An academic degree is a type of certification that a student receives when they graduate from a school to show that they successfully completed all their classes. It is an official credential. They are given out by places of higher education such as universities and colleges. The number of college courses (separate school classes) required to graduate will vary depending on whichever college is attended. Before college, high schools are usually the only schools that give out actual degrees or diplomas to graduating students.
There are hundreds of different academic degrees, but they are often grouped into a few categories:
- Associate's degree: this is typically a 2-year degree, often obtained at a junior college.
- Bachelor's degree: this is typically a 4-year degree, earned by attending about 50 courses.
- Master's degree: this is typically a 1-year degree, earned by attending about 15-20 advanced courses.
- Doctorate degree: this is typically a 4-to-6-year degree, where a person must write a thesis as new research in their field of study.
The college courses needed for a master's degree, or for a doctorate, are often highly-advanced, difficult subjects, and they would be extremely difficult to understand unless a person had already attended the undergraduate courses. The reason the upper-level courses are so difficult, so hard to understand, is that they assume the person already knows, perhaps, 1,000 technical terms learned in earlier college courses. This is similar to having to know the Latin names of all 206 bones in the human body, as just part of those technical terms.
In many English-speaking countries these degrees are shown by letters which the person is allowed to put after their name, e.g. John Smith, BA. A bachelor's degree is usually the degree received at the end of a course. While the student is studying for a degree he or she is an "undergraduate". When he graduates he is a "graduate". He may continue with his studies and receive a master's degree or do some original work and write a thesis to get a doctor's degree (which does not mean a Doctor of medicine).
Some examples of degrees:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Music (BMus)
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Music (MMus)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
- Doctor of Medicine (MD)
- Doctor of Music (DMus)
- Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil)