Types Of Degree Programs Offered By Universities And Colleges

Chances are that you might have heard of the degree qualifications such as BA, or a BSc. and had a hard time trying to understand what those symbols mean. In this article we are going to look at the types of degree programs offered by Universities And Colleges. College and university degrees generally fall into four categories:

  • associate’s degrees.
  • bachelor’s degrees.
  • master’s degrees.
  • doctoral degrees.

Each degree level varies in duration, requirements, and academic strength. Here are the different types of degrees and their average durations:

Degree LevelDegree TypeAverage Duration
UndergraduateAssociate’s degree2 years
UndergraduateBachelor’s degree4 years
PostgraduateMaster’s degree1-2 years
PostgraduateDoctoral degree5-7 years

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Undergraduate Degrees

An associate’s degree has a duration of the two years, while a bachelor’s degree requires average of four years to complete.

Associate’s Degrees

Associate’s degrees are normally offered by community colleges and trade schools. Depending on the discipline, students may be required to undergo practical training, such as internships and practicums. The entry requirement for associate degree programs is at least a high school qualification.

An associate’s degrees can be used to find employment or as a stepping stone foundation for a bachelor’s program. For example, an applied associate degree in accounting, education, or technical fields can be used as an entry-level qualification for finance, teaching, or information and computer technology jobs.

Associate degrees generally fall into three categories:

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)

Associate of Arts (AA)

AA degree programs generally focus on giving the foundation to prepare students for liberal arts bachelor’s programs. AA degrees are offered for liberal arts subjects, such as:

  • humanities
  • sociology
  • communications
  • English.

However, they also offer specialisation courses in areas like early childhood education, social work, or digital photography and graduates have possible careers that include teacher assistants, desktop publishers, photographers.

Associate of Science (AS)

AS degree programs incorporate liberal arts courses, but with more scientific and technical coursework than AA degrees. AS programs generally focus on giving the foundation to prepare students for bachelor’s programs in areas like accounting, paralegal studies, business administration, information technology, and pre-dental education.

AS graduates students have a variety of careers paths to persue, including as paralegals, web developers, bookkeepers, and information clerks.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor’s degrees are offered by all universities and have an average duration of 4 years in many countries. The entry requirement for a bachelor’s degree is a high school certificate with passes in the required subjects.

There are several different types of bachelor’s degrees depending on the major but the most awarded are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Other types of bachelor’s degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Bachelor of arts (BA) degrees are usually awarded in liberal arts, humanities and social science programs. Here are a few examples of programs where the BA is awarded:

  • Communication
  • Education
  • English
  • Foreign languages
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Political science.

Bachelor of Science

Bachelor of science (BS) degrees are usually awarded to natural science and engineering majors. Some common majors where BA is awarded include:

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • Physics

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degrees are usually awarded for visual or performing arts majors such as:

  • Painting
  • Creative writing
  • Graphic design
  • Film and photography
  • Music
  • Theater and dance
  • Visual arts

Honours and non honours bachelor’s degrees

In UK and other countries that follow the British higher education system, bachelor’s degrees are classified into 2 types:

  • honours degrees (denoted by the abbreviation “Hons” after the degree name)
  • non honours degrees, also known as pass degrees, ordinary degrees or general degrees)

An honours degree typically requires a higher academic standard than a non honours degree, and in some cases an additional year of study beyond the non honours bachelor’s. It offers a chance for bachelor’s graduates to develop research and professional skills. Because of this, an honours degree is considered more superior than a normal degree.

A bachelor’s degree with honours is suffixed as follows:

  • Bachelor of Arts – BA (Hons)
  • Bachelor of Science – BSc (Hons)
  • Bachelor of Engineering – BEng (Hons)
  • Bachelor of Laws – LLB (Hons).

Some countries that have honours degrees:

  • Nigeria
  • Zimbabwe
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Bangladesh
  • Australia
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • India.

Read more: A List Of Undergraduate Programmes Offered By University of Zimbabwe (UZ)

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Postgraduate Degrees

Postgraduate degrees are undertaken by graduates of undergraduate degrees to advance their study in respective fields. There are two main types of graduate degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. while doctoral degrees typically require 5-7 years of study and research.


Master’s Degrees

Master’s degrees generally have of duration of study at 1-2 years. The most awarded types of master’s degree: Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Science (M.S.). Master’s degree programs typically blend coursework, projects, and research. Applicants for master’s programs should have at least a bachelor’s degree. After completing a master’s degree, graduates can apply for a doctoral degree.

Some examples of master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Master of Laws (LL.M.)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Publishing (M.Pub.)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Social Work (MSW)

Master of Arts

Master of Arts (MA) degrees are postgraduate degrees usually offered in humanities and social sciences departments, such as English, history, communication, philosophy, and political science. Students of MA programs are typically required to complete their coursework in their specialty areas, take a master’s exam or thesis to demonstrate mastery in the subject.

Master of Science

Master of Arts (MS) degrees are postgraduate degrees usually offered in social science, natural science, and technology departments, such as biology, physics, psychology, mathematics, statistics, or engineering. MS programs typically involve quantitative analysis and research over qualitative analysis.

Master of Fine Art

Master of Fine Art degrees are award for postgraduate studies in disciplines such as painting, sculpture, dance, theater, creative writing, graphic design, and photography. Students are typically required to complete coursework and projects in their respective fields.

Photo by George Pak from Pexels

Photo by George Pak from Pexels

Doctoral Degrees

A Doctoral degree is the highest level of formal education a student can earn and is offered by many universities. The most well-known doctoral degree type is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) which is awarded to academics who have completed a period of advanced original research/writing that they have defended in front of an examination committee. Some disciplines offer a research-based Ph.D., while others offer an applied doctorate. Doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree.

There are different types doctoral programs depending on the major. Common types of doctoral degrees include:

  • Medical Doctor (M.D.) – physician’s degree
  • Juris Doctorate (J.D.) – a law degree
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) – dentistry degree
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) – pharmaceutical medicine degree
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
  • Doctor of Engineering (Eng.Sc.D. or Eng.D.)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Theology (Th.D. or Ph.D. in Theology)

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D) is a research-based doctoral degree. Ph.D., students are typically required to complete coursework, pass doctoral examinations, and research an original dissertation topic which they must defend before a faculty committee in order to earn their degree. The duration of a Ph.D. program varies depending on the discipline.

Here is a list of some common Ph.D. programs:

  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
  • Doctor of Engineering (Eng.Sc.D. or Eng.D.)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Theology (Th.D. or Ph.D. in Theology)

Applied Doctorate

An applied doctorate trains graduates for careers in specialised fields. Applied doctorate programs focus on real-world skills and abilities, and usually incorporate an internship for hands-on experience. For instance, a doctor of business administration (DBA) degree is a training for business professionals for leadership positions.

Examples of applied doctorates:

  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA)
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)
  • Juris Doctor (JD)

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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