What Degree Should You Get ? An Education Road Map

What degree should I choose?

A college degree is a great way to improve your career opportunities, but deciding which college degree you should pursue can be confusing. There are many different types of college degrees available and each type has its own benefits. Here’s an overview of the five main types of college diplomas: bachelor’s degree, associate degree, master’s degree, doctorate, and professional degree. 

Associate’s degree

An associate’s degree is a two year college diploma awarded to students primarily at community colleges but sometimes from universities. An associate’s degree is generally classified as either an A.A. (Associate of Arts) or A.S. (Associate of Science). Sometimes there is a third category called A.A.S. (Associate’s of Applied Science) which is a diploma given when a certificate for a specific skill is awarded, for example completion of a Emergency Medical Technician program results in an A.A.S. 

There are many different types of jobs available to those who complete an Associate’s Degree. Most of these jobs require very specialized skills, which is why in contrast to the first two years of four year college which is filled with basic education requirements, the two years spent in an Associate’s program are focused primarily on a specific job skill set. Some of the jobs you can get with an Associate’s degree are HVAC specialist, paralegal, industrial drafter, physical therapy assistant and many more.

Bachelor’s Degree

One common question people ask when they’re planning their education path is what college major to choose? If you have decided on pursuing a bachelor’s degree there are several things that will help guide your decision such as your skillset (do you like working with numbers?), work experience (do any jobs interest you?) and future dreams that may require a certain type of educational experience. 

Generally four year universities that award Bachelor’s Degrees are organized in different colleges like Business, Literature, Engineering, Science and many more. Each of these different disciplines require the same type of prerequisite courses so you don’t need to choose a particular area of study immediately upon enrollment in college, but once you are through your first few semesters the degree plans get extremely specialized, so it is a good idea to know what you want to do with your college diploma once you graduate.

Job opportunities for people who hold Bachelor’s degrees vary state to state.  For example, in Arkansas the average salary for college diploma holders is $31,000 per year while in Texas that number jumps to $37,000 per year. Most employers looking to hire college graduates prefer a candidate that focuses their learning in the area of interest of the company. For example, most advertising companies prefer to hire job candidates with communication degrees. While this is a general rule, it isn’t always the case, sometimes the simple act of having a college diploma (in anything) is enough to prove perseverance and intelligence to a prospective employer.

Master’s Degree

A Master’s Degree is a program that typically follows a bachelor’s degree for most students looking to further their education. There is a range, but most Master’s programs take two years and require around 30 additional hours of coursework. In addition, participants in a master’s program may be required to complete a large final project or thesis paper in order to earn their diploma.

Most master’s degrees fall into one of three categories: M.A. (Master’s of Arts), M.S. (Master’s of Science) or M.B.A. (Master’s of Business Administration). There are few jobs that require a Master’s degree, but some of those that do are Healthcare Administration, Library Science, and Clinical Psychologist.

Doctorate

A doctorate degree is the highest traditional academic degree. Earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) can be a long endeavor, taking anywhere from three to 10 years of study. Typically a doctoral program requires a final dissertation that requires extensive research and support of a topic in the student’s field of study. Most doctoral programs require 60 hours of coursework to complete.

The vast majority of those who hold doctorates are employed within academia, meaning they are either teachers or professors in one area of study or another.

Professional Degree

Another path for those seeking post secondary education is to become either a doctor or lawyer by attending medical school or law school. These two professions command a high salary and require an extensive period of study. Both programs take three years to complete at minimum, though many students choose to stay for advanced degrees which can last from six months up to four years.

Income is not guaranteed with either degree, however those who have earned them are more likely than college graduates or college dropouts to be employed full time in the workforce. In fact professional school graduates report income nearly double that of college graduates on average across their careers.

Not sure what direction to take?

It can be daunting to consider all of the options available for education after high school. Whether to seek a college diploma or plan ahead to a career in medicine with a professional degree is a huge decision to make. One thought that could help you decide is to simulate your educational future. Take the time to order a college diploma to the degree and field you are considering from a company like ValidGrad. Not only could you see if your name near a prospective degree feels right, but once you do make a decision, you can use the fake college diploma as motivation through the long hours of studying required to earn the real thing. Start your educational journey off right with a replica diploma that can help you manifest the reality.

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