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US College Degree Levels Explained

Posted on June 12th, 2015 by Bryanna Davis

If you’ve been researching colleges and universities inside the United States and have hit a brick wall when discussion of degree levels came into the picture, you’re not alone. Many students trying to study inside the US find that determining which US degree level they need to pursue can be a challenge. During the month of May our guest advisors, Matthew Peipert and Jamie Battjes, from the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) hosted a Hangout On Air to bring you information on different degree levels. If you weren’t able to join the Hangout, here’s what you missed:

Undergraduate Studies
There are two types of degrees that fall within the undergraduate studies category: an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree.

An associate’s degree is obtained after the first two years of studies (or its part time equivalent), while a bachelor’s degree is obtained after a four or five year program (or its part time equivalent). The following associate’s and bachelor’s degrees can be obtained:

  • Associate of Science (A.S.)
  • Associate of Arts (A.A.)
  • Associate of Applied Sciences (A.A.S.)
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Graduate Studies
After your undergraduate studies have been completed, what’s next? If you wish to continue your education your graduate studies will follow. During this time you will pursue your master’s degree which can come in the form of any of the following:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A)
  • Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Post-Graduate Studies
Once you’ve obtained your master’s degree you’re then able to pursue a doctoral degree. You must obtain a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctoral degree as a doctoral degree is the most advanced degree level available.

Which degree do you need?

If you do not yet have a degree from a college or university you will start at the beginning and start the pursuit of either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Students are able to start their higher education journey by obtaining an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. After a bachelor’s degree is obtained students can purse their master’s degree, followed by a doctoral degree.

Keep in mind that not every school will offer every degree level. When searching for a college or university inside the US to attend ensure that they offer the degree you need.


Written by Bryanna Davis

Bryanna joined EIC in 2011 after returning to the United States from teaching English in China. Her interest in international education, sparked initially by her own study abroad experience in Wales, led her to the company. Bryanna is originally from Missouri and is a graduate from the University of Central Missouri.

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