And some people choose to earn degrees that are for their own personal edification, or because they have a passion for a certain topic or discipline. Some doctorates of philosophy (Ph.D.) fall in this category. Emphasis here is on the some.
So what are your choices? There are certificates, licenses, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees, sometimes referred to as post-graduate degrees. We’ll take a look at each category.
Certificates and Licenses
Professional certification and licensing, in some fields, is the same thing. In others it is not, and you’ll find it’s the topic of heated controversy in certain areas. The variables are too numerous to mention in this article, so make sure to research your particular field and understand which one you need, a certificate or a license. You can do this by searching the Internet, visiting your local library or university, or asking a professional in the field.
In general, certificates and licenses take about two years to earn, and tell potential employers and customers that you know what you’re doing. When you hire an electrician, for example, you want to know that they are licensed and that the work they do for you will be correct, to code, and safe.
Undergraduate can be a confusing term. It encompasses those degrees you earn after a high school diploma or GED credential and before a Master's or Doctoral Degree. It is sometimes referred to as post-secondary. Classes can be taken at any of the many different kinds of colleges and universities, including those online.
There are two general types of undergraduate degrees, Associate’s Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees.
Associate’s Degrees are usually earned in two years, often at a community or vocational college, and generally requre 60 credits. Programs will vary. Students who earn an Associate’s Degree sometimes do so to see if the path they’ve chosen is correct for them. Credits can cost less and are usually transferable to a four-year college if the student chooses.
Associate of Arts (AA) is a liberal arts program that includes studies in languages, math, science, social science, and the humanities. The major area of study is often expressed as “an Associate of Arts Degree in English,” or Communication or whatever.
Associate of Sciences (AS) is also a liberal arts program with a greater emphasis on math and sciences. The major area of study is expressed here in the same way, “Associate of Science in Nursing.”
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) puts more emphasis on a particular career path. The credits are generally not transferable to four-year colleges, but the associate will be well-prepared for entry-level employment in their chosen field. The career is expressed here as, “Associate of Applied Science in Interior Decorating.”
Bachelor’s Degrees are earned in four, and sometimes five, years, usually at a college or university, including those online.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) focuses on critical thinking and communication in a wide variety of liberal arts areas, including languages, math, science, social science, and the humanities. Majors may be in subjects such as History, English, Sociology, Philosophy, or Religion, although there are many others.
Bachelor of Science (BS) focuses on critical thinking, too, with an emphasis on sciences such as technology and medicine. Majors may be in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Nursing, Economics, or Mechanical Engineering, although, again, there are many others.
There are two general types of postgraduate degrees, referred to as graduate degrees: Master's Degrees and Doctorates.
Master’s Degrees are usually earned in one or more years depending on the field of study. They are generally sought to improve a person’s expertise in their given field, and usually earn the graduate a higher income. A few types of Master’s Degrees:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Sciences (MS)
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Doctorates generally take three or more years depending on the field of study. There are professional doctorates, a few of which are:
- Doctor of Medicine (MD)
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
- Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) or Law
There are also research doctorates, known as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and honorary doctorates, awarded in recognition of a significant contribution to a field.