Types of Degrees in College

Are you a senior high student and are you planning to pursue higher studies? But, you aren't quite sure about the types of degrees colleges provide? In this article, we have answered your query. Know all about associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

Updated by Shrestha Dey on 3rd March 2020

Earning a college degree is the best possible way to improve your career prospects. There are 4 major categories of college degrees you should know about when deciding your future education. They are - Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and Doctoral degree.

Earning these degrees may take 2 to 8 years depending on your level of degree and your field of study. However, each of these degrees has its own set of prerequisites which we shall be discussing in detail here. 

Table of Contents: 


Associate Degree

Associate degrees are 2 years programs designed to train you for entry-level positions in fields like nursing, graphic design and other vocational courses. These degrees are most commonly provided by community colleges, technical schools, and some 4-year colleges and universities too. The biggest benefit of an associate degree is the lower cost of credits which can be applied towards the completion of a bachelor's degree. The most common degrees available at the Associate level are-

  • Associate of Arts (A.A)

  • Associate of Science (A.S)

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Associate of Arts is designated to train you in the field of liberal arts and most often works as a transfer degree for bachelor’s. A.S also serves as a transfer degree and trains you to continue your graduate program in the field of science. While A.A.S is designated as an occupational degree and prepares you for a specific trade or occupation.


Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is a four years undergraduate program that requires you to have 120 credit hours. It requires you to choose a major area of study. Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for attending a grad school or a post-grad professional program. Bachelor’s degree offers jobs in entry-level or management level depending on the field of study. The most common degrees available at Bachelor’s level are-

  • Bachelor’s of Arts (BA)

  • Bachelor’s of Science (BS)

  • Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA)

  • Bachelor’s of Business Administration (BBA)

BA offers a wide variety of subjects in the field of liberal arts to choose from. BS covers majors such as engineering, accounting, physics, finance, and others. BFA is meant for professional actors, singers, dancers, painters, and more. It also provides major in the field of web design and digital media. BBA offers major in the field of management such as decision making, organizational psychology, and decision making.


Masters Degree

A master’s degree is usually a 2 years graduation program with an area of specialization. It requires a minimum GPA and acceptance score on a grad entrance exam like GRE. This program requires you to take up, complete and submit a thesis or capstone project for graduation. Most o9f these programs are professional in nature and are designed to help you develop advanced skills that will act as an aid in increasing your earning potential. If you complete a master’s degree, you are eligible for advanced or executive-level positions. The most common degrees available at the master’s level are :

  • Masters of Arts (MA)

  • Masters of Science (MS)

  • MBA (Masters of Business Administration (MBA)

  • Masters of Fine Arts (MFA)

MA focuses on liberal arts like history, philosophy and many other social science subjects. MS focuses on subjects related to science like Engineering. MBA focuses on management subjects like business administration etc. MFA focuses on courses related to visual and performing arts.


Doctoral Degree

Also known as Terminal Degree or Ph.D. program is the most advanced type of degree program offered by colleges. It requires you to hold a master’s degree and takes several years (minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 6-8 years) to complete. Ph.D. usually involves a major research project and completion of a dissertation. If you are in the medical field, it will require you to complete real-time medical practice. A doctoral degree makes you qualified to work in areas of research and professors at the post-secondary level and is often challenging and requires a full-time commitment. The most common doctoral degrees available are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

  • Juris Doctor (JD)

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Ph.D. is a research focussed doctorate program. MD is the most advanced degree available for medical students and requires a professional practice of medicine, JD is a research program pursued by lawyers. Ed.D is the highest degree available in the field of education and leads to positions in research and academics.


Concluding Thoughts

For someone who wants to start earning at the earliest, an associate degree is the best option. For others, there are bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to choose from based on their previous educational level. Whether you can get a good job without a college degree is highly debatable. 

But like someone said, “there is really no downside to getting more education” after all.