American academic degrees
Academic degrees are credentials given after taking courses at the college/university level. Academic degrees in the United States range from Associates degree to Doctoral degrees. Also there are undergraduate and graduate diplomas and certificates which take much less time than a regular degree. Degrees are classified by undergraduate level to graduate level.
Accreditation of academic degrees
See Academic Accreditation for more information on this subject.
Academic degrees are accredited on the National level and the Regional level. Accreditation is a quality-assurance system for academic institutions - it shows that a school is legitimate. However there are accreditation mills (similar to diploma mills) that offer fake accreditation to fake or substandard institutions.
Diplomas and certificates
A diploma or certificate is given over the course of study within several months or at most a year. These are for people who want a higher education but do not want a college degree. These credentials don't usually get a person a job but are meant for personal advancement.
Undergraduate degrees (research oriented)
Undergraduate degrees range from Associates to a Bachelor's degree. Associate degrees take 1-2 years of academic study to complete and are usually used to move on to a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree takes about 3-4 years to complete and are meant to obtain an entry-level job or move on to more advanced graduate study (i.e master's and doctoral degrees).
Types of undergraduate degrees:
- Associate of arts (A.A.): Generally meant for further study in a non-science field.
- Associate of science (A.S.): Generally meant for further study in a science or technology field.
- Bachelor of arts (B.A.): This type of degree can be used for an entry-level job or entrance into a graduate school. Mathematics degrees are sometimes given as a bachelor of arts.
- Bachelor of science (B.S. or B.Sc./B.Sci.): This type of degree is used for entry-level jobs and or further study into a graduate school.
Graduate degrees (research oriented)
A graduate degree is a type of academic degree is used for advanced research and potentially used to get into a higher level job.
Types of graduate degrees:
- Master of science (M.S. or M.Sc.): this type of degree is completed in about 2-3 years and it involves research courses and a thesis of about 60-100 pages in length.
- Master of arts (M.A.): this type of degree is almost the same as a master of science because it involves research and a thesis but there are courses that are not relevant to the main field of study.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D. or D.Phil.): this type of degree is a research degree that involves original research and contribution to scholarship. A research thesis called a "dissertation proposal" is about 50,000 words or about 250 pages in length. Once the dissertation is complete you defend it against a panel of 4-5 people, usually professors within the department. A unanimous vote among the panel is required for conferring of said degree.
- Doctor of theology (Th.D.): this degree is almost identical to the Ph.D. but research is done in theological/religious fields such as: pastoral theology, pastoral counseling, religious education, preaching and so on. In order to even be considered a candidate a student must have either a master of divinity (M.Div.), masters of theology (Th.M.), a master of arts or a masters of religious education (M.R.E). Like the Ph.D., a dissertation of 50,000 words is required and defense in front of a committee and or panel.
Undergraduate degrees (professional)
These degrees are solely meant for direct entry to the work force; sometimes people will go on to graduate study to obtain promotions or higher salaries. These degrees include associate of applied science, bachelor of applied science, bachelor of business administration, bachelor of education and bachelors of theology.
In some jurisdictions, the licence to work that these degrees confer can be gained by studying a research oriented bachelor's degree, followed by a postgraduate certificate or diploma (e.g. secondary school teaching in the UK)
List and descriptions of said degrees:
- Associate of applied science: Meant for direct entry into an entry level job (Example: medical laboratory technician)
- Bachelor of applied science: Meant also for entry level jobs which may include engineering.
- Bachelor of business administration: This type of degree is used for jobs in business such as accounting, management, marketing, human resources and healthcare administration.
- Bachelor of education: This degree is used for entering a teaching job.
- Bachelor of theology: This degree is a professional degree for those entering into the field of ministry.
- Bachelor of Religious Education (B.R.E): This degree is meant for people who want to be teachers who teach religion.
Graduate degrees (professional)
This degrees are meant for professional study for people who want to go from entry level jobs to higher level jobs (i.e., management) or someone with a bachelor of science or bachelor of science who intends to go into a professional field. These degrees include: master of divinity, master of business administration, master of theology, master of education/master of arts in teaching (ME.d. or M.A.T.), doctor of education (Ed.D.), juris doctor (J.D.), doctor of medicine (M.D.), doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.), doctor of optometry (O.D.), doctor of dental surgery/doctor of medical dentistry (D.D.S./D.M.D.), doctor of naturopathic medicine (N.D. or N.M.D.), doctor of chiropractic (D.C.), doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.), doctor of occupational therapy (O.T.D. or D.O.T.), doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.), doctor of nursing practice (D.N.P.) and doctor of ministry (D.Min.).
- Master of divinity: This degree is used for people who go on to be ordained ministers, requirements include theological studies, internships and a thesis.
- Master of business administration: This degree is an advanced business degree which studies may include: Advanced management and international business.
- Master of education/master of arts in teaching: This degree is used for licensed teachers who wish to further their skills
- Masters of theology: Like the masters of divinity, which is also used for people who are planning on becoming ministers, some schools require a master of divinity to be accepted into a Th.M. program.
- Doctor of medicine: This degree is used for people who want to practice medicine. In order to get into medical school someone must hold a bachelor of science degree in a biology-related field and must pass the Medical College Admissions Test (M.C.A.T.). Course work includes natural sciences (beginning of medical school) and clinical studies (end of medical school). Then once someone graduates from medical school, they must take the United States Medical License Exam (U.S.M.L.E.), then do a residency (see more below for further information) in their chosen field.
- Doctor of osteopathic medicine: This degree is almost exactly the same as an M.D. degree but D.O. schools require additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine. Graduates must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical License Exam (C.O.M.L.E.X.) or the U.S.M.L.E., then do a residency in their chosen field.
- Doctor of naturopathic medicine: This degree is offered at a very limited number of accredited schools in North America. Training does include natural sciences, like a regular medical school but there is pseudoscientific training in herbal medicine, acupuncture, Oriental medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathic medicine, hands-on spinal manipulation and psychological counseling. Upon graduation, students must take the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (N.P.L.E.X.) to get a license in certain states or Canadian provinces. There are residencies but they are substandard compared to normal medical residencies.
- Doctor of chiropractic: This is a professional degree that trains students in spinal manipulation in order to "cure" diseases. Training includes basic sciences and clinical practice. This profession is licensed in all U.S. states, and graduates take a licensing exam through the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. There are residencies but like the naturopathic residencies they are substandard.
- Doctor of dental surgery/doctor of medical dentistry: This degree is used for those who practice dentistry; training includes biological sciences and clinical practice. It is required to get licensed and there are dental specialties.
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.): This degree is used for practicing veterinary medicine which is basically a medical doctor for animals. Training is identical to medical school but students learn animal anatomy and physiology, veterinary pharmacology, surgery and so on. There is a licensing board and residencies.
- Juris doctor: This degree is an advanced law degree for people who are lawyers.
- Doctor of Ministry: This is a professional ministry degree for those who are ordained ministers who hold a Masters of Divinity or Theology. This is for those who wish to increase skill in ministry.
The degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.D., legum doctor) in Europe is an advanced degree in the academic study of law. In the United States, however, it functions as an honorary degree granted to famous or noteworthy individuals being honored by a university.
Post-professional education is generally for those in the medical field. These include post-professional degrees and medical residencies. Medical residencies are for those who became licensed doctors (medical doctors, osteopathic doctors, dentists, veterinarians, naturopaths, and chiropractors); these residencies are for medical graduates who go to choose their field of medicine. M.D./D.O. residencies include: primary care, surgery, gynecology, proctology, psychiatry, dermatology, oncology, toxicology and so on. Post-professional education includes master's degrees in a person's respective field of study.
Fringe degrees and diploma mills
This section includes non-mainstream degrees. These include mail order ordinations, diploma mills and substandard education. Credentials like these are generally unaccredited and may be illegal to use in some jurisdictions.
Examples of fringe degrees:
- Doctor of homeopathic medicine (offered through the American University of Complementary Medicine)
- Doctor of metaphysical science (offered through the University of Sedona)
- Doctor of Ayurveda medicine (offered through the American University of Complementary Medicine)
- Doctor of metaphysical theology (offered through the International College of Metaphysical Theology)
- Mail order ordinations (Through various Universal Life Churches)
Examples of Diploma mills: