Type of Degrees

College Degrees Worth the Most Money
College Degrees Worth the Most Money

Learn about the four-degree levels, including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Also, read about the different types of degrees, including award titles and program lengths and requirements.

There are four major categories of degrees available for postsecondary students. These university degrees are associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in order of complexity. Earning one of these degrees can take 2-8 years, depending on the degree and field of study.

Graduate-level university degrees may require students to complete one or more undergraduate programs before enrollment. Students can consider which program best fits their career goals and academic interests when comparing different degrees. Keep in mind that all college degrees require completing a high school diploma first.

Degree Level Average Completion Time (full-time) Common Prerequisite
Associate degree 2 YearsHigh school degree (diploma) or equivalent
Bachelor's degree 4 YearsHigh school degree (diploma) or equivalent
Master's degree 1-2 Years Bachelor's degree
Doctoral degree 2+ Years Master's degree (sometimes bachelor degrees are acceptable)

Types of Degrees

Associate Degrees

Community colleges, technical schools, and some four-year colleges and universities offer associate degrees. The most common associate degrees are in liberal arts and sciences, but many specialized associate degrees are available. For example, an associate degree in business administration can prepare you for a career in the business world. In contrast, an associate degree in nursing can prepare you to become a registered nurse.

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


Bachelor’s Degrees

There are many different types of bachelor’s degrees. The most common type of bachelor’s degree is the Bachelor of Arts degree. This type of degree is awarded to students who complete a humanities or social sciences program.

A Bachelor of Science degree is awarded to students who complete a science or mathematics program. There are also specialized bachelor’s degrees, such as the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and the Bachelor of Music degree. The different types of degrees available in a bachelor’s degree program include the following:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) – teachers; writers, counsellors, lawyers, researchers, curators
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) – chemists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) – actors, dancers, artists, authors
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) – engineers, software developers, project managers
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) – entrepreneurs, managers, business executives
  • Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) – architects, interior designers, industrial designers, city planners


Master’s Degrees

A Master’s degree is an advanced degree earned by completing graduate-level coursework. There are many different types of Master’s degrees, including the Master of Arts (M.A.), the Master of Science (M.S.), and the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).

The most common type of Master’s degree is the M.A., which is awarded in various subjects, such as English, history, and sociology. The M.S. is typically awarded in science and engineering disciplines, while the M.B.A. is awarded to students who have completed a business-related program of study. Master’s degrees can be earned in both online and traditional on-campus formats.

Different degree programs available at the master’s degree level include the following:

  • Master of Arts (MA) – academics; authors, therapists, professors, researchers
  • Master of Science (MS) – data scientists, software engineers, mechanical engineers
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) – executives, CEOs, professors, business consultants
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) – authors, poets, creative directors, professors
  • Master of Laws (LLM) – judges; law firm partners, lawyers, politicians
  • Master of Publishing (MPub) – graphic designers, typographers, publishers


Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees are the highest level of academic degrees that can be earned. Universities confer them to recognize a student’s successful completion of an extensive and rigorous program of advanced academic study. A doctoral degree typically requires between 3 and 7 years of full-time study, depending on the specific field.

There are a variety of different types of doctoral degrees, including the Doctor of Medicine (MD), the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), and the Doctor of Optometry (OD). The most common type of doctoral degree is the Ph.D., which is awarded in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Other popular postgraduate degrees include the Juris Doctor (JD) and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

Ph.D. graduates are qualified to work as experts in business or research and professors at the postsecondary level. Common types of doctoral degrees include those listed below:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – academics, professors, specialists in a field, writers, scientists
  • Juris Doctor (JD) – lawyers; legal librarians, law firm partners, legal scholars
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) – doctors; surgeons, medical scientists, instructors
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) – dentists, dental surgeons, orthodontists
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) – University presidents, high-level educational administrators, provosts

While there are many different college degrees, the four main degree levels include associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate.


Online Degree Programs

Do you need more flexibility to get the degree you’ve wanted to go after? More and more universities provide distance learning opportunities that allow students to manage their schedules to better study around other time commitments. In addition, over 1,600 accredited public and private colleges offer online degree programs that grant students at all levels degrees in various subjects.