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The Levels of Higher Education

Higher education in the United States was initially established just after settlement times, to train and educate ministers. Modelled after many Scottish and English universities, Harvard University was founded in 1636, by the Massachusetts colony. The College of William & Mary was founded shortly after. Followed by Yale College, Princeton University, Columbia University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Dartmouth College respectively. These higher education institutions became known as The Ivy League.

These institutions and many other established throughout the history of the country collectively offer comprehensive studies and degrees at the Associate, Bachelor, Master’s, and Doctoral levels. Each level of study requiring a more rigorous program of academic studies than the next. What do these degrees mean? And how long does it take to obtain each degree is a typical question posed by many considering post-secondary studies. So, let’s visit each.

Associate Degree

Associate-level degree programs meet general education requirements, often requiring a commitment of a two- years study programs. An Associate degree will allow you to take a step into your work field of study, providing the necessary train and studies to be successful in an entry-level position, and the studies necessary to transition into a 4-year degree of study. Typical degrees offered on an associate level are; Associate in Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Science (AS), and Associate of Arts.

Bachelor’s Degree

The bachelor’s degree undergraduate program typically takes four years of committed studies to complete. The bachelor’s degree program requires that each student choose an area of study. This area of study should be well thought out. It should be an area that you are willing to commit your time and energy to. And, should be the foundation of what you anticipate your career path to be. Your Bachelor’s degree can be either: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Applied Science(BAS).

Many higher education institutions offer comprehensive study programs that include core courses that cater to your specific area of studies such as Theater, English, Journalism, Chemistry, or Mathematics. They also include electives which are courses that may be linked to your major at some schools but are not required to be tethered to your major at other universities.

These elective courses may range from being taught rap lyrics or learning about the evolution of music, to cognitive neuroscience. The idea of an elective is to be a class of your own choosing, whether it is an option from a predetermined list, or a course open to encourage and allow you to explore and broaden your interests and college experience. Dependent upon your Major’s path of study, the expectations of electives you choose are determined by the institute you attend.

Graduate School

Graduate schools are not separate institutions usually. They are schools that offer advanced academic degrees like the Master and Doctoral degrees. The prerequisite for the graduate school includes being awarded an undergraduate degree while maintaining an above average GPA. Graduate school allows students to specialize in their area of study by combining education, training, and research. The combination of the graduate student’s efforts is presented in the defence of their thesis or dissertation, as a requirement to graduate.

Graduate schools are termed only in the United States and are known as other terms worldwide. It is known as a “postgraduate education” in Canada and other English-speaking countries like Australia, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and the UK).

Master’s Degree

The Master’s degree graduate program extends beyond your Bachelor’s. To complete this graduate program, you will be required to complete an additional 1-2 years of study. The Master’s degree allows you to further specialize your study program and career path. Because this is a rigorous program that requires a minimum GPA and thesis or dissertation that can be over 100+ pages to complete, it is understood that many individuals who complete the master’s graduate degree program have their eyes set on executive and advanced level positions inside organizations.

Completing the master’s degree program is a tremendous accomplishment. It is a stepping stone to the doctoral degree program and includes the following degrees: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Science (MS).

Doctoral Degree

A doctorate is the most advanced degree in an academic discipline. The PhD program generally requires that the individual hold a master’s degree, but there are many programs that accept individuals that hold only bachelor’s degrees. Acceptance into the doctoral program often requires above average scores on standardized tests, and highly touted recommendations into the program.

Completion of a doctoral degree usually entails around fours years of study combined with close to eight years of work. Individuals granted a doctoral degree are considered authorities in their respective areas of study, as the extent of research in their field of study has afforded them the right to an array of teaching, writing, publishing, managing, administration, and research, catapulting their professional credibility and drastically improving the quality and impressiveness of their resume.

There is no doubt that a doctoral degree comes with a degree of excellence. The degree of study, research, and the amount of time dedicated require an amount of unspoken respect. Whether the doctorate is a Juris Doctor (JD), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Dentistry (DDS), or a Doctor of Medicine (MD), the level of discipline is revered, and all are considered experts and/or professors.

How to Choose Your Path of Study

Choosing your major can be an incredibly difficult decision. College and universities around the world encourage students in every way possible to help in making the decision less stressful. However, it is ultimately your decision to make. There are many factors that may help in making that decision. You must first consider your interests. What is the thing you always wanted to be? Other factors include the cost, location, and courses offered. You will want to weigh the institution’s culture, are you social? Student life. How much money do you want to make in your life? Will you need to take that field of study further? If you stick with Psychology, will you pursue your master’s or doctoral degree?

In a nutshell, what is your return on your investment? Yes, higher education is an investment. It is an investment in yourself. You are investing your time, effort, and money on educating yourself. The decision begins and ends with you. The world is yours, choose wisely. And remember that every level of degree is unique to the individual. What may work for you, may not work for someone else.

 

 

 

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