What Are the Types of College Degrees?
There are appropriate college degrees for all students, from an Associates degree to a Masters degree, and specialized certifications to prepare for particular careers.
College degrees are granted at a number of levels. They reflect a diversity of skills and time spent in class and are granted by different kinds of institutions, including community colleges, four-year colleges, universities and specialized schools.
Associate degrees are granted by community colleges. These degree programs are normally highly specialized, offering specific curricula in areas like art, nursing and other health fields, design and other areas of computerized work, technical trades, social sciences and hard sciences, depending on the school. Associate degrees are generally granted after a period equivalent to two years of study and are used by some students as the basis for earning a bachelor degree at a four-year college or university.
Bachelor degrees are granted at four-year colleges or universities (the difference being that only universities offer advanced degree programs) and represent a broad range of knowledge. Students dedicate a large part of their time studying subjects in their chosen fields and some time studying other fields. Normally, schools have requirements for studying in areas such as hard sciences, social sciences, foreign languages and mathematics. Students obtaining a bachelor degree might also elect a minor, a related or unrelated field of study to which the student also dedicates a considerable amount of time. Bachelor degrees may lead the student directly into the workforce or be used as the basis for earning an advanced degree.
Master's degrees are granted following a one- to three-year period of study beyond the bachelor degree level. Students at this stage choose a specific area of their field to study and then conduct research that is presented in a master's thesis. Master's degrees may result in better career opportunities and salaries and are generally considered to be career-oriented degrees. Some people may also earn a master's on their way to earning a PhD.
Professional degrees such as the Juris Doctor (JD) in the law field or Doctor of Medicine (MD) are professional degrees granted by law and medical schools after students complete a period of study after obtaining their bachelor's degrees. PhDs are granted by universities and represent extensive learning and achievement in a field. Those seeking a PhD complete high-level coursework and must also complete a doctoral thesis in which they present the results of their research on a very specific topic related to their field. People with PhDs generally move on to teaching or research positions. A Doctor of Juridical Science degree is the law field's equivalent of a PhD (law.smu.edu.)
Technical schools, like those for people wishing to work in the beauty field, offer certifications for a certain skill set. While these students do not necessarily earn degrees in their fields, they have to complete coursework and practical time in their fields to earn certification, and these certifications show their readiness to work in their chosen fields.