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Types of College and Graduate Degrees — An Overview

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What Kinds of Degrees Are There?

Earning a degree online or on-campus can improve your job prospects, salary potential and opportunities for advancement. Each degree indicates that you’ve reached a certain level of mastery. Generally speaking, the higher your level of degree attainment, the greater your qualifications for certain jobs, career paths and pay grades.

Read on for a quick glance at each of the four major degree levels:

Associate Degree

Associate degrees are usually obtained at a community college, junior college or technical school. Many of these schools also provide online associate degree programs. Your associate degree will require you to earn roughly 60 credits, which is typically a two-year commitment for the full-time student.

An associate degree can prepare you for a wide range of technical and entry-level roles, or it could be a pathway to a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college. By spending two years at a community or junior college first, you could save both time and money in the long-term. In fact, the Department of Education recognizes community colleges as the most affordable path to a higher education.

Start your search by checking out The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Degrees or jumping straight to our rankings of associate degrees by program.

Bachelor’s Degree

bachelor’s degree, also known as a baccalaureate degree, is an undergraduate degree typically offered by accredited four-year schools, including most private, public and online colleges or universities. Most bachelor’s degrees will require the completion of roughly 120 credits, which typically requires between four and six years for the average full-time student.

Bachelor’s degrees are available in an extremely wide range of academic fields. Attainment of a bachelor’s degree demonstrates that you have successfully completed a general education with a focus on a specific major. Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you’ll gain access to a wide range of opportunities, whether you plan to continue into graduate school or enter the job market.

If you know what you’re looking for, you can get started on your search with the The 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019.

You can also check out the 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Bachelor’s Degrees or jump straight to our ranking lists to see where you can find the best bachelor’s degree for your intended major.

Master’s Degree

master’s degree is an advanced graduate degree that shows a high level of mastery in a particular subject area. A master’s degree program will demand the completion of between 30 and 60 credits, which typically requires a commitment of between one and two years.

You may choose to pursue a master’s degree in order to improve your opportunities for advancement in a particular field, to increase your earning potential, or to improve your appeal as a job candidate. Some jobs and leadership roles may require a master’s degree as a minimum qualification for employment. For instance, in many states, a master’s degree is required to earn a license to teach in public school or become a practicing social worker. As a graduate student, you’ll work to improve your knowledge and technical skills in a specialized area, whether your focus is the arts, humanities, healthcare, the natural sciences or a host of other fields.

Your advanced degree may also enable you to bypass entry level jobs in your chosen field and immediately land in higher paying roles with greater opportunities for professional growth. Most senior management and senior professional jobs require an advanced degree.

Doctoral Degree

The doctorate degree is the highest degree you can earn in most fields. Also called a “terminal degree,” this signals that you’ve achieved the highest level of academic mastery in your chosen field, and can work as a professional researcher, a university professor, or in an executive leadership role.

This degree demands an enormous commitment of time, energy and (sometimes) money. But in exchange for this commitment, you will achieve a specialized level of authority in your field and opportunity in your profession. A doctorate can lead to greater opportunities for professional advancement and higher earning potential. It’s also the basic threshold for certain advanced professional roles, including the licensed practice of psychology, professorship, or professional research.

Many of the universities that offer full-time bachelor’s degree programs also offer opportunities to earn your doctorate. To get started on your search, check out the The 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019
and find out who offers a doctoral program in your field.

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