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List of Degrees: Most Popular Degree Programs by Level

College degrees in the U.S. are offered at four levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, masters and doctorate. Many programs are available at each of these levels including vocational degrees such as the Associate of Science (A.S.) and academic degrees such as a Master of Science (M.S.).

The degree levels offered in the U.S. are summarized in the table below. A range of different types of programs is available to suit the ambitions of every student. How many of these degree levels an individual needs to complete will often depend on the scale of their ambition.

List of College Degrees in Order

Degree Orders Degree Types Degree Duration
Undergraduate Associate’s degree 2 years
Undergraduate Bachelor’s degree 4 years
Graduate Master’s degree 1 – 2 years
Graduate Doctoral degree 5-7 years

So, now we know what degree levels and types exist, let’s take a look at the most popular university degrees in the U.S. today.

Undergraduate Degrees

Based on the range of programs available and student enrollment, the two most popular types of undergraduate college degrees are associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. An associate’s degree is at the shortest duration of the two as it usually takes two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree requires four years of study. Credits obtained from an associate’s degree can normally be applied to a bachelor’s degree program.

Associate’s Degrees

Associate’s degrees are typically offered by community colleges and trade schools with awards for general subject areas at this level being conferred as an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Science (A.S.). More vocational associate’s degree programs are available for students looking for more specific professional training. These vocational options include the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) or even more focused degrees such as the Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN).

Bachelor’s Degrees

Another common undergraduate degree is a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are offered at all universities and 4-year colleges in the U.S. The most commonly awarded bachelor’s degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Some colleges may also offer more specialized degrees such as the Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) or Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). The award of B.A. is typically for programs in the humanities and social sciences, and the award of B.S. is usually for traditional science programs, although this can vary from one institution to another.

Data reported by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2019 suggests that the most popular bachelor’s degree programs are in business, health, history and psychology.

Graduate Degrees

Graduate degrees provide students with the opportunity to undertake advanced study which builds on their undergraduate education. There are two main types of graduate degrees in the U.S.: master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Master’s degrees usually have the shortest duration of study at 1-2 years, while doctoral degrees typically require five to seven years of study and research.

Master’s Degrees

Most universities and liberal arts colleges offer a range of master’s degree programs. In a similar way to bachelor’s degrees, there are two main types of master’s degree: Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Science (M.S.). However, many professional master’s degrees exist and their titles are numerous and will depend on the profession they are associated with. Popular professional master’s degrees include the well-known Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees are regarded as the highest college degrees an individual can aspire to earn and are offered by many public and private universities. The most well-known doctoral degree type is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). This award is given to academics who have completed a period of advanced original research/writing that they have defended in front of an examination committee. A growing type of specific doctoral programs now also exist which combine advanced practical skills with research, for example, the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).

Doctoral degrees that are tailored for specific professions are often referred to as professional degrees. While these degrees are essentially doctoral degrees, they are generally regarded as a distinct type of degree and are offered at very specific types of schools such as those that specialize in medicine and law. The most common professional degrees include:

  • Medical Doctor (M.D.) – physician’s degree
  • Juris Doctorate (J.D.) – a law degree
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) – dentistry degree
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) – pharmaceutical medicine degree


Source: study.com


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