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In the United States, there are many types of college degrees. Since the 1800s, most accredited four-year universities have followed a uniform system, offering them at the bachelor, master, and doctor level. Community or junior colleges typically offer a two-year associate’s degree. All of these degrees have different focuses and programs, and different universities require various levels of education and various requirements, though they are similar throughout the country.
At junior colleges, which are usually smaller colleges serving a relatively small number of communities, college degrees are pretty standard. The associate’s degree is awarded after two full years of study, around 60 credit hours, and represents pre-professional areas of study. They are offered as either transfer degrees or career degrees. Associate’s degrees are generally completed with common elective courses, and the credits may or may not transfer toward completion of a further degree at a four-year university.
The types of college degrees offered at universities begin with the bachelor’s degree. This degree is finished through four full years of classes, though it can be achieved in three or five or more. It usually requires around 120 credit hours and is certified as an undergraduate academic degree. The most common bachelor’s degrees attained in the US are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS). They usually require a certain number of elective courses, a declared major, and a number of higher level courses in the area of concentration. These degrees are equivalent to many of those awarded throughout Europe and Asia.
It's typically more difficult for a student to earn a master’s degree. The master’s is obtained after an additional one or two years of study after a bachelor’s. This degree includes many specialized courses and often professional work in a field, and as a result, someone who holds one might earn much more money in certain professions. Similar to the bachelor’s degree, it can be earned as an MA or an MS.
The next level of academic degree is the doctorate. This degree requires another one or two years of study, increasing the education time frame for earning the degree to 12 years. A doctorate can be required for some professions, like lawyers, professors, and therapists, and usually requires more fieldwork in the profession. In the United States, doctorate degrees also require the writing of a dissertation before a person can be declared a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.), or one of many others types of doctorates.