The types of educational degrees include associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctoral and professional. These range from two years of study to eight or more years of study after high school graduation. These broad types include different subtypes that are decided by the program of study you are pursuing.
An associate's degree takes about two years to complete and can be completed at a community college. Most associate's degrees are designed to transfer to a four-year degree program, except for an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), which is usually terminal (meaning that there is no further study available). Other types of associate's degrees are Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), and Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.). Most programs require sixty to seventy credit hours.
Most people choose to undertake a bachelor's, or baccalaureate, degree. A bachelor's degree usually is four years in length and requires at least 120 hours completed at accredited four-year institutions. Some bachelor's programs take more or less time, but these are usually professional degrees. Most bachelor's degrees consist of Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), though there are others, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.). Few bachelor's degrees are terminal, though most students do not seek study beyond a bachelor's degree.
A master's degree is undertaken for several reasons. Some earn a master's degree before seeking doctoral study. Professionals may pursue a terminal master's degree. Others may study for a master's degree to be eligible for an increase in salary or a promotion. Generally a master's program is one to two years in length and thirty to sixty credit hours long. Many universities and four-year colleges offer master's programs, though they may only offer one or two degrees. Most programs require the candidate to write a thesis for graduation. Usually a graduate earns a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.), but many others are offered as well, such as Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) or Master of Social Work (M.S.W.). Many master's degrees, especially professional degrees, are terminal. Examples of positions with terminal degrees are social workers and professors of fine arts.
A student does not need a master's degree to be admitted into a doctoral program. Most doctoral programs incorporate a master's into the curriculum. A doctoral program can take four or more years to complete, and much of the time is spent working on a dissertation. Completion of the dissertation and a dissertation review are required for graduation. Most graduates earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), though some degrees offer doctorates named for the field of study (such as a Doctor of Education, or Ed.D.).
Professional fields that are regulated by the government are separate from other doctoral programs. These fields include medicine, law and veterinary medicine, among others. Some require only two or three years of undergraduate work, but most admissions offices prefer the candidate to have a bachelor's degree. The professional program is then an additional three or four years or even more. Besides Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Juris Doctor (J.D. or Doctor of Laws) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), other degrees are Doctor of Pharmacy (D.Pharm.) and other medical fields (such as dentistry and optometry). Professional degrees are offered at specialized schools within universities, such as medical schools, law schools and pharmacy schools.