College Degrees to Pursue After High School

A Breakdown and List of College Degrees to Pursue After High School

As you transition from the halls of high school to the institutes of higher education, you might be trying to figure out the path to a successful career. While there's a common belief among many that a traditional four-year college is the only career path after high school, there are many different paths that can lead to a happy and meaningful life.

The American education system offers a rich field of choices for students. There is such an array of schools, programs, and locations that the choices may overwhelm students. As you begin your school search, it's important to familiarize yourself with the various college degrees you can pursue. 

In this article, we provide you with a list of college degree programs in order from lowest to highest.


Associate Degree

Typically offered by community and technical colleges, an associate degree includes roughly two years of coursework. After completion, graduates often enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree.

An Associate Degree requires the shortest time investment that you can get from college. While many associate degrees prepare students to enter the workforce immediately upon completion, an associate degree can also be applied to your Bachelor’s degree efforts if you decide to continue your education after graduation. 

Associate degrees fall into three categories: Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Arts (AA), an Associate of Science (AS).


Bachelor's Degree

Offered by private and public colleges and universities, bachelor's degrees require a minimum of 120 credit hours of coursework. To enroll in a bachelor's degree program, students need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Applicants may also need to submit ACT or SAT scores. The first two years of a bachelor's degree consist of general education requirements and introductory classes for a student's major. During the second two years, students take advanced courses in their major. 

Depending on the field, a bachelor's degree is sufficient for mid-level and managerial positions.

There are several types of bachelor's degrees: Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Science (BS).


Master’s Degree

The first graduate level on a list of college degrees is a Master’s. There are two different types of these: academic and professional. If you earn an academic Master’s degree, you’re most likely continuing to get your Doctoral degree. As professionals, you probably are earning this degree to advance your career. Master's programs blend coursework, projects, and research requirements. Applicants to master's programs need at least a bachelor's degree. However, some schools require GRE or GMAT scores for admission. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers tend to earn more when they level up their education.

Common degrees include the Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), and Master of Business Administration (MBA).


Doctorate Degrees

A doctorate is the highest level of formal education available. Doctoral programs include coursework, comprehensive exams, research requirements, and a dissertation. They’re the last degree most professions can earn, and they can take between 5 to 7 years to complete. 

These degrees are extremely advanced and aren't offered in all subjects. In many fields, a Ph.D. meets the requirements to teach at higher education institutions. With a doctorate, individuals working in business can excel in executive positions. Lawyers need a JD, physicians need an MD or a doctor of osteopathy (DO), and chiropractors must have a DCM to practice.

Some variations of doctoral degrees include (Ph.D.) Doctor of Philosophy, (DBA) Doctor of Business Administration, and (DA) Doctor of Arts.


Professional Degrees

Separate from the Ph.D.; there are professional degree programs for aspiring doctors and lawyers. Much like doctoral degrees, professional degree type/name can be very specific to your field. Variations of professional degrees are (JD) Juris Doctorate, (MD) Medical Doctor, and (DDS) Doctor of Dental Surgery. 


Deciding On the Right Degree

As you can see, there are quite a few degree options you have when it comes to college. While some careers only require an Associate’s degree, others may demand a Doctorate. 

When researching careers and potential majors, it’s also important to research just how much education and what degree you’ll need to work towards your dream job.

Finding the right career is a process, not an event. 

So, be patient throughout the process, set goals, and follow a plan to achieve them. 

Your career plan should outline how you'll get to where you want to be, what actions are needed, and when, along with your short, medium, and long-term goals. Constantly review your progress, especially after each short-term goal is reached.

You must also establish a backup career development plan if your situation changes. 

As a high school student, your first short-term goal may involve improving your CV and cover letter. Other short or medium-term targets could include undertaking relevant internships, gaining volunteering experience, or attending careers fairs.

Do you want to know more about making the right choice for your college and career?
Book a Free One-on-One consultation with a career expert.

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