What is the Difference Between an Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree?

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There are several types of college degrees suited for different purposes: an associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree are the most popular types. Each type is based on the length of time spent in school as well as the complexity of the study program. A high school diploma or GED is required before entering any of these programs. Additionally, suitable scores on entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT for the associate's and bachelor's degree are required as well as a GRE, GMAT, or other test for the master's degree. For more information on degree types, visit this link from Gear Up! www.gearup.wa.gov/resource/types-degrees.

Associate's Degree

An associate's degree is normally earned at a community college and is earned in two years. It usually focuses on general education requirements that can be later used towards completing a bachelor's degree after two more years of study. Some associate programs are also geared towards a specific profession such as one in the healthcare industry, computer technology, or business administration. Visiting an online college's program of study page can provide you with some ideas.

Bachelor's Degree

While a person can use an associate's degree towards a bachelor's degree, most students enroll straight into the bachelor's degree program. Programs can be found in virtually every field of interest from animal husbandry to languages to fashion design. These four-year programs provide the foundation required for attaining the majority of jobs in the United States. Roughly two years of the program are spent on a broad general education covering subjects commonly seen in high school: mathematics, English, sciences, history, and languages. Traditionally, students spend between 15-18 hours per week in the classroom.

Master's Degree

A master's degree is an advanced degree completed after the person has completed his or her bachelor's degree. The college or university normally requires the bachelor's degree to be in a related field. For instance, a person with a bachelor's degree in English literature will likely need to take some science courses before being able to enter a program for a master's degree in Chemistry. Master's programs are highly specialized depending on the job that the student is interested in obtaining upon graduation. Programs can vary but last from one to four years depending on the field of study and how many classes the student takes per year. Oftentimes master's students are attending classes while also working full time. Some jobs, such as a lawyer or doctor, require such complicated training that they will require further education past a master's degree called a doctorate.

Determining the type of job that you wish to obtain will help you to choose which degree and which field of study to follow. Asking people in the career you are interested in about their education level is one place to start. Additional resources can be found at a school career center or community job center. For a look at recent college graduates and which degrees they hold, check out this information from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.