Types of Degrees at the University (from Associate to Professional)

author By Mary Boies

When one talks about getting a university degree, many people will think they mean a bachelor’s degree. This could be the case but not necessarily so.

Degrees at the university

In reality, there are six types of university degrees: associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, research doctorate degrees, professional degrees, and honorary doctorate degrees. In this post, you will discover everything necessary there is to know about these six types of university degrees.

Let’s get started.

Types of university degrees

If you plan to advance your studies or go to school after 30 years, here are the possible degrees you can look into and pursue in university. Based on the USA statistics and rates, we have expounded on each and looked at the types under each, the job prospects, and the estimated costs.

1. Associate degrees

An associate’s degree is an undergraduate degree (degree taken after high school). The degree gives students academic and technical knowledge that they can use to secure employment or to study further. Associate degrees are common in the United States, Canada, and Australia. They are also common in the United Kingdom, known as foundation degrees.

In the United States, associate degrees are usually offered in technical colleges, community colleges, and junior colleges. They are not offered in prominent universities. The degrees typically take two years to complete when one is studying full-time. They take longer to complete when one is studying part-time.

Unlike certificate and diploma courses, associate degrees are well-respected. They are well-respected even by blue chip companies. This is the reason why the majority of students who take them do so to secure employment. However, it is also important to note that a significant fraction of those who take them do so to prepare for bachelor's degree courses.

Types of associate degrees

There are three major types of associate degrees: Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), and Associate of Arts (AA). Examples of Associate of Science (AS) degrees include AS Degree in Hospitality Management, AS Degree in Business Administration, AS Degree in Biological Science, AS Degree in Environmental Science, AS Degree in Public Health, and AS Degree in Film Production Technology.

Examples of Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees include AAS Degree in Accounting, AAS Degree in Business Administration, AAS Degree in Criminal Justice, AAS Degree in Digital Art, AAS Degree in Fitness and Recreation Management, and AAS Degree in Fashion Business. And examples of Associate of Arts (AA) degrees include AA Degree in Liberal Arts, AA Degree in Music, AA in Business Administration, AA in Natural Sciences, AA in Journalism and Media, and AA in Sport Management.

The cost of getting an associate’s degree and job prospects

An associate’s degree is probably the cheapest paid degree to get. It will cost you about $3,600 a year in tuition fees to earn an associate degree at a public institution ($7,000 for a two-year course). It will cost you about $15,000 a year in tuition fees to get an associate degree at a private institution ($30,000 for a two-year course).

Once you get an associate degree, you will be qualified for entry-level jobs in whatever you study. For example, if you take an associate degree in web development, you can become a web developer (a highly paid job). If you take an associate degree in dental hygiene, you can become a dental hygienist (a highly paid job). Right now, there is a high demand for associate degree holders in business, healthcare, and technical fields. This demand is predicted to increase over the next couple of years. Therefore, getting an associate degree right now is a great idea.

2. Bachelor's degrees

Just like associate degrees, bachelor's degrees are undergraduate degrees. However, bachelor's degrees are not just another type of undergraduate degree; they are the most popular type of undergraduate degree in the United States. Twice as many students graduate with bachelor's degrees compared to those who graduate with associate degrees.

A typical undergraduate degree takes between 4 years to complete. However, several degrees take a bit longer to complete (5 years). There are dozens, if not hundreds, of bachelor's degree programs on offer right now in colleges/universities across the United States. In fact, it is fair to say that there is a bachelor’s degree for just about every profession you can think of.

When you choose a bachelor’s degree in a specific area of study, you can expect to be a well-rounded individual at the end of your bachelor’s degree program. You can then choose to continue studying in that same area or start working at the entry-level level.

Types of bachelor's degrees

There are three major types of bachelor's degrees: Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Bachelor of Science degrees are designed for students who want to pursue a career in science. Examples of Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees you can pursue in the US include BS in Computer Science Education, BS in Education, BS in Secondary Biology Education, BS in Information Technology, BS in Finance, BS in Psychology, and BS in Management,

Bachelor of Arts degrees is designed for students who want to pursue a career in the liberal arts. Examples of Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees you can pursue in the US include BA in Education, BA in Liberal Arts, BA in Political Science, BA in Communications, BA in History, and BA in Sociology.

Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are designed for students who want to pursue a career in fine arts. Examples of Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees you can pursue in the US include BFA in Visual Arts, BFA in Film Art, BFA in Animation & Visual Effects, BFA in Studio Art, and BFA in Creative Arts.

The cost of getting a bachelor’s degree and job prospects

It costs about $9,000 a year in tuition fees to get a bachelor’s degree as an in-state student ($36,000 for four years). Likewise, it costs about $25,000 a year in tuition fees to get a bachelor’s degree as an out-of-state student ($100,000 for four years). Remember, in addition to tuition fees; you must consider accommodation and living expenses. Also, remember that you can always apply for student loans and financial aid.

When you complete a bachelor’s degree, you will be in a great position to get an entry-level job related to your study area. For example, if you study for a BS in Information Technology, you can get a job as an IT expert. If you study for a BA in Animation, you can get an entry-level position as an animation associate or expert. People who graduate with a bachelor’s degree are in high demand across the US and worldwide.

3. Master’s degrees

A master’s degree is a postgraduate-level academic qualification granted when one completes a master’s degree. So what is a master’s level degree? It is a two-year postgraduate degree designed for those with a bachelor’s degree qualification to gain expert-level knowledge and expertise in a subject area.

A person who graduates with a master’s degree in a subject area is believed to possess an advanced level of knowledge in that subject area. In addition, they are believed to be capable of engaging in research in that subject area or working at a mid-level or high level in a related profession.

Many bachelor's degree holders opt for a master’s degree to get a promotion or a new job. Keep in mind that there are some master’s degrees that you can pursue just as long as you have a bachelor’s degree in your bag. You can also get a master’s degree just to gain more knowledge in a subject area you are passionate about. Earning a master’s degree doesn’t always have to be career oriented.

Types of master’s degrees

There are three major types of master’s degrees: Master of Science, Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Business Administration (MBA). The Master of Science degrees are designed to help BS graduates to gain advanced knowledge in specific scientific fields. Examples of Master of Science (MS) degrees include MS in Biology, MS in Engineering, MS in Chemistry, MS in Psychology, MS in Economics, MS in Accounting, and MS in Information Technology.

Master of Arts degrees are designed to help BA graduates to gain advanced knowledge in specific art subject areas. Examples of Master of Arts (MA) degrees include MA in Music, MA in History, MA in Geography, MA in Literature, MA in Linguistics, MA in Languages, MA in Communications, and MA in Education.

Master of Business Administration degrees is designed to help those in business to gain advanced knowledge in various aspects of the business. Examples of Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses include MBA in Global Management, MBA in Operations Management, MBA in Finance, MBA in Consulting, MBA in Entrepreneurship, MBA in Marketing, and MBA in General Management.

The cost of getting a master’s degree and job prospects

It costs about $25,000 a year in tuition fees to get a master’s degree as an in-state student in a public school ($50,000 for two years). It costs about $35,000 a year in tuition fees to get a master’s degree as an out-of-state student in a public school ($70,000 for two years). It is important to remember that tuition fees do not include accommodation and living costs.

Once you get a master’s degree part-time or full-time, you can apply for a promotion in the company you work for if were required to get a master’s degree to get a promotion. You can also apply for any vacancy that requires the applicant to have the master’s degree you have just earned.

There are many jobs for master’s degree applicants out there. They are usually very course specific except for the MBA ones. Most of them are high-paying jobs. So it is absolutely not a bad idea to get a master’s degree.

4. Professional degrees

Professional degrees can be undergraduate or graduate degrees. They are different from other types of degrees because they are designed to prepare students for a career in a profession where one needs a license to practice. For example, an MD degree program is a professional degree that trains you to become a medical doctor.

Professional degrees are usually approved by state-licensed boards. The boards usually approve the programs and set the qualification requirements, the entrance exams, and the passing exams. Because professional degrees are very specific, so they cannot be easily transferred from one university to another.

If you want to land a high-paying job immediately after getting a university degree, you should strongly consider getting a professional one. This is because virtually all professional degrees lead to high-paying entry-level jobs. For example, when you graduate with an MD degree, you become a doctor and start earning perfect money from the get-go. The case is the same when you graduate with a veterinary medicine degree.

Types of professional degrees

There are ten types of professional degrees: Doctor of Medicine (MD), Dentistry (DDS), Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Law (JD), Pharmacy (Pharm D), Physical Therapy (DPT), Podiatry (DPM), Optometry (OD), Audiology (Au D), and Chiropractic (DCM).

The cost of getting a professional degree and job prospects

It costs between $30,000 and $50,000 per year in tuition fees for an in-state student to get a professional degree. It costs between $30,000 and $100,000 per year in tuition fees for an out-of-state student to get a professional degree.

There are many high-paying jobs for professional degree graduates, especially those in the healthcare industry, e.g., medicine and dentistry degree graduates.

5. Research doctorate degrees

A research doctorate degree is a postgraduate degree designed to provide a master’s graduate with the next level of knowledge. It is the highest level of academic achievement/qualification across the world. In other words, once you get a research doctorate degree in a field, you cannot go higher than that.

The most popular type of research doctorate degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Over 70 percent of research doctorate degrees are earned in the sciences. Of course, a small percentage is earned in other courses.

Many people usually opt not to pursue a doctorate degree because of how long it takes to one. It generally takes between 4 and 8 years to earn a doctorate degree. How long it will take will depend on the course you are taking.

Types of doctorate degrees

There are several types of doctorate degrees that you can pursue in the United States. The most common ones include Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Information Technology (DIT), Doctor of Social Work (DSW), and Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA).

The cost of getting a research doctorate degree and job prospects

It costs between $30,000 and $60,000 to get a research doctorate degree ($240,000 and $420,000 for eight years). How much you will end up paying per year will depend on your doctorate degree and your status as an in-state or out-of-state student. The good thing about the cost of getting a research doctorate degree is that most such degrees are often sponsored.

The best thing about pursuing a research doctorate degree is the fact that you will almost always land a job teaching at the university level or in research at a prestigious institute involved in research in your area of specialization.

6. Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees, aka honorary doctorate degrees, are special degrees that do not require any special prior academic qualification to earn. Some people call them pseudo university degrees because you cannot really use one to get a job, a promotion, or to get into research. Instead, the degrees are awarded to honorary individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society. Most universities award just one person with an honorary degree during the graduation ceremony.

A committee usually selects the person from a list of nominated individuals. The chosen person to be awarded is typically asked to give a formal speech during the graduation ceremony. An honorary doctorate degree comes with the title doctor, but most recipients prefer not to be called a doctor. The people who frequently receive honorary doctorate degrees include musicians, environmentalists, human rights activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, musicians, and philanthropists.


There are 6 major types of university degrees – associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, research doctorate degree, professional degree, and honorary doctorate degree. For example, to get a research doctorate, you need a master’s degree; to get a master’s degree, you need a bachelor’s degree. Every type of university degree (except the honorary doctorate) will put you in an excellent position to get a job or a promotion.

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