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Types of College Degrees

There are a number of different types of college degrees that you can get from universities and colleges, not all of which have always existed, and a number of different sorts of colleges granting those degrees.

Associate degrees are usually offered by community colleges, which require two to three years of full-time class work. People getting associate's degrees typically transfer to a college to work on a bachelor's degree, or sometimes are able to enter right into the work force, especially if their degree is in technology of some sort.

Community colleges sometimes offer diplomas or certificates in technical trades as well – degrees for technology specialists or a whole host of specific medical professions like for example, respiratory therapist, surgical technician, or x-ray technician.

Junior colleges are usually public and private colleges, very much like community colleges, only community colleges are usually public and private junior colleges.

The bachelor's degree, also called the baccalaureate, is traditionally a four year full time course that many people now complete in five full years (and many others in longer than that though not full time).

There are several types of bachelor's degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) is awarded to some students heading into the teaching profession;

  • Bachelor of Science (BS) is awarded to students who have taken most of their hours in hard sciences like chemistry, math, physics or biology;

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) is awarded to most liberal arts students;

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is given to those who have specialized in performance or visual arts, like painting or music.

Types of college degrees like Bachelor's degrees awarded by colleges and universities are usually sufficient to land an entry level job. Some bachelor's degrees are also professional degrees. For example, there are two types of nursing degrees:

  • The 4 year BS degree, RN (Registered Nurse) degree;

  • The shorter program - Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) degrees (LPNs are not able to do some of the things that an RN can).

Other professional bachelor's degree programs include, sports training, accounting or engineering.

There are a couple other professions, like criminal justice, or architecture, which usually require 3-2 programs, in which the first three years are spent in a bachelor's degree program, and then the other two years are spent in a specialized professional school.

Beyond the bachelor's degree, there are post-bachelor, or graduate, degrees. The first level of graduate degrees are known as master's degrees which usually take between 2 and 3 years of full time work and sometimes require writing a significant 100 and 150 pages research paper, known as a thesis.

The most common types of master's degrees are continuances of the bachelor's degrees:

  • Master of Science (MS);
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA);
  • Master of Education (Med);
  • Master of Arts (MA) and
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Students who want to continue studying after receiving master's degrees generally enter a doctorate program. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is awarded to those who have mastered a field of social sciences, liberal arts or hard sciences (which doesn't include medicine, which is also an applied science).

Doctorates who study education receive the EdD and usually use it to be principals college professors (or high schools), or college presidents.

There are also professional graduate degrees which usually take between 2 and 5 years and include components of traditional memorization style education as well as practical applications of that knowledge.

These types of college degrees are usually earned in professional graduate schools attached to colleges or universities – for example, the Harvard Law School, University of Michigan Medical School, or Calvin Theological Seminary (independent of but on the same campus of Calvin College).

Examples of professional graduate degrees include:

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO);
  • Juris Doctor (JD), a law degree;
  • Cleric degrees (for religious leaders) like the Master of Divinity (Mdiv) or
  • the designation of Rabbi; or Doctor of Dentistry (DDS or DMD).
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