What Is the Definition of Academic Programs?

All institutions of higher learning offer academic programs. Read on to get a more detailed look at the definition of academic programs and to find out about available program options.

Academic Program Overview

Academic programs comprise the core, required and elective courses that lead to a degree or certificate. Whether you're attending a 2-year program at a local community college or pursuing a graduate degree at a large university, you will be involved in an academic program. Some large universities might offer well over 200 academic programs. The main types of academic programs offered at U.S. colleges and universities are certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs.

Important Facts About Academic Programs

Admission Requirements High school diploma or equivalent for undergraduate programs; graduate programs typically require a bachelor's degree
Online Availability Some programs may be offered either fully or partially online
Financial Aid Options include grants, scholarships, loans and work-study
Accreditation Programs or schools accredited by an authoritative agency ensure the quality of education

Certificate Programs

Community or technical colleges typically offer academic certificate programs. These types of academic programs generally prepare students to enter a vocation after the certificate is awarded. Some certificate-based academic programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on experience to teach students a specific trade or skill. Other certificate programs are offered at the graduate level and add additional credentials to an individual's existing degree. Certificate programs take anywhere from a few weeks to two years to complete.

Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduate academic programs usually lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree in a particular area of study. These academic programs might offer seminars, internships, workshops and online courses in addition to traditional live classes. Academic programs leading to an associate's degree take two years to complete, while those leading to a bachelor's degree require four years of study.

Graduate Programs

Those who choose to pursue a master's or doctoral degree will enter graduate academic programs. Graduate academic programs can take between two and four years to complete. Many who enter these types of academic programs are already working in their field. In some cases, a graduate degree may be necessary in order to enter a certain career field. Business, education and law are among the most common types of graduate academic programs.

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