This article will address the college degrees in order based on the length of time and credit hours it takes to obtain each degree. These college degrees in order are not based on difficulty or any suggested path. Simply, many students do not concern themselves with the low level degrees or certifications and begin their academics with the goal of a Bachelor’s or high degree level.
Many local community colleges and some pretty prestigious universities are now offering certificate programs. This certificate will allow you to be recognized as an expert in a certain profession or have a specific body of knowledge. This is not a substitution for an actual degree and is often used to augment an existing degree or gain credibility in an industry. The typical certificate program is one semester.
This degree typically signifies the half-way point to a bachelor’s. In certain industries this is enough to begin your career in an entry-level position. In an industry that values experience more than education, this may be an excellent career oriented move.
Individuals going after an associate’s degree are usually going to work in a specific industry that requires training. However, these students believe that since they will be in training for two years, it will be more beneficial to obtain the degree as well as certification in whatever profession they have chosen. This is really the lowest level of our college degrees in order article as a certificate program really isn’t a degree.
A Bachelor’s is the benchmark that most be reached in nearly any profession. The Bachelor’s indicates that you have a well-rounded general education with an emphasis in a certain set of skills. This is indicated by your degree, major, and often minor as well.
As the workforce in general becomes better educated, many jobs in the future will require the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree for any professional position.
After obtaining the Bachelor’s degree, some students continue with their education towards a Master’s. This typically takes an additional 2 – 3 years after you have already achieved the Bachelor’s and may be the highest degree you can obtain in your field.
Once you obtain a Master’s you have a full education and can be considered an expert in your field of study. You can usually consider yourself qualified for nearly any position in your area of study.
Doctorate / PHD
These two are grouped together as one is not necessarily higher than the other, although they can be. There are also some specialist degrees that can be considered above a Master’s but lower than a Doctorate such as the JD and MD. These degrees are typically a Bachelor’s plus 3-4 years. However, a PHD or other doctorate degree, that is also a professional degree, may require a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and an additional 2-5 years of education.
Once you obtain this status you have a professional degree in most cases and you cannot further your education. You have hit the ceiling and are qualified for any position within your industry. Indeed, many people that obtain this ultra-high status focus more on shaping the industry rather than just participating in it.
The college degrees in the order above exclude some very specific degree types that are in place for specific professions. This list just covers the main degrees.