What Are Academic Degrees?

Most colleges and universities award academic degrees upon completion of particular programs of study. Academic degrees are required to begin working in many career fields. Read on to find more information about academic degrees.

Overview On Academic Degrees

Academic degrees are granted by nearly all institutions of higher learning, from small community colleges to large universities. One might choose to pursue an academic degree for personal enrichment, career preparation, or to fulfill an occupational requirement. The most common academic degrees conferred by colleges and universities in the United States, in order of gradation is:

  • Associate's
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Doctoral

Important Information On Academic Degrees

Prerequisites Typically a high school diploma or equivalent for an associate's and bachelor's
Continuing Education Some degrees are supplemented with internships, training or certificate programs
Online Availability Full and partial programs are available online
Degree Fields Varies depending on goals and desired career path

Associate's Degrees

An associate's degree is awarded by community or junior colleges, but 4-year colleges and universities may also offer the degree. The completion of a minimum 60 credit hours, which is typically two years of study, is required. Associate's degrees are mainly classified as Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees, though other types are available.

Bachelor's Degrees

The bachelor's degree is the most commonly awarded of all academic degrees. This 4-year undergraduate degree requires completion of at least 120 semester hours. A bachelor's degree is needed for many occupations, and it's also a prerequisite for graduate school. The two most common bachelor's degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS).

Master's Degrees

Some professionals such as social workers, and some teachers, are required to hold a master's degree. Master's degrees are categorized as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS), though some are specialized, such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Master's degree programs usually entail 2-4 years of study.

Doctoral Degrees

The highest of academic degrees is the doctoral degree. In many cases, a doctoral degree is the requirement of a specific career. The Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) are the most common doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. can be earned in many disciplines, and it is often required for a teaching position at a 4-year college or university.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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