Going back to school is a way for many Americans to expand their professional opportunities and increase their income. Future students have a plethora of options to choose from depending on their field of study, and this guide provides a foundation to help understand the types of degrees that are available.
Certificates, Certifications, Diplomas
Depending on your reason for going back to school, there are a few options to consider that impact the financial and time commitment of a particular program.
Diplomas typically take the most time to complete and require the largest financial investment, while certificates can provide a shorter timeline to completion and may satisfy industry requirements depending on the field of study. Certifications help current professionals showcase their industry-specific knowledge to achieve a promotion or demonstrate a specialty.
Certificates, certifications, and diplomas all require at least a high school diploma or GED.
Types of Associate Degrees and Undergraduate Degrees
The shortest degree program is the associate track, which typically lasts two years and can be pursued in-person or online via community colleges and some four-year institutions. Graduates with an associate degree can either transfer to a four-year college to complete their bachelor’s degree or directly enter the workforce.
Depending on your field of study, students might pursue an associate of arts (AA) or associate of applied science (AAS) tracks. The coursework of an AA or AS degree often includes humanities and liberal arts while an AAS teaches practical skills within a field. Your degree track also influences which institutions they can transfer into post-graduation.
Many students choose to pursue a full four-year bachelor’s degree program due to the variety of majors and subjects offered at the university level.
Bachelor’s degrees are almost always required to apply to graduate degree programs and provide students the option to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. For example, a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication graduate can apply to entry-level marketing positions right after they finish school.
Graduates with a bachelor of business administration have the option to apply for an MBA after graduation to further their studies or apply to entry-level business positions.
Graduate Degree Types
Graduate degrees are advanced degrees that typically require students to have at least a baccalaureate. To apply to a graduate program, Depending on the format and subject matter of a particular degree, master’s programs last anywhere from nine months to four years.
An MBA teaches important business skills in various fields like human resources, finance, and accounting. Many graduates pursue their MBA immediately after they receive their undergraduate degrees, while others enter the workforce first to gain experience prior to applying to a program.
These programs are offered in a variety of formats, so whether it’s in-person, online, or at night, there are options for everyone. For those with c-level positions in mind, an Executive MBA is a way for them to showcase their prior experience through a business lens.
Professional Degrees and Doctorate Degrees
Depending on students’ fields of study and desired career paths, professional or doctorate degrees may be required. These terminal programs represent the highest level of education possible in their respective fields.
To practice law, students are required to complete a Doctor of Jurisprudence, or Juris Doctor, program. These law degrees are usually offered in a three-year format and can be paired with a variety of master’s degrees depending on the intended sector or field of work.
After earning a JD, aspiring lawyers must pass the Bar exam. The Bar exam is specific to the state that a lawyer intends to practice law, so students should plan on identifying where they want to live before they take that next step.
Nursing Degree Levels
Those planning on entering the lucrative and growing field of nursing must earn specific degrees for specific roles. Here are the most common types of nursing degrees.
LPN and LVN nurses receive more guidance and schooling than CNA nurses and spend up to two years in their program before they can enter the workplace.
To become an LPN or LVN, you must complete an approved program in the state where you want to work. LPN’s should be sure that they apply to accredited nursing schools and should expect to be in-person for a majority of the time. Once an LPN or LVN graduates, they can expect an increase in pay compared to CNA-level positions.
Choosing The Best College Degree For You
Future students should be excited that there are so many degree options to choose from and in a range of formats. Each year more and more online degree programs are developed to help provide flexibility for those that work full-time.