An undergraduate degree marks the first step in your graduate course. It describes two types of degrees: associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. By earning an undergraduate degree, you can better prepare for a career or higher education.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with undergraduate degrees typically earn more and have lower unemployment rates than their less educated peers. In 2020, for example, workers with a bachelor’s degree reported median weekly earnings of $ 1,305, compared to their peers with a high school diploma who earned $ 781.
Is a bachelor’s degree the same as an undergraduate degree?
A bachelor’s degree is often referred to as an undergraduate degree, but it’s not the only degree that falls under the undergraduate degree. An associate’s degree, often referred to as a “2-year degree,” requires half the credits and takes much less time to complete than a bachelor’s degree, but it’s also an undergraduate degree. So if you are asking yourself “is a 2 year degree an undergraduate degree?” ” – The answer is yes!
What is an undergraduate degree versus a degree?
In the United States, an undergraduate degree refers to a program of study that you can pursue immediately after high school – or at any time thereafter. The first step on the higher education ladder is the associate degree. It offers you the option of earning credits which you can apply for a bachelor’s degree or which can lead directly to an entry-level position.
Bachelor’s degrees include general education courses and courses specific to your major that allow direct entry into a variety of career fields. You are not required to obtain an associate’s degree before enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program.
It is only after obtaining a bachelor’s degree that you can earn a graduate degree, which includes a master’s or doctorate. People who pursue higher education gain expertise in a particular field, develop leadership skills, or increase their earning potential. While some earn a master’s degree before entering a doctoral program, others do not. The requirement for a master’s degree to pursue a doctorate may vary by school and program of study.
What are the 4 types of diplomas?
There are four types of degrees you can earn, although you need to earn a bachelor’s degree before you can apply for graduate school. The good news is that you can decide at any time after you graduate to take graduate degree courses.
With so many part-time and online options available, earning a degree is more accessible than ever for adults with family or work commitments.
Associate degrees require 60 credits (the equivalent of 20 courses) and typically last 2 years. They fall into two categories: Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) and include courses that provide a knowledge base in your major.
Popular majors include:
At some institutions, you can transfer the credits you earned in your associate’s degree program to your bachelor’s degree. For example, if you come to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) with an associate’s degree, you can transfer up to 60 credits to your bachelor’s program.
Bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits (the equivalent of 40 courses) and typically take up to 4 years. Today, online learning options and shorter, more frequent periods give you the flexibility to take courses to suit your schedule. Ultimately, your course load determines how long it will take you to complete.
Bachelor degrees generally fall into one of the following four categories:
A Bachelor of Arts often focuses on the liberal arts and social sciences, which include majors such as:
A Bachelor of Science degree emphasizes majors in science, business, and mathematics such as:
The BFA focuses on the fine arts – such as studio art, creative writing, or music. Registered nurses seeking a BSN are generally looking to advance in their field.
To earn a master’s degree, you must pass a bachelor’s degree. Most master’s programs require you to complete up to 36 credits and can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years, depending on your course load. Today, you can take advantage of part-time online programs – which can speed up or extend the time it takes to complete – allowing you to progress through your degree at your own pace.
More specialized than a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree allows you to focus on one area of study. Common master’s programs include:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Education (M.Ed.)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Similar to a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree includes majors related to liberal arts and social sciences, but allows you to explore these areas in depth. Popular master’s programs include:
And, like a BS, an MS draws on scientific and technical subjects. Popular MS programs include:
If you decide to do your MBA, you will gain extensive experience in business management and have the opportunity to specialize in subjects such as accounting, business operations, human resources, and marketing.
An MEd helps you master curriculum and teaching and builds on your knowledge in areas such as special education, reading, and online teaching.
If you are a registered nurse working in a healthcare setting, an MSN can help you improve patient outcomes by teaching you how to manage and improve healthcare systems, policies, processes, and services. Finally, a Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree that allows you to teach studio art, music, or creative writing at the university level.
Doctorates, or doctorates, are terminal degrees that can last from 4 to 6 years. You can choose to seek a PhD if you are looking for advanced research opportunities or if you want to teach at the university level.
Popular doctorates include the Doctorate in Educational Leadership, which explores topics in social justice, equity, and leadership in the field and prepares you to lead organizational change. A PhD in International Business allows you to research global business opportunities and draw on research related to multinational business strategy.
In addition to a doctorate, other doctoral degrees include the Doctor of Medicine (MD), the Doctor of Education (EdD), and the Juris Doctor (JD).
What is a college major or minor?
Ideally, choosing the right university major can lead to a satisfying job and a rewarding career. Your major is the area you focus on as part of your college program. The purpose of choosing a major is to demonstrate competence in an area that will prepare you for a career in a particular area or for graduate study.
Before you get your associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose your major. According to College Board, you will take between one-third and one-half of your courses in your major. You can choose to do a “double major” or major in multiple areas, and others can also choose a minor, a specialization that requires fewer credits than their major. Yet at other universities you might be allowed to start your own major.
Although associate’s and bachelor’s degrees require you to choose a major, they have different deadlines when it comes to making a final statement. You won’t have to declare your major until halfway through your bachelor’s degree at some colleges, but because associate’s degree programs are much shorter, you will need to declare your major right away.
To focus on your major, US News and World Report offers the following tips:
- Take a variety of classes to find out what excites you
- Calculate the possible starting salaries related to the majors that interest you
- Heed advice from industry professionals
- Understand what your undergraduate major offers you
- Match your major to a useful minor
- Know that you can change your major
It’s important to choose a university that offers a variety of specializations in case your interests or goals change. For example, SNHU offers over 150 bachelor’s degree programs. If you plan to get an associate’s degree first, you should also make sure that the credits from your major will transfer seamlessly to your bachelor’s degree. Graduate programs by design are highly specialized, but they also offer both majors and concentrations.
Hanging up on what to specialize? Rest assured: your academic specialization alone is unlikely to determine how successful you will be in your career. Your degree, previous work experience, soft skills, and professional network are all key factors employers consider. In fact, only 27% of college graduates hold jobs related to their major, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Whatever your end goal, an undergraduate degree gives you an edge in a competitive workforce and an opportunity to expand your knowledge in a variety of fields.
Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11 is a writer and marketing / communications professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.