Certificates and Diplomas – Many community colleges offer more short-term training for those students who do not want to spend much time in training. A certificate or diploma program may last 1-2 semesters and zeroes in on a very specific skill set.
Associate Degree – there are two types of associate degrees.
1) Associate of Arts or Science. This is commonly a transfer degree that enables a student to take the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college or university.
2) Associate of Applied Science. This is a degree offered at community colleges and some private colleges. It usually involves career and technical programs which focus on a narrower skill set and finishes after about two years. The intent of this degree is to offer a two-year degree that enables a student to be job ready and will not require transferring to a four-year college. Many of these programs involve hands-on learning.
Bachelor’s Degree - This is well known as a “four-year degree”. The program of study consists of one to two years of general education courses in the areas of math, science, English, social science, humanities, foreign language, physical education. This is the “liberal arts” education of a bachelor program which helps a student to be well-rounded in all areas of academics as the student learns to be a critical thinker. In the final two to three years, a student specializes in their major area of selected academic study to be trained to work in a career in that field. It is called a bachelor’s degree in that by finishing the academic program the student is now able to “work on their own” having the skills necessary to work in their chosen field. Many colleges offer a “minor” program which in addition to the major, the student will have knowledge and skills in a connected field. For example, a student might major in business but minor in accounting. In finishing a bachelor’s degree, a student will commonly meet state or professional standards for professional licensing. Completing this degree completes a student’s undergraduate education.
Master’s Degree – This degree is part of graduate education in which the student has graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and the student seeks to enhance their knowledge and complete professional standards for higher positions. The master’s degree enables the student to understand and apply research. Written and oral exams may be required along with a graduate research paper.
Professional Degree – This is a degree that trains the student in specific professions such as, but not limited to, law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, etc. Usually it will require a bachelor’s degree as an undergrad and then law school, medical school, pharmacy school, dental school, etc. Some colleges do offer combination programs such as 3 + 3 for undergrad and pharmacy or law school.
Doctorate Degree (PhD, EdD, ThD) – This graduate education trains the student to do original research to discover knowledge never known before. As an example, Dr. James Van Allen discovered the radiation belts surrounding the earth and this was knowledge not known before. After research methods classes, the student will finish with a written dissertation completing an original research project and passing oral and written exams.