If you want to build a reliable and respectable career in the future, attending college and partaking in postsecondary education is still a way to go. There are a lot of learning options available online, although accredited college degrees and formal education in particular drive the most value with employers and different companies. College degree and education students get allows them to earn more money in the future. However, distinguishing between different college degrees and their importance can be extremely difficult. That’s why we wrote a college degree guide that will help you find the right degree you want to pursue.
The first step future students need to make after deciding they want to go to college decides which degree they want to settle for. There are a lot of degrees to choose and all of them come with their own benefits and drawbacks. Each college degree has a certain value in the career path so there’s no such thing as a perfect degree. Students choose what degree they’ll go after when they have a vision of what they want to do.
Choosing a degree based on what you want to do in the future is the most reliable way to learn skills and assets to use when working in that degree. For example, if you want to work something related to chemistry, computer science, science in general or even medicine, it’d sound pointless to pursue the major from history or liberal arts. The degrees are closely related to future career opportunities so you should already have a vision which college degree or which certificate works the best for you.
Below, we’ve grouped up all the degree options sorted in larger groups. Make sure to go through all of them and spend a valuable amount of time thinking which option works the best for you.
Undergraduate degrees are often considered a prerequisite to open the door to various vibrant career paths. However, an undergraduate degree is more than attending a four-year program that will earn you the bachelor of arts or science in a certain field. In this section, you’ll get to know that there are deeper meanings to the undergraduate degrees and get to know some other options.
Completing an undergraduate degree gives students an option to learn from a plethora of fields, listen to experts in a certain field, engage in group projects and simply prepare for the challenges in the corporate world. You’ll learn everything about a topic you’re passionate about and will be able to apply the knowledge to solve real-time problems.
As mentioned above, there are multiple categories of undergraduate degrees, one of which are also associate and transfer degrees in addition to the bachelor’s degree. In some documents or content, you’ll find that undergraduate degrees are often called post-secondary degrees.
As their name suggests, students earn them as they attend undergraduate classes following secondary education which entails earning a high school diploma or some other sort of secondary education. The reason it’s called undergraduate degrees is that there are also graduate degrees that come afterward and we’ll highlight them later.
Undergraduate degrees, especially bachelor’s degrees have an emphasis on general education, elective and core major component.
Students who attend the general education within a bachelor’s degree have to take classes like writing, history, science, mathematics, and others. The core curriculum focuses on the coursework related to the major you chose. That’s a specialization of the study field you chose when enrolling and your degree title depends on it.
Finally, the elective curriculum which is vastly similar to your major education can be chosen by a student. It can be related but isn’t entitled to the major you’re studying. All students within the same institution and regardless of major have to complete the general education subjects, while the other two focuses depend on the coursework they chose themselves.
In the United States, students can choose from two main undergraduate degree options – Associate and Bachelor. An associate degree can be obtained through the community colleges, but there are also top-notch institutions with a four-year degree durations which will offer associate degrees. The associate degree consists mostly of two years of coursework and servers to prepare students for their career as well as prepare for pursuing the bachelor’s degree, which is, in other words, called a transfer degree.
In some instances, associate degrees are also called occupational degrees because they prepare students to face the challenges of pursuing their careers. On the other hand, students who pursue a bachelor’s degree may find it at all major colleges as well as universities. They last between three and five years, although in most universities the program takes around four years to complete.
Students who pursue a bachelor’s degree may usually be satisfied enough to move onto finding a career. However, most students who complete bachelor’s degrees move onto the next level – graduate degrees. It’s mostly the students who want to be engaged in research, have a broad choice of career or even teach at university.
Now that we shed more details on a broad definition and categorization of undergraduate degrees, it’s time to list them in detail. The most basic undergraduate program awards the associate degrees. The last two years and can be pursued at vocational schools, community colleges and a limited number of major colleges and universities that offer four-year programs.
There are also schools that offer accelerated associate degrees which students can complete faster if they already have a plan for a career. That allows them to focus on finding a job and specialization to work certain tasks at perfection.
Given it’s the most basic undergraduate degree and offers fewer job opportunities compared to other degrees, there are a lot of benefits to the associate degrees. For one, an associate’s degree takes fewer Credit Hours, which means most associate programs are more affordable than the higher educational degrees.
This is a smart way for students to save because they can spend a less amount of money to complete this program and then work to save money and transfer the already-existing credits to a program that offers a bachelor’s degree. This will, in a way lower overall costs of education and provide students a time to save up.
The community college accredited by a regional college community has eligibility for transferring the Credit Hours to a major college and university upon completion of the program. That said, it’s important for students to check the accreditation of the educational institution they want to study before enrolling, should they continue studying at a major college or university.
However, one of the main reasons students go to obtain associate degrees is because they want to start working as soon as possible while obtaining quality knowledge and specialization in the process. Associate colleges focus on skill and practical work when teaching students, with emphasis on acquiring knowledge that will enable them to work entry-level jobs in the company. That’s exactly why they’re called occupational degrees.
Popular associate degrees:
- Associate of Science (A.S.)
- Associate of Arts (A.A)
- Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)
As mentioned above, students who complete an associate degree to go after the bachelor’s degree and transfer their existing credits often associate their degree to a transfer degree. A transfer degree put simply is an associate degree that works as a stepping stone for students who want to continue studying but for one reason or another weren’t ready when they first graduated high school.
However, not every associate degree works as a transfer degree. That’s because not every college has the accreditation to award students the transfer degree that gives them the credibility to enter a major college or university. Colleges that have regional accreditation, as well as universities that include major colleges are eligible for awarding transfer degrees. That said, only major colleges and universities can accept the transfer credits obtained at an accredited institution.
If you plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree following the associate degree, it’s extremely important to talk to your advisor, counselor or interviewer about whether the institution you plan to study is a regionally accredited college that will award you the credits. Keep in mind that the college doesn’t need to be regionally accredited to give you the associate degree, but you don’t want to be left with disappointment if you decide to pursue a bachelor degree at some point in life.
The best part about the transfer degree is that once you are awarded the credit, you can already use them to fill most, if not all general education requirements that come during the years you study for the bachelor’s degree. Lastly, when you are about to transfer the credits from a community college, contact the major college or university you want to attend to ensure they accept the transfer Credit Hours.
Lastly, we have the bachelor’s degree, the most valued undergraduate program which opens door to graduate and professional degrees. Bachelor’s degree is a four-year program, although it can last between three and five years depending on a program, location and even country. It can be obtained at major colleges and universities in the United States.
When looking for a job, a better job position will usually require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree in a certain field or higher. Employers will nearly always prefer a well-educated student who is beyond entry-level positions and has a wide specter of knowledge they can apply.
As mentioned above, there are three parts of the bachelor’s degree program. Students take general education classes, core classes related to their major and elective courses. All students from the college attend general education classes, while the core classes are attended by the students depending on a major they took.
The sole purpose of core classes is to specialize and help students excel at a certain field that distinguishes them from the competition. Lastly, elective classes, often called “electives” are a group of subjects chosen by students individually. Usually, a student advisor will help students pick certain classes that are closely related but not restricted to a major.
Popular types of bachelor degrees:
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) – Focuses on a broad specter of creative fields and gives a more generalized knowledge on the matter. It has an emphasis and focuses on liberal arts, history, literature, etc.
- Bachelor of Science (B.S.) – Has a strong emphasis on the technical aspect of certain disciplines and focuses on applied sciences.
It’s worth pointing that both B.A. and B.S. differ based on the institution. Some colleges and universities may provide a stronger emphasis on one of the two, while some others may include the practices of both over the educational program. There is a more detailed guide that marks the difference between the two-degree programs here.
While a bachelor’s degree takes anywhere between four and five years to complete, there is an accelerated program for students who want to begin working and don’t pursue the graduate school or post-graduate professional program that naturally follows after the bachelor’s degree.
Thanks to online colleges and distance-learning system that enables older people and employed students to get their degree with ease, the college bachelor’s degree can be obtained in about three years, and sometimes even less than that.
If students don’t settle for a job after the completion of the associate and bachelor’s degree, that means they are moving onto the graduate degrees which naturally require undergraduate degrees to complete. That said, once you get a bachelor’s degree from a certain field like business, law, computer science, medicine or some other, you can start taking on the graduate degree.
Throughout history, graduate degrees weren’t so approachable to everyone. People who enrolled in graduate programs are usually people who were academically oriented and wanted to focus on academic research. That has changed now. Graduate degrees now have an emphasis on applied sciences and offer professional development for students who seek even better career options. A part of its academic aspect has remained whatsoever, however, the boundary between academic focus and corporate development is now widely visible. Completing a graduate degree can take anywhere between two and eight years to complete, depending on a program.
Graduate and undergraduate programs are different in many ways. For example, unlike graduate education, graduate programs offer much more detailed education and classes. On the other hand, students at undergraduate studies had to pass a number of generally focused courses to get their degree.
Graduate students, however, focus on academic work and research, both in groups and independently. Students at graduate programs are competitive and require students to invest a lot more time, patience, effort and knowledge to complete. It’s challenging to get accepted to a graduate program and even more difficult and competitive to complete it.
Most well-known programs are Master degree and Doctorate.
The common graduate program that comes after a bachelor’s degree is a master product. It’s extremely strict and demands more effort and attention as compared to the bachelor’s degree. Nevertheless, it lasts only two years, during which the students will gain exquisite knowledge about their field of expertise and attend some courses with much more detail than it was the case during undergraduate education.
Given there are no general education subjects, a master degree is much more concentrated on a specific field of study that the student attends. They are professionals in their nature, which helps students develop professional abilities and skills that will help them get a better position on their career plans. After all, the companies and employers, in general, are more enthusiastic about hiring individuals who obtained a master’s degree.
Here are the key benefits of opting for the Master’s degree program:
- It allows individuals to advance through job levels and positions with more ease.
- It helps individuals make career change.
- They are not just qualified for entry-level career options.
- They can easily advance into leading positions like managers or supervisors.
- Individuals with a master’s degree are more marketable and know how to sell.
There are way too many master’s degree programs in the United States for us to name them all, over hundreds of programs. Nevertheless, some often sought after degrees are:
- Master of Arts (M.A.)
- Master of Science (M.S.)
- Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
Another degree similar to the master’s degree is the doctoral degree. However, the duration takes longer. While the master’s degree takes two years to complete, the doctoral degree takes from two to six years to complete and comes after the master’s degree. However, there are a few doctoral programs that don’t require students to have a master’s degree, as long as the admission criteria set by the school are met.
A doctoral degree is also often called a “terminal degree” because in some fields, it’s the highest graduate degree a student can get. It’s important to note that many doctoral fields are extremely difficult to complete and will often make students put up with various challenges and struggles to meet the requirements. The program is also rigorous and stricter compared to the master’s degree.
Similarly to the master’s degree, doctoral degree used to focus on academic and researching aspect throughout history. However, now it focuses on preparing students for certain positions in the workforce by helping them acquire critical skills necessary to work at the best job positions. There are different types of doctoral degrees, we’ll highlight them below.
Professional Doctorate – Through this program, students are taught advanced skills from their field of expertise. They gain critical and detailed knowledge that should prepare them for the profession they are after. There are various professional doctorates, from business, computer science, economics, and more which are all focused on delivering top-notch quality of education to students who will work to succeed in their respective fields.
Research Doctorate – The program focuses on establishing researching habits into students and help them focus on academic research. They will work and research in different academia once they earn the degree. They are often sought after in the medical organization, government, military and various private sectors.
Higher Doctorate – You may probably not stumble across this name often, but it’s still one of the least popular doctorate degrees. More often, it’s not commonly found in the U.S. Higher doctorate individual is usually considered a higher researcher in European countries and the United Kingdom.
Honorary Doctorate -As its name suggests, the individuals with this degree receive honor and recognition for their advanced achievements and discoveries in different fields and sciences. They are awarded a contribution to their high work and it’s the highest achievement in terms of education. It’s particularly available only in a portion of universities in the nation.
What is a professional degree?
Professional degree and specialist degree are two graduate programs with different implications. If students want to become workers at a certain field of expertise, they will get a professional degree that establishes them to work in that field. It’s most common in law educational programs as well as medicine. For example, to become a medical doctor, you will need to obtain a professional degree.
The degree is available on a wide scale of disciplines like psychology, business, finance, and engineering. To get the degree you will need to have a bachelor’s degree. However, a few professional degree programs require students to obtain a master’s degree. Another name for professional degrees is “First Professional Degrees.”
On the other hand, once students become professionals in a certain field, they’ll go after the specialist degree which comes after the master’s degree. There are two reasons for that. It’s great for earning additional knowledge, applied practice and experience in a certain field. Additionally, there is an industry certification that is highly beneficial for working in a state-level position like becoming a headmaster or principal.
Aside from college degrees, there is a number of specializations and certifications that allow students who don’t want college degrees to earn a professional certification from some field. They can either do that to have better chances at some job, or to improve their expertise after completing college.
Other than that, we’ve detailed each degree and explained their benefits and what comes after completing them. Finally, the final decision lays in the individual and what they want to do with the degree itself.