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The decision to work toward one type of degree or another is an important one. For some fields, post-secondary education is highly recommended; in other fields it is more of a choice based on career goals.

For example, if you would like to become a physical therapy assistant, the associate degree is the appropriate degree for you. If you want to be a physical therapist, you'll need a master's degree from an accredited physical therapy program.

The different types of degrees can sometimes be confusing. This site is designed to help you understand the degree options available to you. Graduate education is the term used in the United States.

Traditional Academic Degrees

  • Associate's Degree
    Some schools (junior colleges, community colleges, and some four-year colleges and universities) offer an associate's degree, or A.S., for two full years of study, often in pre-professional areas, such as technicians or health care assistants. This may sometimes be used as credit toward completion of the four-year bachelor's degree.  Find out more...
  • Bachelor's Degree
    The bachelor's degree is the most commonly awarded undergraduate degree. It is usually a four year program. And, with regard to the fields covered on the Career Cornerstone Center, most programs offer a Bachelor of Science degree, or B.S. The vast array of bachelor's degree titles can be confusing. Find out more...
  • Master's Degree
    A Master of Science (M.S.) is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities, and is the most typical Master's Degree for the sciences and engineering. Admission to a master's program is normally contingent upon holding a bachelor's degree, and progressing to a doctoral program often requires a master's degree.  An M.S. degree generally can be earned within two years after the B.S. degree. Find out more...
  • Professional Science Master's Degree
    A Professional Science Master's (PSM) is an reasonably new graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics, while simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers. Find out more...
  • Research Doctorate Degrees
    The research doctorate is the highest earned academic degree in U.S. postsecondary education. Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is in principle publishable in a peer-refereed context (such as a research journal) and represents at least a modest contribution to human knowledge. The research is usually assessed by submission and defense of a thesis or dissertation, or of a suitable body of published work. The most common example of this type is the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Other examples include the Doctor of Engineering (DEng). The doctoral degree, which typically involves seven years of study and research beyond the BS degree, is usually completed by those interested in careers in research and/or teaching. Find out more...

Professional Degrees

  • First Professional Studies
    A first professional degree is a type of college degree designed to prepare the holder for a particular profession by emphasizing practical skills over theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government-approved body. Most professional degree programs require a prior bachelor's degree for admission, and so represent at least about five total years of study and as many as seven or eight. Examples of field of study include Dentistry, Surgery, Pharmacy, and Veterinary MedicineFind out more...

Special Non-Academic Degree Programs

  • Postdoctoral Programs
    A postdoctoral scholar, or a "postdoc" is an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a period of mentored research and/or scholarly work. Postdoctoral appointees can pursue basic, clinical, or translational projects so long as their primary effort is devoted toward their own scholarship. Postdocs are essential to the scholarly mission of the host institution, and are expected to have the freedom to publish the results of their scholarship. Find out more...
  • Certificate Programs (Undergraduate)
    Certificate Programs usually are intended to certify that students who have successfully completed the program are prepared to enter the careers associated with the chosen certificate. They usually take at least one to two years to complete. These are not considered academic degrees, but can qualify recipients to find jobs in some fields.  These should not be confused with "certificates of completion" which might be provided for attending a workshop, or completing a professional development course.  Also, Certificate Programs do not constitute "certification."  Certification procedures vary from field to field, but generally require an exam or state/federal test and recognition that a body of knowledge has been gained by a professional working in a field.
    In addition, several companies offer "certificate programs." Find out more...
  • Intermediate Graduate Awards (Graduate)
    Students at the graduate level may occasionally undertake specialized, short courses of study. Most of these study programs result in the award of a certificate, frequently called a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.). The C.A.S. is not considered a degree but it does constitute completion of a structured program of study at the graduate level. Find out more...



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