Choosing the Right Degree Program

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Whether it’s for educational purposes or to advance in ones career, obtaining an academic degree has become the main goal for many who seek an education. Studies have shown that academic degrees can significantly higher the chance of individuals succeeding in the working world. People often seek higher degrees believing they will land a better job and also to make more money, although this notion is true not everyone can have the same result. However, our society views education as a sign of success, productivity, and character so achieving a degree has proven valuable.

There are several degrees and individual can pursue and many different avenues for the pursuit of higher education. The education system in the United States has had the same threefold system for academic degrees since the end of the 19th century. Individuals can earn one of the following degrees from the majority of colleges and universities across the country:

• Bachelor’s Degree (Bachelor of Art or Bachelor of Science)
• Master’s Degree (Mast of Art or Master of Science)
• Doctorate Degree

In recent decades an associate’s degree has become an increasingly popular degree for individuals to achieve. An associate’s degree is considered to be one of the easiest degrees to achieve. Associate’s degrees in the United States are awarded pre-dominantly by junior colleges, community colleges, and technical schools. Occasionally, four year bachelor-granting universities and colleges will also award associate’s degrees for individuals who seek them. There are several associate’s degree programs an individual can pursue with all of them including a heavy dose of pre-professional coursework.

The next step on the ladder of academic degrees is a bachelor’s degree. Roughly 80% of students in the United States enroll in a four year university in search of attaining a bachelor’s degree upon graduation. Bachelor’s degrees are awarded to students upon successful completion of coursework tailored towards a specific field and generally take four years to earn. However, there are exceptions with bachelor’s degrees in architecture or engineering often taking five years to complete. Some universities will allow students to move at an advanced pace, either through higher class loads or advanced placement in order to achieve a bachelor’s degree in three years. The most common bachelor’s degrees issued today are the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Students who focus their studies on academic realms such as English or Chemistry will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, while those who focus on a profession such as finance, political science, or nursing will earn a Bachelor of Science degree.

People who want to further their education after a bachelor’s can achieve a master’s degree. In the United States a master’s degree is always obtained after a student has successfully completed their bachelor’s degree program. Much like a bachelor’s degree, a master’s can be awarded to students based upon their area of study. Most students will earn either a Master of Arts or Master of Science. The structure of a master’s course can vary from institution to institution. Courses are usually comprised of course-based or research-based work and at times it is even comprised of a mixture of the two styles of study. However, not every university or college offers master’s degree programs. Students may have to enroll in a different institution to continue their education in search of a master’s degree since some institutions offer students only a few areas of study.

A doctorate, or Ph.D., is considered the pinnacle of education as it is the highest degree an individual can earn. The doctorate was first introduced into the U.S. educational pyramid in 1861 when Yale University awarded the first ever doctorate in the country. Traditionally a student needs to complete a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree before being accepted into a doctorate program. However, in recent years some universities have directly accepted students after their completion of an undergraduate program. Most doctorate programs include course-work, research, a comprehensive exam, and finally a dissertation paper to successfully complete a degree. Some even require field or teaching experience for a doctorate to be completed. While a master’s degree is viewed as more of a professional degree, a doctorate is normally attained by those who wish to go on and teach in fields such as literature, philosophy, law, and medicine.

A PhD, or doctorate of philosophy is the most commonly attained doctorate; but there are many others that include:

  • M.D. or Doctor of Medicine
  • Pharm. D or Doctor of Pharmacy
  • D.V.M or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
  • DMD/DDS or Doctor of Dental Medicine/Doctor of Dental Surgery

In this day and age, individuals can follow various routes in search of a degree. Upon completion of High School, the journey towards a degree can vary for most. Some will enter the workforce only to find that they want or need an advanced education to further their career. Often times these individuals will seek out an associate’s degree specific to their current field of work and complete their coursework at a community college or technical school. Many individuals go directly from High School to a four year higher learning institution. Some will enter with a chosen degree in mind and set about achieving that specific degree through appropriate coursework early on. Others are unsure and will fulfill liberal arts requirements while determining which degree would be of best interest. After completion of an undergraduate degree students often take two different paths. Those who entered college with a very clear goal in mind, and high aspirations, may go directly into a master’s program followed sometimes by a doctorate program.

Others will test the waters in the workforce and may return to school later in life to achieve a master’s degree to further their prospects in their career field. While past generations of Americans found wealth and success without more than a High School education, the business landscape has changed dramatically and few people are as successful in life without a degree of one sort or another. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a 2002 study showed that the average adult with just a High School education could expect to earn $1.2 million over their lifetime, compared with $1.6 million for associate’s degree holders and $2.1 million for bachelor’s degree holders. The value of a degree isn’t found just in its financial gain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates are higher among those without a degree than among those who hold a degree. Even though individuals can succeed in life without a degree, the extent of their success is likely limited as employers prefer to hire those with a college degree. While attaining a degree can be costly, there are many different ways in the modern world to earn a degree; some don’t even require individuals to leave the house. One thing is clear for certain, having a degree of one kind or another is better than having none at all.