What is the order of the different degrees you can earn in college?

There are several types of degrees:

  • Associate's degrees (two years)
  • Bachelor's degrees (four years)
  • Master's degrees (one-two years plus Bachelor's degree)
  • Doctoral Degrees (four-ten years plus Bachelor's or Bachelor's and Master's degrees).

The order is usually the following:
  1. Certificate of Completion (not a degree) - These typically take anywhere from eight weeks to a year to complete. Careers including criminal justice, food service and financial planning, are examples of occupations that may require a certificate of completion. (However these types of certificates are not required for any degree.)
  2. Associate's Degree - This type of degree requires about 60 credit hours of study. Some examples of careers that require an associate's degree are surgical technology and drafting technology. Many students who complete an associate's degree program often transfer into a bachelor's degree program. (Some people get associate's degree before going on for a higher degree, but it is not required. Some jobs require an associate's degree as a minimum, but depending on the field, you might need a bachelor's, or even higher.)
  3. Bachelor's Degree - The bachelor's degree is the most popular of all the degree programs. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree must complete between 120 and 128 credit hours. Students pursuing professions such as public administration, computer systems development, human resources and more take this study path. (A bachelor's degree is often a requirement for many jobs and higher degrees.)
  4. Master's Degree - In order to obtain a master's degree, students must have already obtained a bachelor's degree. Usually, students are required to write a thesis or be able to apply work experience to the degree program in order to obtain a degree.
  5. Doctoral Degree - It takes about five years for the average student to complete a doctoral degree. In order to obtain this degree, students must write a publishable thesis, complete their own original research and complete a course of study.

You can also get certified (get a certificate) at higher levels in areas of specialization along with specific degrees, but again, certifications are not degrees. One example of this would be a teacher certification, which a bachelor's degree in teaching or many other subjects might be working towards.

Within each degree, except doctoral, there are Arts degrees and Science degrees i.e. Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.).

Doctoral degrees are divided into Research Doctorates (Ph.D.) or Professional Doctorates (M.D. or J.D.).