited. Otherwise, the credits earned might not be transferable. Associate degrees are usually done through community colleges, although some vocational schools and four-year colleges may also offer them.

One of the reasons students might choose an associate degree over a bachelor's degree is the lower cost. Applying the credits earned through an associate degree towards a bachelor's degree is often the more affordable option. While there can be many different types of associate degrees, the most common ones are Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.). Associate of Arts provides students with a general education that prepares them for a bachelor's degree, while the Associate of Science focuses on the science instead of liberal arts. The associate of Applied Science degree is typically an occupational degree that prepares students for specific careers.

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's Degrees typically take about four years to complete and require 120 credit hours of coursework. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for enrollment, although A.C.T. or S.A.T. scores may also have to be submitted. As mentioned above, students can often transfer as many as 60 credits hours from their associate degree into their bachelor's degree. Accelerated bachelor's degrees are often also available online and allow students to complete their students in as little as three years.

Bachelor's degrees are often enough for students to move to mid-level or managerial positions in the workforce, depending on their field of study. During the first two years of their bachelor's degree, students usually complete the general education requirements as well as introductory classes for their major. This is followed in the second year by the advanced courses for their major and a cumulative capstone project, paper, etc. The general education curriculum of bachelor's degrees tends to have a liberal arts focus, while the core courses are major-specific. Elective courses also form part of this degree and can be selected by students to focus on their major.

While there are many different types of bachelor's degrees, the most common ones tend to be Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.). Students completing a bachelor of arts degree will typically have more humanities and arts classes, while bachelor of science degree programs focuses more on math and science. Bachelor of arts degrees also tends to be broader in scope and have more electives than the bachelor of science degrees.

Master's Degree

Master's degree programs are classified as graduate programs designed to let students specialize in a specific area of study. These degrees typically take one to two years to complete and thirty credit hours. In addition, students usually have to complete a final project or graduate thesis to earn their master's degree. Students must also have a bachelor's degree in a related field of study to enroll in a master's degree program. In addition, a master's degree program might require a minimum G.P.A. from students and an acceptance score on an entrance exam.

Master's degrees are required to enter some doctoral programs and can also prepare students for advanced or executive-level positions in the workforce. Unlike bachelor's degrees, master's degrees do not have general education requirements. Common master's degrees include Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).

Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees are the highest level of formal education that is available and can take anywhere from two to ten years to complete. A master's degree is usually required to enroll in a doctoral degree, but some incorporate a master's in the curriculum. Traditionally, doctoral degrees have been very academic and research-based, but professional doctorates are also available for students who want advanced skills and knowledge for a specific field.

The most common doctoral degrees are Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), and Doctor of Education (EdD). Doctoral degrees usually include coursework, comprehensive exams, and a doctoral dissertation. Instead of a dissertation, some science-based doctoral degrees might require a portfolio and articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals. This degree is popular with those who want to be experts in their chosen field.


In addition to the degrees mentioned above, some educational institutions may also offer certificates or diplomas. These can be useful for students who want to complete programs needed for specific jobs quickly. However, students must ensure that the credits earned through diplomas or certificates can be applied toward an associate degree if they want to continue their studies.

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