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How Do College Degrees Work

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Exploring College Degree Levels

Casually Explained: Guide to College and University

While it is possible to achieve a high-paying job without a degree, completing a basic college degree is a great asset for long-term career progression. With so many types of degrees to choose from, its easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure of the best educational path for you.

What is a college degree able to do for your career? It all depends on your field of choice and long-term goals.

Explore the list of college degrees, below, in order from lowest to highest. Discover the benefits of different types of degrees and understand how you can work through these levels of education to further your career.

Types of Associate Degrees

If youre just starting out with higher education or want to add education credentials to real-world experience, an associate degree could be a great fit.

Different types of associate degrees, such as an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts , are 60 credits and can be completed in 2 years or less, and are a great first step toward earning an entry-level job or promotion. There are job opportunities for associate degree holders across many fields, including:

An AS degree will prepare you for jobs available across many industries including marketing, information technology and accounting. While earning an AA degree can help you develop the soft skills employers look for such as problem-solving, critical thinking skills and communication.

Types of Bachelor Degrees

Types of Masters Degrees

Types of Doctoral Degrees

The Value Of A College Major

About seven-in-ten college graduates say their undergraduate or graduate field of study is at least somewhat related to their current work and only 29% say they should have selected a different undergraduate field of study to prepare them for their ideal job, according to the Pew Research survey.

But these views vary significantly by field of study and how far an individual went in school. By most measures tested in this survey, science and engineering majors are more likely than respondents with degrees in liberal arts, social science or education to say their education is a better fit with their current job and career goals. At the same time, those with graduate or professional degrees are more likely than other college graduates to say their job is closely related to their studies.

For example, only about a quarter of science and engineering majors say they should have selected another major to better prepare them for their ideal job. In contrast, a third of all liberal arts, social sciences and education majors express a similar view.

In a similar vein, social science, liberal arts and education majors are significantly more likely than science and engineering graduates to say they are overqualified for their job .

Most Say Job Is Related to Major

The survey found that about seven-in-ten college graduates say their work is very closely or somewhat closely tied to their undergraduate or graduate degree.

Millennials and their Majors

Other Demographic Differences

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In terms of level of study, the college degree programs in order are:

  • Associate degree
  • Masters degree
  • Doctoral degree
  • Its important to think of college degrees in order for a few reasons. For starters, knowledge for a bachelors degree differs dramatically from whats required for a doctoral degree. By moving through the degrees in order, you leverage previous academic knowledge to address new challenges. Prior education can form a strong foundation for future learning.

    It’s also important to consider the different time and financial requirements of each degree type, as well as a given degrees impact on your career prospects. You might, for example, research what education is typically required for a position in your desired field. This can help you figure out the level of education you need to earn to reach your goals.

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    Choose A Degree That Fits Your Career Path

    Each college has subtle differences, particularly with bachelors degrees and their requirements. Colleges also have different accreditation policies, depending on what system a school uses. Higher education has also changed a lot in the past few years, so take some time to learn how recent college changes impact your education.

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    Doctoral Degree And Professional Degree

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    The doctorate and professional degrees are the highest levels of education one can attain. They signify mastery of a subject and often come with the coveted title doctor. Although the two are similar, there are some important differences.

    A doctorate or doctoral degree is a research-oriented degree focused on scholarly development. The most common doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy . Despite the name, a PhD covers many disciplines, not just philosophy.

    A professional degree is an application-oriented degree, meaning it prepares students for a specific working position. There are many types of professional degrees. Some examples are: doctor of medicine , doctor of pharmacy , and doctor of medicine in dentistry in the field of medicine, and juris doctor and doctor of juridical science in the field of law.

    A graduate degree does not need to precede a doctorate or professional degree. Often, students will go straight into a doctorate or professional program following their bachelors, however some programs will require a masters degree to gain entry. Completion can take anywhere from four to eight years, depending on the field of study.

    Many doctoral students work either full-time or part-time while they study in the program. This, along with the field they are studying, will significantly affect the time it takes to complete their degree.

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    Types Of Us Higher Education

    “I like that schedules are flexible, classes are fun, and the variety of activities I can participate in.”

    1. State College or University

    A state school is supported and run by a state or local government. Each of the 50 U.S. states operates at least one state university and possibly several state colleges. Many of these public universities schools have the name of the state, or the actual word State in their names: for example, Washington State University and the University of Michigan.

    2. Private College or University

    These schools are privately run as opposed to being run by a branch of the government. Tuition will usually be higher than state schools. Often, private U.S. universities and colleges are smaller in size than state schools.

    Religiously affiliated universities and colleges are private schools. Nearly all these schools welcome students of all religions and beliefs. Yet, there are a percentage of schools that prefer to admit students who hold similar religious beliefs as those in which the school was founded.

    3. Community College

    Community college graduates most commonly transfer to four-year colleges or universities to complete their degree. Because they can transfer the credits they earned while attending community college, they can complete their bachelors degree program in two or more additional years. Many also offer ESL or intensive English language programs, which will prepare students for university-level courses.

    4. Institute of Technology

    Certificates Diplomas And Degrees Explained

    Learn about the most common types of certificates, diplomas, and degrees offered by post-secondary schools.

    Consider types of Minnesota State schools and a liberal arts education to see how these awards might match your educational goals. Also check the requirements for each school. You might need a specific degree before being eligible for another.

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    Many Successful Leaders Dont Have College Degrees

    You dont need a college degree to be successful these leaders dont have one!

    1. Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs went to Reed College for computing but dropped out after just one semester. After spending some time in India, he went on to build one of the most powerful and influential companies today: Apple.

    2. Richard Branson: As a dyslexic student, Branson didnt have much success in school and dropped out of high school. He is now a billionaire, and the founder and CEO of Virgin Group.

    3. Dave Thomas: Founder and former CEO of Wendys, Thomas left high school to work for a restaurant in Indiana. He opened the first Wendys in 1969 and the rest is history!

    4. Michael Dell: Dell went to college because his parents wanted him to become a doctor. But during school, he started a side gig refurbishing computers that became so successful, he dropped out after one year.

    5. Rachael Ray: Believe it or not, Rachael Ray has no culinary training or any degree for that matter. She used her skills, personality, and tenacity to become the amazing food star that she is today.

    6. Henry Ford: Ford left his familys farm at the age of 16 to move to Detroit and work as an apprentice in a machine shop. He has no formal schooling in engineering or business but went on to revolutionize the automotive and business world.

    Laws On Granting And Use Of Degrees

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    In many countries, degrees may only be awarded by institutions authorised to do so by the national or regional government. Frequently governments will also regulate the use of university in names of businesses. This approach is followed, for example, by Australia and the United Kingdom. The use of fake degrees by individuals, either obtained from a bogus institution or simply invented, is often covered by fraud laws.

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    The Transition From High School

    University can be quite different from high school, especially academically. In high school, you have smaller classes and a teacher that follows up with you. There are many types of support at university, but you’re more responsible for your learning and for seeking help when you need it.

    Lily, a third-year Arts student, says the social transition to university is also a shift. “Balancing a social life and staying on top of classes requires commitment and organization. Both are very important in being healthy and happy at university. I book in time to study, but also to do things that I love, like going to choir practices, attending Arts Student Union meetings, or checking out events on campus. University is truly what you make it. Putting yourself out there and trying new things makes the experience a lot more fun!”

    While your own experience will depend on the university and program you choose, a typical weekday will include a variety of classes.

    Choosing What To Study

    As an undergraduate student, you’ll have a major which will be the main focus of your studies.

    Waterloo’s programs and majors range from psychology, biochemistry, and geography to public health, nanotechnology engineering, data science, and many more that you’ve likely never heard of! That’s an exciting part about university discovering new areas of study.

    Each program or major will have a number of required courses you need to take along with electives that you can choose. At many universities, you’ll be able to make your class schedule each term, especially in programs that don’t have a lot of required courses. You’ll need to maintain a certain average each term in order to progress onto the next term.

    You can enhance your time at university by pursuing an international exchange or applying to a co-op program or internship to gain paid work experience. Most universities will facilitate this process for you.

    “With so many students going to college and university these days, I wanted to get a jump on the career competition. Co-op allows me to build my résumé in a variety of fields and positions before I even graduate. I get to try out different career paths and see what I like and don’t like about different companies and office cultures. I’ve been able to learn what I want to do with my degree and to discover options I would have never known existed.” Katelyn, third-year Arts student

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    A College Degree Is Beneficial But Not Always Required

    Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

    You dont necessarily need to go to college to earn big. There are plenty of high-income earners who did not go to college, and many high-paying industries that welcome non-college graduates.

    Start-ups in technology, for example, may be more interested in your skillset and potential than a degree. You can also start your own business in something you excel at, such as consulting, marketing, design, or freelance programming all of which can pay well without a degree.

    You also dont need to go to college to become an expert in an area. Personal and professional experience, coupled with online resources can give you expertise in your field that a college degree cannot. In college, you dont learn tenacity like you do from the fails and successes of real-life experiences.

    In addition, your degree could be useless by the time you graduate. Take computer science, for example. The introductory programming course taken in freshman year of college will likely be irrelevant for a job four to five years later. Industries such as technology and science are always changing a better way to learn and become successful in your field is to keep yourself updated on industry news.

    Cost Of Getting A Bachelors Degree At A College Or University

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    Your tuition will likely be the largest part of your costs of studying at a US college or university. Total costs can vary depending on where you choose to enroll for your bachelorâs degree program, whether your school is public or private, whether you qualify for financial aid and/or scholarships, and the amount of time you are enrolled.

    An engineering, pre-medical, or pre-law bachelorâs program may have higher tuition compared to business, language, or physical education majors, because of the length of the program and the resources required to obtain the qualification. For example, a pre-medical degree can take up to six years to complete. Lab equipment and hospital resources may be required for coursework, which cost more compared to the resources required to complete a four-year language degree.

    The university you choose also affects your costs. Public universities offer degrees that cost 73% less compared to private universities. Typically, this is because a public university receives government funding, whereas private universities rely on tuition, endowments, and donations from individual benefactors, foundations, and private organizations.

    In addition to tuition, it is important to consider living expenses while you are studying for your bachelorâs degree, including rent, food, utility expenses, medicine, and other daily essentials.

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    How You Define Success

    Ultimately, it is up to you to determine how you define success for yourself. If you are able to start your own business, continue a family business, or start small in a company and move your way up without a degree, do you consider that success? Or will you always feel the need to have graduated from college no matter your career path? Do some self-reflection on how much a degree matters in your own definition of success for yourself.

    Who Should Seek A Bachelors Degree

    Whether you are a student or professional of any age or background, obtaining a bachelorâs degree in the US can get you closer to your goals. A bachelorâs degree program helps you become an expert in your preferred field of study by developing your theoretical and practical knowledge â which can then be useful for your career in the US . Anyone who has a keen interest to learn, develop their skills, and expand their future opportunities can consider seeking a bachelorâs degree.

    No matter which bachelorâs degree program you choose, studying in the US can be an exciting and rewarding experience. If you need help applying or deciding which university or college is the best fit for you, you can always reach out to an education advisor for personalized guidance.

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    What Is A Bachelors Degree

    A bachelorâs degree is an undergraduate degree in which you study a subject of your choice at an academic institution, and is commonly known as a college degree. Getting a bachelorâs degree can enhance your access to job opportunities, expose you to new ideas, and boost your earning potential.

    Fast facts about bachelor’s degrees:

    • Traditionally obtained in-person at a college campus, bachelorâs degrees have become increasingly easier to earn online as well.

    • Though many students pursue a bachelorâs degree immediately after high school, it is not uncommon to seek one later in life.

    Let’s review key things to know about bachelorâs degrees in the US, including how much they cost, whatâs needed to apply, and whether an online or in-person experience is better for you.

    Postgraduate Diploma And Postgraduate Certificate Level 7

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    Shorter than a Masters degree, but at the same level, a PgDip or PgCert is ideal if you want to take your undergraduate studies further, but dont want to commit to something as intensive as a Masters degree.

    Many postgraduate diplomas and certificates are vocational, so if you have a career goal in mind and need a qualification to give you the edge, theyre the right choice for you. As these courses are shorter than Masters degrees, theyre easier to fit around your current job.

    A PgDip is worth 120 credits, and the shorter version, a PgCert, is worth 60. While they can be studied on their own, a PgCert can lead to a PgDip, which can lead to a full Masters course. This means you can study to the level you want, with the option to continue your studies to the next stage.

    Youll see different awards on some of our postgraduate course pages, indicating you can study the course to various levels, for example: Educational Leadership and Management MSc/PgDip/PgCert.

    You usually need a Bachelors degree to enrol on a PgDip or PgCert course, or an equivalent qualification. If you dont have an undergraduate degree, but you do have relevant work experience, you might have the necessary skills and knowledge needed for postgraduate study. Youd need to discuss your eligibility with the admissions team for the course youre interested in.

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