Types of Different Degree Levels

Hundreds of different degree programs are available for students who wish to continue their education after high school. Universities and community colleges award degrees at varying levels, from associate degrees to doctoral degrees. When comparing different degrees, students can consider which program best fits their career goals and academic interests.

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Types of Different Degree Levels Available

There are four major categories of degrees available for postsecondary students: associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Earning one of these degrees can take 2-8 years, depending on the level of the degree and field of study. Graduate-level programs may require students to complete one or more undergraduate programs prior to enrollment.

Associate Degrees

Associate-level programs offer different degrees for a variety of careers. These 2-year programs may provide the necessary training to prepare students for entry-level positions in fields like nursing, graphic design and other vocational areas. Associate degree programs are most commonly available from community colleges and technical schools.

Completing an associate degree program may qualify graduates to enter the workforce. Transferable associate degree programs cover the general education requirements needed to continue a student's education at a 4-year university. The most popular degrees available at the associate level include these:

  • Associate of Arts (A.A.)
  • Associate of Science (A.S.)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor's degree program is an undergraduate program that usually takes four years to complete. Enrolling in a bachelor's degree program requires that students choose a major area of study, such as finance, history, communications or biology. Graduates from a bachelor's degree program are qualified to work in entry- or management-level positions, depending on the field.

A bachelor's degree is also usually required for admittance into a graduate program. Different types of degrees available in a bachelor's degree program include the following:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

Master's Degrees

Master's degree programs are graduate programs that let students specialize in an area of study and typically take 1-2 years to complete. Along with an undergraduate degree, enrolling in a master's degree program usually requires a minimum GPA and an acceptance score on a graduate entrance exam, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Many master's degree programs require a thesis or capstone project for graduation.

Earning a master's degree may qualify graduates to work in advanced or executive-level positions. A master's degree is also required for entrance into some doctoral programs. Different degree programs available at the master's-level include the following:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degree programs are the most advanced type of degree program available. Admittance into a doctoral degree program usually requires a master's degree. Completing the Ph.D. usually takes several years, involving the completion of a dissertation and a major research project.

Ph.D. graduates are qualified to work as experts in areas of business or research, as well as professors at the university level. Common types of doctoral degrees include those listed below:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
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