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Master’s in Teaching vs. Master’s in Education: What’s the Difference?

In many ways, a master’s in teaching and a master’s in education are similar degrees. Both focus on learning theory and pedagogy, curriculum development, child development and psychology, classroom management, assessment and measurement, educational technology, and research. Both can lead to careers in front of a classroom.

So what’s the difference? The primary distinction is that the master’s in teaching focuses more directly on teaching and classroom management. In contrast, the master’s in education is a broader degree, applicable to a classroom career but also to jobs in administration, curriculum development, and education policy. That said, it’s possible to become an administrator, curriculum developer, or education policy specialist with a master’s in teaching. It’s also possible to become a teacher with a master’s in education. The differences are not cut-and-dried.

Who typically gets a master’s in teaching vs. a master’s in education?

Your career aspirations will likely impact your decision on whether to pursue a master’s in teaching or a master’s in education. If you know you want to spend your career teaching, you’re more likely to pursue the teaching degree. If you hope to work in administration, policy, or academic research, you may opt for the education degree.

If you’re an aspiring teacher with a bachelor’s degree in an area unrelated to education, you should consider enrolling in a teacher residency program like the one at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. You’ll earn your master of arts in teaching (MAT) in a little over a year, plus you’ll accrue a full year of teaching experience as a resident teacher in. You’ll work under the supervision of an experienced mentor as you learn in your academic program. It’s an optimal opportunity to learn advanced teaching theory and practice and to put what you learn immediately into practice.

Career paths in education

A master’s degree qualifies you for a broad range of career opportunities in elementary and secondary education. Some are better suited to a master’s in teaching, others more appropriate for someone with a master’s in education. For many jobs, either degree is applicable. 

Careers with a master’s in teaching or a master’s in education

Education consultant.

Education consultants work with school systems, individual schools, teachers, and students to address learning, training, curriculum development, program implementation, and other education-related challenges. What an education consultant does depends on their area(s) of expertise. They may train teachers in new teaching methods, work with administrators to address specific safety issues, assist a school in launching online education programs, or consult with a district on curricular options. Most education consultants have previously worked as teachers or administrators. PayScale reports that education consultants earn, on average, $63,092 per year in base pay, with additional opportunities for bonuses, incentives, and commissions. The website sets the range of total annual compensation at $43,000 to $153,000.

Education policy analyst

Education policy analysts work with individual schools, districts, state school systems, and national education policy organizations to identify challenges impacting student and teacher performance. They work in government, think tanks, school boards, lobbying firms, and education consulting companies. Policy analysts might study how teacher compensation, class size, absentee rates, family income, and a raft of other factors affect student outcomes, then offer policy prescriptions to mitigate the problems they identify. According to PayScale , education policy analysts earn a base income of $63,129, with total annual income – including commissions, incentives, and bonuses – ranging from $44,000 to $96,000.

Instructional designer

Instructional designers work with faculty and other curriculum developers to create effective learning materials. They are experts in learning theory and the design and technology required to realize finished educational materials. The job once focused on hard-copy materials – textbooks, worksheets, and posters – but today, many instructional designers work in online learning, creating lessons adapted to the demands of distance education. They typically work in a design firm office or from home, either as freelancers or remote salaried employees. According to ZipRecruiter , instructional designers earn, on average, $80,182 per year.

Teachers lead classrooms and work with students individually in various subjects and specializations, depending on their training. They prepare lessons, create and grade assignments, track and assess student progress, and counsel students on academic and extracurricular matters. Elementary-level teachers typically teach across the curriculum, while those at the secondary level concentrate on an area of expertise, such as English language arts, mathematics, science, and history. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average annual income for an elementary-level teacher is $60,660; secondary-level teachers earn, on average, $62,870.

Careers with a master’s in teaching

Academic advisor.

Academic advisors consult with students at the secondary and college level to assist in education-related decisions. Advisors help students keep track of requirements they must meet, set and assess progress toward various academic goals, and choose among future education options. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , school and career counselors earn an average annual income of $58,120. 

Corporate trainer

Corporations need teachers to train employees in new policies, processes, and technologies. Corporate trainers design and lead corporate training sessions, monitor results, and adjust learning materials and teaching strategies accordingly. According to LinkedIn, corporate trainers earn between $36,600 and $80,000 per year.

Curriculum developer

Curriculum developers apply their teaching skills to the creation and development of new curricula. They write individual lesson plans, class activities, and learning objectives and track student outcomes, adjusting instructional strategies as appropriate. Curriculum developers may also take part in training teachers to use the curricula they have developed. They typically work for school districts, and most specialize in a grade level or subject area. According to Salary.com , curriculum developers earn an average salary of $77,100; the top 10 percent earn over $93,000 annually.

Gifted and talented program director

Gifted and talented programs serve students who “​​give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” Gifted and talented program directors manage these programs to deliver excellent instruction, enrichment, and opportunities for students. Comparably reports that gifted and talented program coordinators earn an average salary of $70,000.

Literacy specialist

Literacy specialists work with teachers to train them in the latest advances in teaching reading, writing, and comprehension. Literacy specialists provide professional development and consultation. They travel among schools, meeting with teachers to discuss teaching strategies, assisting in creating lesson plans and assignments, watching teachers and providing feedback, and assessing data to find potential areas of improvement. According to Indeed , literacy specialists earn, on average, $62,197 annually.

Museum educator

Museums of all kinds – art, science, history, cultural, commercial, geographic – need teachers to optimize their museum experiences. Museum educators create programs utilizing museum assets so visitors can understand and learn from exhibits. They manage docents and teachers, deliver lectures and guided tours, conceive and organize events, and engage in community outreach. They often work with school groups and systems to coordinate field trips and other enrichment activities. Mint.Intuit reports that museum educators earn an annual income of $39,000, on average.

Private tutor

Private tutors work individually with students seeking assistance in one or more subjects. Many private tutors specialize in one subject; some focus primarily on a particular exam, such as the SAT or ACT. Private tutors tend to be independent contractors paid by the hour. Depending on where they live, whom they work with, and what they teach, private tutors can charge anywhere from $20 to over $200 per hour .

Standardized test developer

Creating standardized tests is a massive undertaking. Exam items must be written to exact specifications, then tested, and the results analyzed to ensure items measure what they purport to measure and that higher-achieving students are more likely to answer correctly. Tests must be balanced to cover the subject they test thoroughly and scrutinized for any unintended bias. It’s a rigorous process that requires extensive training and a background in learning theory and assessment. According to The Ladders , the average salary at Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that develops the SAT, is $110,813.

Textbook editor

The US textbook industry generates over $8 billion in sales annually; elementary and secondary school systems purchase new textbooks regularly, ensuring steady business. Textbook editors must have excellent writing and teaching skills, obviously. They also need to know and understand the various learning standards required by each state to fashion texts that meet multiple states’ requirements. On top of all that, they must navigate the exacting and often contradictory standards of liberal and conservative states. ZipRecruiter reports that textbook editors earn, on average, $48,257 per year.

Careers with a master’s in education

Curriculum designer.

Curriculum designers create the blueprint for school curricula, which are then built by curriculum developers. The work of curriculum design focuses on the big picture, aligning content to learning objectives to ensure that they are taught thoroughly and effectively. Their jobs involve research and project management as well as creativity, and it requires a mastery of the latest educational technologies. According to ZipRecruiter , curriculum designers earn, on average, $64,457 per year. The top 10 percent earn over $105,000 annually.

Director of digital learning

Many institutions employ digital learning, including schools, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Whether used to teach public school curriculum, public policy, or corporate practices, digital learning technology requires management by someone well versed in education theory and the technical requirements of learning applications. According to Glassdoor , directors of digital learning earn, on average, $89,587 per year.

District administrator

School governance is divided into districts, with each district maintaining its own superintendent and administrative staff. District administrators oversee the management of all schools in their district, supervising budgets and monitoring academic performance. District administrators must see to a host of essential operations that are not strictly educational, such as building maintenance. Zippia reports that district administrators earn between $44,000 and $85,000 per year.

Guidance counselor

Guidance counselors work with students, primarily at the secondary-school level. They assist students in enrolling in classes and guide them in the college application process, assisting with standardized test enrollment and the selection of potential colleges. They can also provide therapeutic assistance, helping students bolster self-esteem, identify areas of growth and skill development, and manage challenges at home and in school. According to PayScale , school guidance counselors earn a base salary between $38,000 and $74,000.

Educational practices rest on a foundation of theory and data, all of which require research. A master of education trains you to become an expert researcher, positioning you for a career in education research. You’ll support school districts, policy analysts, policy advocates, government agencies, colleges, and universities. According to Comparably , education researchers earn between $30,400 and $45,600 per year.

School principal

A school principal is the chief executive officer of a school. They oversee the school staff, monitor education objectives and curricular standards, ensure assessment is administered regularly and effectively, approve extracurricular activities, manage the budget, arrange professional development for staff, and oversee daily operations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that school principals typically earn $98,490 annually. 

School psychologist

School psychologists work with students who have acute mental health, emotional, and behavioral issues. They typically work within a school or school district (larger schools may have their own school psychologist; smaller ones may share a psychologist with neighboring schools). Additionally, school psychologists develop policies to promote mental and emotional health and assist in supporting students with learning differences. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , school psychologists typically earn about $77,500 annually.

School superintendent

School superintendents oversee school districts, ensuring that each school in the district operates efficiently and effectively. They set and communicate policy, oversee curriculum implementation, manage instruction and assessment, supervise human resource management, and provide leadership for all schools in the district. Additionally, superintendents represent their districts at the county and state level, advocating for them when policy is formulated and budgets are determined. According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), school superintendents can earn a median salary between $140,172 and $180,500 per year, depending on the size of their district.

Training and development specialist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , training and development specialists “plan and administer programs that improve the skills and knowledge of employees,” making this an excellent job for someone with an education background. Training and development specialists work in nearly every industry and field, “working with people, giving presentations, and leading training activities.” The BLS reports that these professionals earn an average annual income of $62,700.

Vice principal

A vice principal is second-in-command at a school, serving directly below the principal. A vice principal’s duties can vary depending on which tasks the principal wishes to delegate, but typically vice principals are actively involved in the day-to-day running of the school. If the principal is the school’s chief executive officer, the vice principal is its chief operating officer, enforcing rules, monitoring schedules and calendars, handling student discipline, supervising operations, and liaising between faculty and administration. According to Salary.com , vice principals earn an average annual salary of $90,381.

MAT vs. MEd: What do you learn?

Whether you earn a master of arts in teaching (MAT) or a master of education (MEd), you will likely complete a curriculum of approximately 30 credit hours. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree in education, you may be required to complete additional foundation courses.

In either master’s degree program, you’ll likely complete core course work in education theory, research, education technology, classroom management, curriculum development, and assessment and measurement. The focus of these classes may differ slightly – the teaching master’s will likely emphasize in-class applications while the education master’s will take a more academic approach – but the subject matter should be similar.

Most programs offer the opportunity to specialize in a specific subject or skill area. You will complete your graduate degree specialization by taking several elective courses in your discipline of choice and, in some programs, completing a thesis, capstone research project, or field placement/internship.

MAT vs. MED specializations

Specialization options in master’s teaching degree and education degree programs include the following.

Master of arts in teaching (MAT) specializations

Early childhood education.

A focus on early childhood education prepares teachers to instruct at the birth through grade 2 level. You’ll learn to recognize the different stages of childhood development and what interventions are appropriate for students demonstrating developmental issues.

Elementary education

An elementary education specialization provides the theory, pedagogy, and practice required to teach at the kindergarten through grade 6 level.

English as a second language (ESL)/teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)

ESL and TESOL specializations prepare teachers to work with students whose native language is not English. Different programs use different distinctions, but ESL and TESOL are interchangeable terms. A third distinction, English as a Foreign Language (EFL), is used for teachers who plan to teach English overseas. Some programs offer ESL and TESOL as a certificate but not as a specialization track.

Language arts education

Learn to teach students to speak, read, write, and understand written and spoken English. English language arts (ELA) teachers teach grammar, spelling, phonics, reading comprehension, speaking, literature, and research skills. A language arts teaching master’s typically focuses on grades 7 through 12 content, the grades at which teachers specialize in a single subject.

Mathematics education

Mathematics encompasses everything from basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) to geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. An MAT in mathematics education typically focuses on grades 7 through 12 content.

Middle grades education

Middle school is a period of intense social and physical development. Middle school teachers require training in the pedagogy, psychology, and physiology of students in this age group. A specialization in middle grades education prepares teachers to lead grades 6 through 8 classes.

Science education

Science at the secondary level encompasses chemistry, physics, life sciences, and earth sciences. An MAT prepares you to teach science at the middle and high school levels.

Secondary education

A master of arts in Teaching with a specialization in secondary education prepares teachers to teach at the grades 7 through 12 levels. Not all schools use this distinction, and most that do require enrollees to specialize further in a single subject, such as language arts, mathematics, or science.

Social studies education

Social studies covers a substantial range of subjects, including ancient history, US history, world history, geography, world cultures, civics, economics, and sociology. An MAT in social studies education prepares teachers to lead grades 7 through 12 classrooms in these subjects.

Special education instruction

Special education training prepares teachers to work with students demonstrating autism spectrum disorders, cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, physical impairment, or learning disabilities. Course work focuses on diagnosis, pedagogy, possible interventions, education technology, classroom management, and diversity.

Master of education (MEd) specializations

Applied human development.

Applied human development concentrations focus on the physical, psychological, and emotional development patterns young people experience. This specialization typically leads to careers in academic research, youth program management, or work with NGOs and foundations.

Curriculum design

Curriculum design is how curricula are mapped against various learning standards and compiled into yearlong sequences of objectives and corresponding lessons. A curriculum design specialization typically leads to careers in federal, state, and district-level administration, textbook publishing, or research.

Curriculum and instruction

Curriculum and instruction is a broader specialization than curriculum design. Its scope includes instructional methods, education technology, cross-disciplinary learning, and fostering collaborative classrooms. A curriculum and instruction specialization may lead to a career in front of a classroom or in school administration. 

Education administration

Running a school requires expert management skills and knowledge. An MEd in education administration prepares you for the challenges of keeping a school operational and effective. Those who pursue this specialization typically aspire to be superintendents, principals, vice principals, or administrative specialists.

Educational leadership

As its name indicates, an educational leadership specialization focuses on leadership skills within education. It’s an appropriate degree for aspiring lead teachers, department heads, school administrators, and policy experts.

Educational psychology

Educational psychology focuses on child and adolescent development, cognition, and motivation in education. Careers include non-clinical roles in education, training, and research.

Educational technology

Computing permeates nearly all aspects of modern life, including education. As more and more learning activities migrate to apps and devices, the need for educational technology experts grows ever greater. Learn education web design, e-book publishing, app management, virtual reality learning, assistive technology, and social media. Careers include instructional designer, trainer, and technology coach.

Experiential learning for early childhood

Experiential learning for early childhood explores learning theory and pedagogical design for young learners. Careers include curriculum developer, policy advocate, and program director.

Higher education administration

College and university administration presents a unique set of challenges. An MEd in higher education administration trains you for a career in the front offices of a higher education institution. You’ll learn to anticipate developing problems, design and implement student support programs, and maintain the smooth operation of a large and complex institution. 

Instructional design and technology

Apply learning theory to the creation and implementation of learning materials, with a particular focus on technology-driven education. You’ll study learning theory and how to apply it to develop interactive tools that promote learning. This degree can lead to careers in public and private school systems, curriculum development and instructional design firms, and corporate training.

Global and comparative education

Teaching techniques and learning theories vary around the world. Global and comparative education specialists study these different approaches to determine whether they are effective and can be applied or adapted in American classrooms. This degree typically leads to careers in policy and academics.

Measurement and evaluation

Academic testing is a massive industry in the United States and around the world. MEd in measurement and evaluation specialists learn the science behind accurate and effective testing as well as the essential validation processes employed to ensure test validity. Graduates typically pursue careers in school administration, research, testing organizations and companies, or private business (companies also like to test their employees’ aptitude and skills).

School counseling

School counselors work one-on-one with students to promote personal, academic, and career development. Counselors assist students in managing institutional obstacles, coping with trauma and other challenges, and plotting their academic trajectory and college choices. Most counselors work within school systems, although some operate independently.

Master’s in teaching: curriculum 

The MAT degree is a graduate-level teaching credential focused on both theory and practical skills required to lead a classroom. MAT programs typically cover learning theory, curriculum design and development, classroom management, assessment and measurement methodology, and cultural and societal factors impacting student performance and achievement. Prospective teachers in these advanced degree programs typically specialize. If they seek to teach at the middle or high school level, they often specialize in the subject they plan to teach.

Residents in the NYU Teacher Residency program earn an online master of arts in teaching while completing a teaching residency, which is a form of apprenticeship. The program is designed for teacher candidates who aspire to develop a practice that is culturally responsive and equitable. It allows them to accrue the requisite classroom experience and training necessary to lead a classroom upon completion of their degree (which takes a little over one year).

The academic portion of the NYU Teacher Residency consists of 10 to 12 modules, commencing in the summer preceding your apprenticeship and concluding at the end of the following summer. The Secondary MAT is a 10-module, 30-credit master of arts in teaching (Grades 7-12) and the new Inclusive Childhood MAT is a 12-module, 35-credit master of arts in teaching (dual degree in Childhood Education and Childhood Special Education, Grades 1-6). Early modules focus on understanding the roles and identities of teachers and students and how they impact classroom dynamics. Prospective teachers also learn the importance of engaging parents and community in education, how to recognize their own blind spots concerning diversity and inclusion issues, and the importance of creating an environment of mutual respect.

Residents then concentrate on promoting student success and managing the classroom to optimize participation and learning. For the master of arts in teaching in Secondary Education, residents begin work in their content area, developing unique approaches and techniques to teach their chosen subject or skill area (e.g., special education). They also study curriculum planning and development, including methods for tailoring instruction to students’ individual needs and integrating their subject with content taught elsewhere in the curriculum. They learn to utilize tests, assignments, projects, and other assessments to measure progress and identify areas requiring further instruction and practice.

Later modules focus on teaching reading and writing in the context of other subjects, special education and disability education, low-incidence disabilities, and the professional and social responsibilities of teaching. Master’s students also engage in a participatory action research (PAR) project, a “collaborative process of inquiry and action for change in response to organizational or community problems.”

While earning their master’s degrees in the evening, residents complete a teaching residency under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Working alongside a mentor for a full school year, residents accumulate the experience and knowledge they’ll need to ultimately lead a classroom of their own. Full-time residents receive a stipend and tuition support in return for their work. 

Master’s in education: curriculum 

A master of education (sometimes called a master of science in education or a master of arts in education) covers a broader range of practices than a master of arts in teaching. The latter concentrates almost exclusively on classroom leadership. The master’s of education, in contrast, can explore everything from curriculum development to policy leadership roles to educational administration. Accordingly, curricula for MEd programs vary significantly, not only from school to school but also from one specialization to another. To get some idea of what you’ll study in an MEd curriculum, review the MEd specializations listed earlier in this article.

Why get an MAT from the NYU Teacher Residency Program?

Why launch your teaching career through the NYU Teacher Residency Program? If you have a bachelor’s degree in English, mathematics, social science, or natural science and you have a passion to teach, the residency program offers a fast and effective way to earn your master’s degree and licensure in a relatively short time. As you complete your degree and your residency, you’ll benefit from expert mentoring, coaching, and advising, and you’ll enjoy moral support from your site supervisors, program instructors, and peers. You will learn and develop in a safe, nurturing environment.

The NYU Teacher Residency curriculum focuses on state-of-the-art pedagogy alongside a commitment to social equity and restorative justice. You’ll work in an urban, high-needs school helping students who are traditionally underserved. You’ll also take part in a program that works to redress the demographic imbalance in teaching. In a profession in which only 20 percent of teachers are people of color, the NYU teacher residency has enrolled at least 60 percent of teachers of color each year. Your students will include emergent bilinguals and students with learning and physical disabilities, providing you with experience in teaching students of all backgrounds and abilities.

To be eligible , you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in English, mathematics, science, or social science (elementary-level residencies are available at select sites). Your application must include:

  • A request form for an official transcript
  • An unofficial undergraduate transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A 90-second video introduction
  • English proficiency exams (if your native language is not English)

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masters in education vs bachelors

How to Become a Teacher: Teacher Certification vs. Master’s Degree

Steps to earning a teaching position.

Teachers have the important job of educating young minds for the future. There are many paths to becoming a teacher, including routes for those who did not study education in college. Whether you’re completely new to the field, have a bachelor’s degree in another field, are re-entering the teaching industry, or are a new college graduate, there is a path for you to become a teacher!

Teaching license requirements vary from state to state. 1  However, it’s important to note that most teaching positions within the United States require the following:

How long does it take to become a teacher?

1. I don’t have a degree  – If you don’t have a degree, the first step would be acquiring a bachelor’s degree. It is recommended to earn your degree in the field of education, as many education programs include the licensing component within the degree program. 

Depending on your desired teaching specialty, you may need a degree with an emphasis on a specific discipline, such as science or math. If seeking an education program online, it is extremely important to research which schools have programs that lead to licensure in your state. Not all programs lead to licensure, and not all states have reciprocity agreements with other states or universities.

2.   I have a degree in an unrelated field  – If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, it is possible to take a teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university. It may also be worthwhile to supplement the bachelor’s degree with a  master’s in teaching program  — especially if you live in one of the states that require an education master’s degree after a certain period of time in the field anyways.

3. I have a degree in education but no teaching license –  The great news is that by having a degree in education, you are already a few steps into the process. Here are the next steps:

  • Complete a teacher preparation program
  • Get practical teaching experience through field experience or student teaching
  • Apply for state licensure

Be sure to check for specific state requirements on an additional master’s degree is required to remain licensed.

4. I want to work in education outside the US and have an unrelated degree:  If you want to  teach and travel , the great news is you won’t have many requirements for licensure or certification exams. Countries like South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, Saudi Arabia, and more offer teaching positions from US teachers. While it is not mandatory to have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification to find a  teaching job overseas , schools may ask for it. For a small fee, TEFL certification courses can often be completed online. From there, you’ll be ready to start applying for jobs.

5. I want to work in education but I’m not sure I want to commit to being a teacher or getting licensed yet:  There are a variety of other positions available to people interested in teaching, but not quite ready to take the plunge. Alternative options include becoming a teacher’s aide, substitute teacher, or volunteer teacher at charities and organizations.

What Is A Teaching Certificate vs. A Teacher Certification?

While the terms teaching certificate and teacher certification are often used interchangeably, they mean two different things. A teacher certification is a license, which is mandatory for teaching in public schools and some private schools.

A teaching certificate is a certificate provided to aspiring teachers for completing an academic program related to teaching. To become certified, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, complete a recognized and accredited teacher training program, and pass a state exam.

There are also alternative certification options for future teachers who have a degree in the subject they wish to teach but lack formal licensure. To become licensed, students are asked to take an additional 1-2 years of coursework in teaching in an accredited program paired with 1-2 years of classroom teaching experience under a temporary license. State regulations vary, but some allow aspiring teachers to complete only 1-2 years of graduate level study in education to qualify for teaching licensure.

Teaching Certificate Specializations

For teachers who have a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to earn a certificate to specialize in a certain area of teaching. Some options include:

  • Elementary and Middle School Education
  • Secondary Education- with subject endorsement
  • Nationally Recognized Teacher Certification/Board Certification
  • Special Needs Education

What is a Bachelor’s in Education Degree?

A bachelor’s degree in education program is a four-year program at an accredited university or college. A bachelor’s degree can be in any subject, but it is highly encouraged that students who want to become teachers aim for a bachelor’s degree in education. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree make an average of $59,140-$62,870 per year.

Bachelor’s in Education Career Paths

  • Median Salary: $61,500 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)

Teachers specializing in special education work with students with hearing, visual, physical, or learning impairments and need specialized care.

  • Median Salary: $59,140 
  • Career Outlook: +2% (2020-2030)

Career and technical education teachers are primarily focused on assisting students in developing trade skills. They teach a variety of subjects including but not limited to graphic design, auto mechanics, landscaping, 3D printing, blueprint development, computer-aided design (CAD), and more.

  • Median Salary: $60,660, $60,810, $62,870 
  • Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)

Elementary, middle, and high school teachers aid in the development of students in different age groups. Teachers will support and inspire students, monitor progress, offer educational guidance, lesson plan, deliver lectures, lead class discussions, and grade assignments.

 Source: BLS

What is a Master’s in Education Degree?

There are three states that now require teachers to obtain a master’s degree in their field of speciality within 5-7 years of certification: New York, Connecticut, and Maryland. The master’s degree typically comes with higher pay benefits. According to the data, a teacher with a master’s degree can expect to earn an average of  $2,760 more in the first year following obtaining the degree and up to  $7,358 more per year at the height of their career. 2  On average, teachers with a master’s degree earn $52,750-$61,015 per year.

Master’s in Education Career Paths

  • Median Salary: $98,490 

Principals are tasked with overseeing the administrative responsibilities of a school. They evaluate teacher performance on a consistent basis and oversee all operations.

  • Median Salary: $66,970 
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)

Instructional coordinators work in a variety of educational environments and analyze and assess the effectiveness of school curriculum and standards.

  • Median Salary: $58,120 
  • Career Outlook: +11% (2020-2030)

School counselors play an important role in making sure students are mentally and academically prepared for the school environment. They ensure students reach certain benchmarks to move onto the next level. Career counselors are primarily tasked with aiding working professionals or college students with developing career skills and/or finding meaningful work.

Becoming a Teacher FAQ

  • This can vary depending on the requirements per state. At a minimum, teachers are required to possess a four-year, regionally accredited bachelor’s degree in education. For teachers interested in teaching high school, they are often required to choose a subject specialty. Teachers should also gain licensing, pass a background check, and complete a one to two-year supervised student teaching stint. As a conservative estimate, the process can take 4-7 years.
  • Teachers new to the industry can expect to be paid around $40,000 per year. The average salary for teachers in the United States is $60,477 per year.
  • Job prospects for teachers for grades K-12 are expected to grow as fast as average at 4%. However, post-secondary teachers have an expected job growth above average at 9%.
  • It is possible, but there are a series of requirements that must be met, including having an accredited bachelor’s degree. Non-native English speakers will be required to take a teaching exam in the state they are interested in teaching in, so good English language reading and speaking ability is a must.  Potential teachers must notify the US embassy in the country of their intention and apply for a temporary or permanent visa for work purposes.
  • https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
  • https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
  • https://www.nctq.org/blog/How-do-school-districts-compensate-teachers-for-advanced-degrees
  • https://teach.com/careers/become-a-teacher/teaching-credential/state-requirements/
  • https://www.teachaway.com/blog/become-us-teacher-online-certification#:~:text=Hold%20a%20bachelor’s%20degree%20in,a%20clinical%20placement%2Ffield%20experience.
  • https://zety.com/blog/how-to-become-a-teacher
  • https://www.learnhowtobecome.org/teacher/
  • https://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/become/
  • https://www.alleducationschools.com/teaching-careers/elementary-school-teacher/
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masters in education vs bachelors

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What is the Difference Between Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees?

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Know before you read At SNHU, we want to make sure you have the information you need to make decisions about your education and your future—no matter where you choose to go to school. That's why our informational articles may reference careers for which we do not offer academic programs, along with salary data for those careers. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs differ in the number of credit hours required and their depth of content focus. Before pursuing a master's degree, you must complete your bachelor's degree. During your bachelor's degree program, which is typically four years , you take general education courses  and several courses aligned directly to your major. In your master's degree program, you focus entirely on one area of study.

Types of Degrees

Understanding the differences between a bachelor's degree  and a  master's degree  gives you an idea of how graduate programs build upon undergraduate study . It can also give you a sense of how long it might take you to finish each program and how each might fit into your long-term academic and career goals.

Bachelor’s Degree

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Some of the most common types of bachelor’s degrees  are:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Danielle Jernigan, a BSN graduate at SNHU

Finally, the BSN provides nurses with the opportunity to progress in their field. Take Danielle Jernigan '23 for example — a nurse living in New York City who opted to earn her BSN online at SNHU.

"As a nurse, most employers prefer to hire BSNs, especially the city hospitals," Jernigan said. "With this degree, I am able to advance in my career."

Find Your Program

Master’s degree.

Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, you're eligible to enroll in a master’s degree program to earn what is referred to as a graduate degree . The top reasons people choose to pursue a master’s degree include a desire for higher earnings, a career change or to follow a passion, according to the Harvard Business Review ( HBR ).

Unlike a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree narrows your focus to one particular area of study.

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  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Some graduate schools also offer a Master of Fine Arts  (MFA), a terminal degree  for those wishing to teach writing, studio art, or other fine arts.

Shorter than a bachelor’s degree but tighter in focus, a master’s degree requires you to complete anywhere from 33 to 60 credits . These programs require 36 credits:

  • Master's in applied economics
  • Master's in communication
  • Master's in curriculum and instruction
  • Master's in English
  • Master's in finance
  • Master's in psychology

The time it takes to earn an MBA  varies, and some programs are only 30 credits and can be completed in just one year.

Christopher McGinnis, a 2023 graduate from SNHU's master's in organizational leadership

When Christopher McGinnis '23G started his master's degree at SNHU, he had already applied to several promotions within his organization. "I was always passed over for someone who had just ‘that’ much more experience," McGinnis said.

He decided to earn a master's in organizational leadership , and the next time a leadership role opened up, McGinnis applied and got the promotion.

"Going after my master's helped me even before I had completed the program," he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 14% of U.S. adults over 25 held an advanced degree, such as a master's or doctorate, in 2022, up from 10.9% in 2011.

Which Degree is Right for You?

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It’s important to understand that your earnings will vary widely depending on what occupation you enter.  

For example, instructional coordinators typically need a master's degree, according to BLS, and these professionals earned a median salary of $66,490 in 2022.* But to become a software engineer or developer , BLS said you'll likely only need a bachelor's degree, and the median salary for software developers was $124,200 in 2022.*

Keep in mind some professions may require you to have a master’s degree, and be sure to research all the job requirements for whichever role you plan to pursue. 

So, Is It Better To Get a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree?

Both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree can offer rewarding learning and career opportunities. However, you may consider it advantageous to earn a master's degree if it aligns with your personal goals and is required in your career field.

The good news is that you can start a master’s degree any time after you earn your bachelor’s degree, whether you decide to take a few months off or begin classes again more than a decade later.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program  that can best help you meet your goals.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11G is a writer who covers K-12 and higher education topics, including policy and the role of digital technology in education. She spent almost a decade working in various marketing roles at an educational assessment company before launching a strategic marketing company. Maddocks earned a master's degree in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University and a bachelor's degree in English/ journalism from the University of New Hampshire. Connect with her on  LinkedIn .

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Home  /  News  /  Master’s Vs. Bachelor’s Degree: What’s The Difference?

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Master’s Vs. Bachelor’s Degree: What’s The Difference?

Higher education has the power to transform your life, but understanding the different types of degrees can be confusing. To help, let’s break down exactly what master’s vs bachelor’s degrees are.

When you go to a university, you can earn an undergraduate degree called a baccalaureate or a graduate degree called a master’s. The exact degrees offered vary from school to school, but there are some important differences between bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees that you should understand before you begin applying to colleges and universities.

What Is A Bachelor’s Degree?

What is a master’s degree, the difference between undergraduate and graduate degrees, bachelor’s vs. master’s: which one is right for you.

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Explore  environmental baccalaureate and master’s degree programs .

A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree typically earned after the completion of high school or GED. Most bachelor’s degree programs are four-year programs that include general education courses as well as specialized courses in a chosen academic major. Baccalaureate degrees are the foundational level of higher education. They equip students with the essential knowledge and skills needed to start a career in a particular field or further their studies by earning a graduate degree.

There are three main types of baccalaureate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

How Long Does It Take To Get A Bachelor’s Degree?

Most bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete. However, that is based on a full-time course load of at least 15 credits per semester. If you are working while in school, this could be difficult to maintain. At some schools, the average student takes five years to finish a baccalaureate program, and you can take longer if needed. A student attending college part-time may take six to eight years to complete their degree. 

For those unsure if a baccalaureate degree is the right choice for them due to the traditional timeline, at Unity Environmental University, our model is run on 5-week terms, not semesters. Terms allow students to get through the program much faster, and you can decide to take a break and continue at your own pace, allowing for more flexibility. Another shorter degree option is starting with pursuing an  associate degree , which takes  two years to complete on average before starting a career .

Do I need a bachelor’s to get a master’s? Yes, you do!  Luckily, you can  earn a degree online  on your own schedule with flexible start dates and rolling admissions.

A master’s degree is an advanced level of postgraduate study that allows students to specialize further in a specific field of study or professional practice. A master’s degree may be needed for career advancement depending on your field and position. Certain roles may require a very specialized education. A master’s degree or Ph.D. is also required for jobs doing academic research or teaching at the college level.

There are many types of master’s degrees including but not limited to:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Social Work (MSW) 
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

It’s common for people to want to study something different than they are studying in undergrad. Maybe you were young and studying what your parents wanted you to, or maybe your interests changed. This leads many college graduates to wonder, can I get a master’s degree in another field? And the answer is yes, you can! You may need to take some prerequisite courses in your new area of study, but policies vary by institution and program.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Master’s Degree?

The timeframe for completing a master’s degree is usually one to two years. However, like with baccalaureate degrees, you may need longer to complete your degree if you are only studying part-time. Some graduate students may conduct longer thesis research or fieldwork and need additional time after completing their core coursework before they graduate.

At Unity Environmental University, our Master’s programs work on 8-week terms, allowing flexible starts and breaks. If you are already a Unity baccalaureate student and are applying to one of our Master’s programs, we provide individualized coaching and advising through the application and enrollment process to provide you an easy transition..

Can You Get A Masters Without A Bachelor’s?

It is not possible to earn a master’s degree from an accredited university in the US without first holding a qualifying bachelor’s degree .

While applying for a Master’s program, make sure to refer to the university’s admission and pre-requisite requirements. At Unity Environmental University, you need to have a baccalaureate and either 

  • have a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher; or
  • have earned a minimum grade of B (3.0) in at least 6 credits of Master’s level courses from an accredited institution.

There are a few exceptions if you do not meet either of these two  Master’s admission requirements .

Boost your career with a completely  online master’s degree from Unity Environmental University .

a graduation cap sitting on top of a university diploma

The biggest differences between a bachelor’s and master’s degree are the academic level (undergraduate vs graduate) and the depth of study. An undergraduate degree provides broad foundational knowledge. It’s a necessary precursor for the more specialized approach that graduate school takes. Because graduate degrees are advanced degrees, they typically open up more advanced career pathways, including management and research roles.

It takes about 120 credit hours to earn a baccalaureate degree versus only 45 credits for a master’s degree. Therefore, master’s programs often only take two years to complete versus four years for a bachelor’s degree. While the per credit cost of bachelor’s degrees is usually lower than it is for master’s degrees, master’s degrees need fewer credits to graduate, so they could be less costly overall.

Unity Environmental University has flexible terms, allowing you to graduate much faster on average. You can take 2 courses (3 credits) per term. With our baccalaureate programs being 8 terms per year, you can max at 48 credits per year. With 120 credits needed to graduate, you can graduate as quickly as 2.5 years. 

Our Graduate programs are the same. You can take 2 courses per term with 5 terms per year. That means you can take 30 credits per year max, allowing you to graduate in less than a year and a half.

Whether you are interested in a bachelor’s or a master’s, learn  how to make your degree more affordable .

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Ready To Learn More About Unity Environmental University?

To determine if a bachelor’s degree vs master’s is right for you, think about your  long-term career goals  and research the educational requirements for your ideal job. Consider the time commitment and cost of graduate vs undergraduate school. Using data online, you can estimate how much income you can earn over your lifetime if you have a master’s degree vs a bachelor’s degree. This will vary by industry and specific roles, but generally,  workers with a master’s degree earn more than those with only a bachelor’s .

Because a baccalaureate degree is a prerequisite for a master’s, the question isn’t actually master’s vs bachelor’s. Instead, the question is whether it’s worth it to pursue a master’s degree after you finish undergraduate school. Not sure if a master’s degree is right for you? Discover the  benefits of going to grad school . 

Environmental Bachelor Programs At Unity Environmental University

Unity Environmental University’s bachelor’s programs focus on equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to address contemporary environmental challenges. We use a unique approach to environmental studies that includes social sustainability and  cultural competence  in our programs. Below are some of our bachelor’s degree programs and potential career options for graduates with that degree.

  • B.S. in Animal Science :   Zoologist , livestock manager,  animal care specialist
  • B.S. in Environmental Studies :  Environmental policy analyst, toxicologist, environmental educator
  • B.S. in Sustainable Business Management : Environmental consultant, sustainability manager, sustainability analyst
  • B.S. in Wildlife Conservation :   Wildlife biologist , research associate,  park ranger  

Environmental Master Programs At Unity Environmental University

When you choose Unity Environmental University for your master’s degree, you get access to specialized research opportunities, expert faculty, and the skills needed to make a major impact on the world’s environmental challenges. The programs below cater to those looking to deepen their expertise or pivot their career toward environmental advocacy and sustainability.

  • Master’s in Marine Science :   Marine biologist , aquaculture manager, assistant professor
  • Master’s in Environmental Studies and Sustainability :   Urban planner ,  environmental engineer , climate change policy analyst
  • Master’s in Environmental Geographic Information Science :   GIS analyst , GIS technician, GIS specialist
  • SMBA in Sustainable Tourism & Hospitality : Business owner, sustainability consultant, sustainability director

Students smile at the camera in their caps and gowns during Commencement.

Earn An Environmental Bachelor’s Or Master’s Degree Online At Unity Environmental University

Before applying to college, it’s vital to understand the differences between an undergraduate degree vs graduate degree. In undergraduate school, students earn a baccalaureate degree, usually in four years. Graduate school students earn a master’s degree which usually takes two years. A high school diploma or GED is required for admission to undergraduate school, and a baccalaureate degree is required for admission to graduate school. 

Unity Environmental University  offers baccalaureate and master’s degree programs that can be completed online and come with built-in career development support for all students. You can earn a degree at your own pace with our flexible term starts. The fastest you can earn a baccalaureate in 2.5 years and a Master’s in 1.5 years.  Financial aid  is also available at the undergraduate and graduate levels so that you do not have to worry about whether you can afford a bachelor’s vs master’s degree only.

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Bachelor vs. Master of Arts in Teaching Programs

Ready to level up in your teaching career get started on an education program of your choice from wgu., what is initial licensure.

A career in teaching allows you to dedicate your life to helping others, change lives for the better, and foster a lifelong love of learning in countless young people. Initial licensure is important for rising teachers because it ensures that you were properly educated and that you’re qualified to provide a safe learning environment for your students.

Initial licensure covers the essential steps in the journey to becoming a teacher, which include:

  • Completing your bachelor’s degree program
  • Submitting transcripts
  • Clearing a background check
  • Passing required entrance exams and skills tests
  • Meeting any other requirements of  your state

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WGU’s education degrees give you essential skills that prepare you for initial licensure and a career in the classroom. Both the bachelor and master degrees discussed on this page will prepare you for initial licensure. To ensure that our graduates are best equipped to help students learn, WGU’s Teachers College in the School of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP).

Ready To Get a Teaching Degree?

Teachers play a unique and supremely important role in society. Teachers act as a major influence on the budding minds of students beginning at a very young age, through early adulthood, and beyond, which is why it’s important that you consider all your options when deciding which teaching degree to pursue. This page will explore the steps to becoming a licensed and educated teacher, including degree options, areas of concentration, and initial licensure.

masters in education vs bachelors

Who Pursues an Education Bachelor's Degree?

Students who wish to have a career in teaching must first earn a bachelor’s degree. The online bachelor’s degree programs at WGU are specifically suited for students who may be coming out of high school, have some college experience, or have an associate degree. Once you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you are one step closer to your initial teaching license.  Click here for a complete list of WGU bachelor's degrees in education.

What Careers Will An Education Bachelor's Degree Program Prepare Me For?

WGU’s bachelor of education degrees prepare you to become a teacher. The grade level, subject, and student-type you study for your degree are all factors in determining what licensing you need and the jobs you qualify for. For example, if you study middle grades education on the topic of science, you’ll have to complete an internship of in-class student teaching and any relevant licensure tests that your state requires for middle grades-level science teachers. At this point, you’ll be qualified to apply for pertinent jobs. Careers in education are many and they even go beyond the classroom.  Learn more about positions in education  you become eligible for with a bachelor’s degree with licensure. 

What Will I Learn in an Education Bachelor's Program?

No matter which area and age group of teaching you choose—whether it be special ed, high school math, or elementary education —every bachelor’s degree includes the same general education and professional core sections. This coursework covers all the important areas of primary and secondary education and is designed to provide students with a well-rounded foundational education. Following these courses, there are a number of specialty courses that pertain to the area of education you choose to pursue. WGU’s education programs prepare up-and-coming teachers to pass licensure exams with flying colors and expertly transfer their newly acquired expertise to a classroom setting.

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  • English Composition I 
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  • Assessing Impact on Student Learning 

"My graduate degree has awarded me many more opportunities that my undergraduate degree could not provide including increased salary, multiple job offers, and the ability to be given specialized work."

Lacie Smithee M.A. Teaching, Elementary Education

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Who Should Pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching?

Master of Arts in Teaching degrees were made for those who want to pursue an education career inside the classroom. These programs are ideal for individuals have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-education area of study. They will prepare you to secure a teaching license and to lead a classroom and are specifically geared toward initial licensure. Like the education bachelor’s degrees, there are MAT programs for teaching students at all levels and ages, as well as different topics. 

What Will I Learn in a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program?

The curriculum in each MAT program depends on the area of teaching you choose to pursue. However, there are many courses in each MAT program that are the same across the board and are designed to prepare you for real-world experiences of classroom teaching. These courses are broken into four sections: education, professional core, pre-clinical experiences, and student teaching. Everything you’ll learn in your MAT program is timely, relevant, and practical so that when you earn your degree, there’s no question that you know your stuff.

What Careers Will A MAT Program Prepare Me For?

By completing an MAT program at WGU, you are qualified to work as a teacher in a classroom setting. The area of education you choose to study during your MAT program and your state requirements will determine your licensing. For example, if you earned an MAT in special education, you’ll need to get the licensing that qualifies you to work with those students.  Click here for a complete career guide for teachers with a Master of Art in Teaching .

How Are the Education Bachelor's Degrees and MAT Degrees Unique at WGU?

What’s special about the education bachelor’s degrees and the MAT degrees at WGU is they are specifically designed for teachers seeking initial licensure. At WGU we know the true value of great educators, which is why these education degree programs enable anyone to seek a teacher education, complete with affordable tuition. We also have master’s degree options for already-licensed teachers who want to further their career. To learn more about those programs,  click here . Ready to join thousands of passionate teachers? Start the enrollment process for an  online degree program at WGU .

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1: 2023  Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU grads.

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85% of WGU graduates are employed in their degree fields—and 87% are employed full-time. 2

2: 2023  Harris Poll  of 1,655 WGU grads.

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With flat-rate tuition that is 48% lower than the national average 3 and generous need-based scholarships, our degrees are an excellent investment that you can afford.

3: National rates reported by the  Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System in 2022 . WGU average rate does not include rates for WGU Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Prelicensure program.

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At WGU, you can complete courses, take tests, and graduate on your schedule. In fact, many of our healthcare students work full-time while earning their life-changing bachelor’s or master’s degrees. 

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By charging per term rather than per credit—and empowering students to accelerate through material they know well or learn quickly—WGU helps students control the ultimate cost of their degrees. The faster you complete your program, the less you pay for your degree.

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*From a 2023  Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU graduates.

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100% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.*

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97% of employers said that they would hire another WGU grad.*

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Master’s Programs in Education

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Additional Information

  • Download the Master's Viewbook

As you embrace the next chapter in your development as an educator, innovator, and leader, consider a graduate program that builds on a century of innovation, that’s grounded in the skills every educator needs, and that fully supports your current work and future aspirations.

At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, our master’s degree program is driven by passion and empowered by evidence. We share a vision of education where every learner has an opportunity to be seen, to be challenged, to excel, and to reach their full potential. We are motivated by urgency to build a future that recognizes and overcomes grinding systemic inequities.

Whether you seek to make an impact in early education, in K–12 districts and networks, or in higher education — or whether you want to drive educational change outside of those realms — you belong at HGSE. 

No matter which program you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with HGSE’s world-class faculty, build a sustained community of practice and a lifelong professional network, and gain the preparation necessary to grow, advance, and become the type of leader that education needs.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education offers the Master's in Education (Ed.M.) degree in two formats —  residential and online — and in a variety of programs.

Residential Master's

HGSE’s  on-campus master’s degree is a one-year, full-time, immersive Harvard experience. You'll apply directly to one of its five distinct programs, spanning education leadership and entrepreneurship, education policy, human development, teaching and teacher leadership, and learning design and technology. 

Online Master's

Our Online Master's in Education  is a part-time, two-year, online program in education leadership. It is designed for experienced professionals who want to advance in their careers and deepen their impact. The online program in education leadership offers a choice of two pathways, preK–12 or higher education, that complement your career and chosen area of impact.  

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Question: What are the Differences Between a Bachelor's Degree and a Master’s Degree? (Bachelor’s vs. Master's Programs)

Answer: A bachelor’s degree is a postsecondary undergraduate degree that typically requires the completion of the equivalent of eight semester or four years of coursework and that can prepare students for entry- and mid-level work in their field of study, as well as for further studies at the graduate level. A master’s degree is a graduate degree that provides advanced training and instruction in a particular field of study and that can prepare students for more specialized, higher-level positions and/or for doctoral programs in that field. While the upper division coursework offered in bachelor’s programs may overlap with introductory master’s program coursework, bachelor’s program curricula are designed to provide students with a foundation for further academic and professional achievement through a combination of general education coursework and a designated cluster of courses in a particular major. Master’s program curricula do not include general education requirements and may take only three or four semesters or roughly one to two years to complete, depending on the program and the field of study.

The Components of a Bachelor’s Degree Program

While there are different types of bachelor’s programs, including Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) programs, most bachelor’s programs have two primary components: general education course requirements and electives, and core and elective coursework within a chosen major. General education requirements are typically completed during the initial two years or four semesters of a bachelor’s program and commonly include classes in English composition, mathematics, social science, physical science, history, art, and culture. Some bachelor’s programs may also require a certain number of general education credits in other areas, such a foreign language or physical education.

At some point during the first several semesters of a bachelor’s program, students must declare a major, which largely defines the focus of their studies through the remainder of the program. How and when students qualify for and declare their majors depends on the program and its structure. In some fields, particularly those that require professional licensure and/or supervised clinical hours, it may be advantageous for students to declare their major at the beginning or soon after the start of a bachelor’s program. In addition, some programs may require students to apply for and be accepted into certain highly competitive majors. Finally, some schools, including schools that offer online bachelor’s programs, may require students to apply to specific bachelor’s degree programs (e.g., a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Arts in Education) as part of the initial admissions process.

The Structure and Length of Bachelor’s Programs

The way bachelor’s programs are structured varies by school and by program, and there may be structural variations between different majors offered by the same school. Nevertheless, general education requirements and electives outside of a student’s major can comprise up to half or more of the credits required for conferral of a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, coursework and other requirements within a particular major generally add up to between one third and half of the credits required for a bachelor’s degree. For example, a 120-credit bachelor’s program may allot 50 credits for general education requirements and offer a variety of BA and BS majors, some of which may require the completion of as few as 42 credits while others require students to complete up to 50 or more credits. The remaining credits required for a bachelor’s degree are commonly designated for electives that may or may not count toward a secondary major or minor, as some programs allow students to minor in a field other than their major or to double major in two fields of study.

The table below offers a simplified example of how crediting and coursework requirements might be structured for a bachelor’s program that allots an average of three credits per course and that requires students to earn 120 credits, which is a common number of credits for a bachelor’s program.

A student enrolled full-time in a bachelor’s program like the one described above would be eligible to graduate in four years by taking an average of five classes per semester for eight semesters. Students who take classes during summer sessions may be able to graduate in less than four years from a program structured in this way, or to reduce the number of courses they take per semester to three or four over a four-year period.

Bachelor’s Program Majors

There are numerous options for majors at the bachelor’s degree level, some of which are more commonly offered than others. Most colleges and universities offer majors in a range of humanities, social science, and natural science disciplines, such as English, biology, chemistry, communication, history, mathematics, philosophy, physics, psychology, and sociology. Majors in more specialized fields like accounting, business administration, cybersecurity, data analytics, engineering, environmental studies, library science, nursing, social work, and teaching are offered by some but not all schools. Potential applicants to bachelor’s programs should research programs carefully to determine which schools offer a major in their field of interest or in a closely related field.

Based on an analysis of recent data collected by the Department of Education for its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the ten most common undergraduate majors or fields of study are:

  • Health professions
  • Social sciences and history
  • Social sciences
  • Biological and biomedical sciences
  • Engineering
  • Visual and performing arts
  • Communication and journalism

As previously noted, different majors have different requirements. Students who major in a humanities discipline may be required to submit a senior paper or thesis in order to graduate, while those who major in a science field may be required to complete a research project. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs commonly require students to compose a portfolio of their work or present a performance of some type prior to receiving their degree. Bachelor’s programs in professional fields, such as nursing, social work, and accounting, may require students to complete a certain number of supervised field education, practicum, or internship hours as part of their major.

Admission to Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Eligibility requirements and admissions criteria vary by program. However, most bachelor’s programs, regardless of their admissions standards, require applicants to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. In addition, students may be required to submit scores from a standardized test such as the SAT; two or three letters of recommendation; a written personal goals statement; and/or answers to one or more essay questions. Finally, some bachelor’s programs may request or require interviews with applicants. For specific information regarding a program’s admissions policies, potential applicants should contact an admissions counselor or administrator at that school.

The Components of Master’s Degree Programs

One of the primary differences between bachelor’s and master’s degree programs involves general education coursework, which is not one of the components of a master’s program. Instead, master’s program curricula focus exclusively on various facets of the program’s field of study, which may include core subject area courses and specialized coursework within a field, as well as labs, practicums, internships, and/or field education, depending of the field of study. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program curriculum typically includes required courses in key business functions, such as accounting, finance, logistics, marketing, organizational science, and personnel and project management. In addition, MBA programs commonly give students options for elective coursework in other areas, such as business analytics, cybersecurity, digital marketing, entrepreneurship, health management, hospitality management, and public relations, and many MBA programs have designated tracks in one or more of these and other specializations.

Many master’s programs in other fields are structured similarly, with several required core courses followed by optional specializations or concentrations comprised of a designated cluster of required courses. For example, Master of Social Work (MSW) programs typically provide core training and instruction in the general practice of social work and may then offer students the option of specializing in clinical practice, macro practice, mental health counseling, and/or school social work. Similarly, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs typically cover general areas of advanced nursing practice in several core courses and provide focused training in one or more nursing specializations, including nursing administration, nursing education, and various Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specializations.

There are two additional components that may be required as part of a master’s degree program. In many fields, master’s degree candidates must complete supervised clinical or work experience hours through internships, practicums, and/or field education placements. For example, MSW programs typically require at least 900 field education hours, and master’s in counseling programs typically require a minimum of 700 supervised clinical hours. In contrast, MBA programs generally do not have internship requirements. Finally, some programs require students to pass a comprehensive exam and/or complete a master’s thesis, capstone project, or some other type of final paper or research project that students may have to defend prior to receiving their degree.

The Structure and Length of Master’s Programs

Master’s programs generally require fewer courses, fewer credits, and less time to complete than bachelor’s programs. While the total number of courses and credits in a master’s program varies by program and by area of study, in most fields students who enroll on a full-time basis can complete a master’s program in one to three years. Master’s programs in clinical fields may take longer on average to complete than non-clinical master’s programs, but this is not universally true.

The time it takes to complete a master’s program may also depend on a student’s level of academic and/or professional preparedness. Students who hold a bachelor’s degree in the same field as a master’s program or who have professional experience in that field may not be required to take one or more of the program’s introductory courses. Conversely, students who majored in a field unrelated to the type of master’s degree they are pursuing and who do not have professional experience in that field may be required to take one or more prerequisites as a condition for admission. For example, students who hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting typically do not have to take introductory managerial and financial accounting courses in order to earn a master’s degree in accounting, while students who did not major in accounting are generally required to complete several introductory accounting courses prior to taking more advanced, master’s-level accounting classes.

Social Work is another example of a field in which a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) may be advantageous for students who intend to pursue a master’s degree. Graduates from BSW programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) may qualify for Advanced Standing MSW programs, which have fewer introductory course and field education requirements than traditional MSW programs and take less time to complete.

The table below compares master’s programs that fall on two ends of the crediting spectrum.

Note : Many master’s programs are designed to accommodate students who intend to continue working professionally while earning their degree. These programs offer part-time or flexible enrollment, allowing students to take fewer courses per semester provided that they complete the program within a certain number of years, typically five to eight years. It is also common at the master’s level to find programs that do not adhere to the traditional 15-week academic semester system and that offer courses five or six times a year during terms that last five, eight, or ten weeks. This may allow students to take one or two courses per term without extending the time to completion beyond two years.

Types of Master’s Degree Programs

The two most common designations for master’s programs are Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS). However, there are many formal designations for master’s programs, including Master of Professional Studies (MPS), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Applied Science (MAS), and an even larger number of designations for specialized types of master’s program. The list below provides an overview of some of the more common specialized master’s degree designations and their abbreviations.

  • Master of Accounting (MAcc)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Computer Science (MCS)
  • Master of Education (MEd)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)
  • Master of Health Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Laws (LLM)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Social Work (MSW)

Common Areas for Master’s-Level Study

An analysis of recent IPEDS data on the number of graduates from master’s programs in the US indicates that the 15 most common general fields of study pursued at the master’s level are as follows:

  • Health Professions
  • Public Administration and Social Services
  • Social Sciences and History
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Theology and Religious Vocations
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Firefighting
  • Communication and Journalism
  • Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Mathematics and Statistics

Admission to Master’s Degree Programs

Master’s program admissions policies vary by school and by program. In order to be eligible for admission to a master’s program, students typically must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs are designed for students who earned their bachelor’s degree in a particular field or fields, or who earned passing grades in several college-level courses in one or more subject areas. For example, a master’s in computer science program may require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or to have taken college-level computer programming, mathematics, and/or statistics courses.

In addition, master’s programs may request that applicants submit standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT), letters of recommendation, a personal goals statement, and/or answers to one or more essay questions. Some master’s programs have minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) requirements, while others are designed for students who have one or more years of qualifying professional experience in their field. Finally, admissions to some types of master’s programs may require professional licensure. For example, MSN programs commonly require applicants to hold a valid and unencumbered state-issued Registered Nurse (RN) licensure prior to admission.

Bachelor’s Degrees vs. Master’s Degrees: A Side-By-Side Comparison

The table below offers a general side-by-side comparison of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, highlighting many of the key differences between the two types of degrees.

Accreditation for Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree Programs

One area in which bachelor’s and master’s degree programs do not significantly differ regards institutional accreditation. There are currently six regional bodies that provide accreditation to schools offering bachelor’s and graduate degree programs:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and University (NWCCU)
  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Accreditation from one of these six groups indicates that a college or university has undergone an assessment designed to ensure the functional viability of the institution and its educational and financial resources.

In addition to institutional accreditation, specific types of academic undergraduate and graduate programs may receive programmatic accreditation from accrediting bodies in certain fields, such as business, counseling, nursing, and social work. The importance of programmatic accreditation varies by field but is typically more crucial in fields that require professional licensure, like counseling, nursing, and social work, than in fields that do not have licensure requirements. However, in a field such as business, which generally does not require professional licensure, it may still be advantageous to graduate from a program that is accredited by one of the three bodies that accredit business schools and programs.

For more information on programmatic accreditation for online programs, refer to the following FAQs:

Business Programs:

  • Who Accredits MBA Programs?
  • Who Accredits non-MBA Business Programs?
  • Who Accredits Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs?
  • Does the SHRM Accredit Master’s in HRM Degree Programs?

Counseling Programs:

  • Are There CACREP-Accredited Online Counseling Programs?
  • Is CACREP Accreditation Important?
  • What Is the Difference Between CACREP and MPCAC Accreditation?

Healthcare Programs:

  • Does CAHIIM Accredit Online Master’s in Health Informatics and HIM Degree Programs?
  • Does CAHME Accredit Online Master of Health Administration (MHA) Programs?

Social Work Programs:

  • Who Accredits Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs?

Additional FAQs about Degree Programs and Online Education:

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How hard is a master's degree compared to a bachelor's

How hard is a master’s compared to a bachelor’s degree?

Study tips Published 5 May, 2022  ·  5-minute read

How hard is a master’s compared to a bachelor’s degree? Not that difficult, according to UQ graduate Jessica Rowen. But the time commitment to return to studying requires careful consideration, so she’s compared the pair to help you understand what you’re in for.

If you’ve completed a bachelor’s degree, the choice to undertake postgraduate study can feel daunting by comparison. Upskilling your expertise and acquiring specialised field-relevant experience is certainly a worthwhile goal, but you might worry that a master’s degree is going to be much tougher than your bachelor’s was.

The good news is, if you have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree isn’t the intimidating task it appears. A master’s course load can be the gateway to better opportunities and promotions, and the assessment is more similar to its bachelor’s counterpart than you might think.

When I began my master’s degree, I was worried. I had no idea if I could compare my undergraduate experience to the intimidating postgraduate workload I had imagined up.

I’d loved my Bachelor of Arts for so many reasons:

  • the lecturers were engaging
  • the lessons were insightful
  • the broad scope of content appealed to me.

Yet post-graduation I found myself facing a world in the midst of a pandemic, and I was unsure how to navigate it. I decided returning to study solved my immediate need for routine, and I was relieved to return to the St Lucia campus, where I discovered my worries about the pitfalls of postgraduate study were for naught. Instead, the coursework was manageable, my lecturers and tutors were kind and considerate just as they had been in my undergraduate, and I was surprised at how deeply I enjoyed my return to study.

Jessica Rowen quote

As I near the end of my master's, I'm proud to say I feel more confident in my skillset than ever before. My time at UQ has been invaluable to my personal development and growth, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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What about my job?

Doing a master’s degree while working full-time is surprisingly possible. With virtual and external learning options now easily accessible, there’s more flexibility than ever to begin your postgraduate journey. A lot of postgraduate students customise their workload and study part-time to manage their own schedule.

Whether you start with a graduate certificate, graduate diploma or master’s degree, all postgraduate programs value experience and accept applications from professionals with relevant experience or merit. In fact, a graduate certificate is a great pathway back into study for those unsure about returning.

Bachelor’s degree vs master’s degree

While a bachelor’s degree creates the foundation of knowledge needed to succeed, a master’s degree elevates this further.

Undergraduate study often encompasses a large field of study from business to communications and beyond, while postgraduate options can be specialised and targeted to an individual’s needs and niche interests. Building on the coursework of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s or graduate certificate takes study to the next level, concentrating on how to use these skills in the workplace and beyond.

Keep in mind that you can do a master’s degree in a different field to your bachelor’s degree. If your career has stalled, a master’s degree offers the chance to redirect and restructure your career growth – something a new bachelor’s degree doesn’t quite provide. And while some master’s courses will require a related bachelor’s degree to begin, it isn’t always required for them to be in the same field or faculty if you have equivalent work experience.

In truth, I found the workload more enjoyable because I had found my niche, something my undergraduate with its multitude of electives hadn’t given me. I loved the Writing, Editing and Publishing postgraduate program, because I was passionate about writing and working in publishing.

Is a master’s degree better than a bachelor’s degree?

So, is a master’s degree better than a bachelor’s degree? It depends what you intend to use it for.

A master’s degree workload is similar to a bachelor’s degree in many ways. Both require focus and determination, but a master’s ultimately encompasses the necessary skills many professionals need to grow, especially in uncertain times.

A bachelor’s degree is no more or less challenging than a master’s; it is simply a different area of study focus. Both are platforms for networking and professional growth with real-world teaching.

Jessica Rowen

How will a master’s degree benefit me?

So, you’re wondering, “how will a master’s degree benefit me?”

Short answer: lots of ways.

A master’s degree opens the door to networking and personal growth. In recent years, postgraduate opportunities have grown as new skills are required. Technology and communication have changed drastically in the past few years and, in turn, many professionals are returning to study for personal and professional growth to stay on top of the new developments in their industry.

Why a master’s degree? A master’s degree has immeasurable value, whether you’re considering changing career paths or improving your trade knowledge. Aside from your new qualification, a postgraduate course like a master’s degree presents the chance to create personal connections with fellow students. Between guest speakers and placement opportunities, you’ll also get unique insight into your area of study and an offer of industry-specific work experience that only postgraduate studies can provide.

In addition, there are definite real-world benefits to undertaking a master’s degree, with studies showing postgraduate students tend to have higher salaries compared to their bachelor’s degree co-workers as well as a higher employment rate post-study.

As I near the end of my master’s, I’m proud to say I feel more confident in my skillset than ever before. My time at UQ has been invaluable to my personal development and growth, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Ready to start your postgraduate journey?

There are many reasons to begin your postgraduate studies, and they are specific to you and your values. As the world re-opens, a master’s degree is an asset toward future-proofing your skillset.

If you’re preparing for a master’s degree, we have a large collection of postgraduate study options to choose from, and it’s never too late to redirect your career or learn new skills.

Browse our postgraduate programs today to start your journey

Jessica Rowen

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Quick Guide: Your College Degree Options

Find the right college for you.

There are generally four categories of college degrees: associate degree, bachelor’s degree, graduate degree, and doctorate or professional degree. Each category comes with its own particular subcategories, and there are some subtle differences between a doctorate and a professional degree.

If you ever find yourself lost in the sea of abbreviations for degrees, you're not alone. This quick guide is here to clear the air regarding the types of degrees available to you and what each one means.

Guide to College Degrees, Professional Studies & Certifications

Associate degree.

An associate degree is a two-year degree typically offered at community colleges, technical colleges, and career colleges. However, some four-year universities offer them as well. Examples of some associate degrees include Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS).

AS degrees are generally more narrowly focused and prepare students for science and math-related careers. AA degrees are broader and focus on fields outside of math and science such as liberal arts, business administration, criminal justice, and culinary arts.

Some students who earn an associate degree transfer to a four-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree. Others complete associate degrees and then go straight to work.

Bachelor's or Baccalaureate Degree

Bachelor’s degrees require students to complete four- or five-year programs in a specific academic discipline. The two most common types of bachelor’s degrees are bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS). Other types of bachelor’s degrees include the bachelor of fine arts (BFA), and bachelor of architecture (BArch).

Because bachelor’s degrees train students to enter a specific field, many professional careers require them. Earning a bachelor’s degree can open the door to many job opportunities and increase your potential income.

Some institutions offer a liberal arts and career combination program, also called a 3-2 program. This is a type of dual degree in which a student completes three years of liberal arts study followed by two years of professional or technical study. In the end, students earn two bachelor’s degrees, usually a BA and a BS.

An example of this is Columbia University’s 3-2 Combined Plan program in which students can earn a BA and a BS in five years.

Some colleges also let you earn a teacher certification by combining bachelor's degree study with state certification requirements. State requirements vary, but these programs usually feature professional education courses, including student teaching.

Graduate Degree

Graduate degrees are advanced degrees that some students pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree. The two most common are master of arts (MA) and master of science (MS). Other examples include master of fine arts (MFA) and master of business administration (MBA). A graduate degree is like an extension of a bachelor’s degree whereby a student further enriches their knowledge of their field and narrows their f ocus of study .

Graduate degrees usually take around two years to attain, but this can vary based on the degree. Many institutions allow students to enroll in a graduate program in a field unrelated to their bachelor’s degree. This may require some extra credit hours, though.

Professional Degree

Students earn professional degrees to become licensed to work in professions like medicine or law. The M.D. degree is an example. Professional programs generally require a college degree before you start them and then at least three years of study to complete.

Doctoral Degree and Professional Degree

The doctorate and professional degrees are the highest levels of education one can attain. They signify mastery of a subject and often come with the coveted title “doctor.” Although the two are similar, there are some important differences.

A doctorate or doctoral degree is a research-oriented degree focused on scholarly development. The most common doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Despite the name, a PhD covers many disciplines, not just philosophy.

A professional degree is an application-oriented degree, meaning it prepares students for a specific working position. There are many types of professional degrees. Some examples are: doctor of medicine (MD), doctor of pharmacy (PharmD), and doctor of medicine in dentistry (DMD) in the field of medicine, and juris doctor (JD) and doctor of juridical science (SJD) in the field of law.

A graduate degree does not need to precede a doctorate or professional degree. Often, students will go straight into a doctorate or professional program following their bachelor’s, however some programs will require a master’s degree to gain entry. Completion can take anywhere from four to eight years, depending on the field of study.

Many doctoral students work either full-time or part-time while they study in the program. This, along with the field they are studying, will significantly affect the time it takes to complete their degree.

Joint Degrees

Some students may choose to pursue a joint degree, also known as a dual degree, which means they simultaneously study for a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree. Joint degrees can be pursued in the same college or can be split between two different colleges. For example, Berklee College of Music and Harvard University offer a dual bachelor’s/master’s program in which a student receives a bachelor of arts (BA) at Harvard and a master of music (MM) or master of arts (MA) at Berklee.

Depending on the program, it may be possible to study at the same time for a master's degree and a doctorate. For example, the University of Southern California offers a program leading to doctor of pharmacy and master of public health degrees.

How do academic degrees go in order?

There are four types of degrees. In order of level of education, they rank as associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s or graduate degrees, and doctorate or professional degrees.

How many degrees are there in college?

Most community colleges offer only two-year associate degrees, while most four-year colleges offer bachelor’s, graduate, and doctorate or professional degrees. Some four-year colleges may also have associate degree programs.

How many years do you have to be in college to achieve certain degrees?

Though it will vary between academic disciplines, associate degrees usually take two years to achieve, bachelor’s degrees take four years, master’s degrees take two years, and doctorate or professional degrees can take anywhere from four to eight years.

What is an eight-year degree?

An “eight-year degree” typically refers to a doctorate degree or PhD. Although some doctorates can be completed in as little as three years, these degrees typically require more time studying highly specialized subjects. Students in these programs often must defend a dissertation while already working a professional job.

What are the four years of college called?

The first four years of college are the undergraduate years, and a student studying for a bachelor’s degree is called an undergraduate. The four years refer to the total accumulated credit hours; a student may take fewer or more than four years to attain their undergraduate degree.

What does a graduate degree mean?

A graduate degree or master’s degree is an advanced degree that some students pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree. Earning a graduate degree signifies mastery of a particular field of study and focuses more intensely on a subject than a bachelor’s degree does. Graduate degrees usually take two years to attain.

What do you call a master's student?

A master's student is called a graduate student or “grad student” for short. A student still studying for a bachelor’s degree is called an undergraduate student or “undergrad student.”

How many years is a master's degree?

Graduate degrees usually take around two years to attain, but this can vary based on the degree. Many institutions allow students to enroll in a graduate program in a field unrelated to their bachelor’s degree, although it may require some extra credit hours.

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From Associate to Doctorate: A Complete Guide to College Degree Levels

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

Considering a college degree? First, you'll have to understand the types of degrees and college degree levels.

Different degrees prepare you for different career paths. For example, you can't become a psychologist with just a bachelor's degree — you'd need a master's or doctorate in psychology. And you usually can't become an engineer without at least a bachelor's degree.

Typically, as your university degree level rises, your earning potential increases, and the unemployment rate decreases. That's one more reason it's important to understand the different types of degrees.

What Types of Degrees Are There in College?

There are many types of degrees you can earn in college. College degree levels can be broken down into two categories: undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees.

Here are the college degrees in order, from lowest ranking to highest:

  • Associate degree (undergraduate)
  • Bachelor's degree (undergraduate)
  • Master's degree (graduate)
  • Doctoral degree (graduate)

While a doctorate is the highest education level, some fields may stop at a master's. The phrase "terminal degree" refers to the highest degree in a field.

A professional degree is a type of graduate degree — often a doctorate — that prepares you for a professional career in fields like law and medicine.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Associate Degree

  • Typical Program Length: 1-2 years
  • Typical Number of Credits: 60

Most associate degrees prepare you to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. These programs can be found at community and technical colleges and typically last 1-2 years.

An associate degree can also serve as the foundation for a bachelor's program. You may even be able to transfer some of the credits you earned for your associate degree toward a four-year degree.

Some associate degrees require you to complete an internship or practicum in addition to taking classes. This is particularly common among healthcare and tech degrees.

To apply for an associate degree program , you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED certificate. Some schools may require you to submit standardized test scores, such as the ACT or the SAT, as well.

Featured Associate Programs

What can you do with an associate degree.

An associate degree prepares you for vocational, allied health, and support roles. For example, you can become a medical assistant , paralegal , or vet tech with an associate degree.

The highest-paying careers with an associate degree pay over $80,000 per year. See the table below for salary information on other popular associate degree jobs.

Source: BLS

Types of Associate Degrees

Colleges can offer three kinds of associate degrees:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Arts, humanities, and creative fields typically offer an AA, whereas social sciences and natural sciences fields often award an AS. Many applied and vocational programs offer an AAS degree.

The type of degree matters if you're planning to transfer into a bachelor's program. Colleges normally offer fewer transfer credits for an AAS degree.

Popular Associate Degrees

  • Business Administration
  • Business Management
  • Computer Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Cybersecurity
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Graphic Design
  • Healthcare Management
  • Information Technology
  • Medical Assisting
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Pre-Nursing
  • Social Work

Bachelor's Degree

  • Typical Program Length: 4 years
  • Typical Number of Credits: 120

A bachelor's degree prepares you for many career paths. You'll generally spend four years earning a bachelor's degree at a college or university. You'll take general education classes and courses in your major . You can also choose a minor.

Some colleges offer accelerated bachelor's programs , which take less time — often 2-3 years. Degree-completion programs can also speed up the timeline by awarding you credit for previous college coursework.

You can earn your bachelor's degree online as well. An online degree from an accredited college meets the same standards as that of an in-person degree.

You'll need a high school diploma for admission and may also need to submit SAT or ACT scores.

Featured Bachelor's Programs

What can you do with a bachelor's degree.

In diverse industries like business, tech, and education, a bachelor's degree can prepare you for many entry-level careers. Some of the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree include roles in finance, management, and tech.

Graduates with a four-year degree can also benefit from high demand in many lucrative fields, like software development and engineering. The table below introduces some popular jobs with a bachelor's degree.

Types of Bachelor's Degrees

You can earn a bachelor's degree in many fields. Some of the most common types of bachelor's degrees you'll see include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The two most popular degrees are a BA and a BS. These degrees cover all arts and sciences majors and some education and engineering degrees.

Popular Bachelor's Degrees

  • Civil Engineering
  • Communication
  • Computer Programming
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Sciences
  • Human Resources
  • Mathematics
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Public Policy
  • Supply Chain and Logistics

Master's Degree

  • Typical Program Length: 1-3 years
  • Typical Number of Credits: 30

A master's degree can help you gain specialized skills and qualify for higher-paying roles. As a graduate student, you'll work closely with experts in your field to explore advanced topics.

While a master's degree typically takes two years, some universities offer accelerated one-year master's programs. You can also enroll in a bachelor's-to-master's program to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in less time.

Most master's programs require a minimum of 30 credits. Admission and graduation requirements vary depending on the program. For example, many arts and sciences master's programs require GRE scores , while business programs typically require GMAT scores .

Featured Master's Programs

What can you do with a master's degree.

With a master's degree, you can qualify for management-level careers and specialized roles in industries like healthcare, research, and social services. The highest-paying master's degrees include MBAs and nurse practitioner degrees.

Learn more about the earning potential and demand for popular master's degree jobs below.

Types of Master's Degrees

Here are some of the most common types of master's degrees you can earn:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Master of Laws (LL.M.)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Master of Social Work (MSW)

An MA and an MS are among the most popular master's degrees. Humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences fields typically award an MA or an MS. Other popular options include an MBA and an M.Ed.

Popular Master's Degrees

  • Creative Writing
  • Data Science
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Library and Information Science
  • Network Security
  • Public Health
  • Supply Chain Management

Doctoral Degrees

  • Typical Program Length: 2-10 years
  • Typical Number of Credits: Varies

A doctorate represents the highest degree you can get in academia. There are a few types of doctoral degrees you can get.

Professional doctorates train you for a professional career. For example, law school and med school are two common professional paths. A Ph.D., on the other hand — by far one of the most common types of doctorates — emphasizes theory and research.

In a doctoral program, you'll take graduate-level seminars and courses, take comprehensive exams, conduct original research, and defend a dissertation in front of a faculty committee.

Most applied doctorates take 3-5 years, while a Ph.D. typically requires 4-6 years of coursework. In certain fields, you can earn your doctorate online.

Some doctoral programs require a master's degree for admission, whereas others admit applicants with just a bachelor's degree. You may need to submit standardized test scores depending on the program.

Featured Doctoral Programs

What can you do with a doctorate.

If you want to become a physician , professor , or lawyer, you'll need a doctorate. In many fields, a doctorate translates into higher salaries. Lawyers, pharmacists , and physicists all report median salaries of over $125,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The following table shows the earning potential and demand for popular doctoral degree jobs.

Types of Doctoral Degrees

A doctorate is the highest education level, but there are still several types of doctoral degrees. Here are some of the most common you can get:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)
  • Juris Doctor (JD)

A Ph.D. is the most popular doctorate. You can earn a Ph.D. in many arts and sciences fields. Other doctorates take their names from the career path associated with the degree.

Popular Doctoral Degrees

  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Leadership
  • Human Services
  • Legal Studies
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Public Administration

Frequently Asked Questions About College Degree Levels

What are the four types of college degrees.

The four types of college degrees are associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral degrees. Colleges classify associate and bachelor's degrees as undergraduate degrees and master's and doctoral degrees as graduate degrees.

Within those categories, you can earn many types of degrees. For instance, at the bachelor's level, you could earn a bachelor of arts (BA), a bachelor of science (BS), or a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree.

What is a four-year college degree called?

A four-year college degree is called a bachelor's degree. Another term for this degree type is a baccalaureate degree.

Many careers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level roles. For example, most careers in business require you to hold a bachelor's degree. Many roles in tech, education, the public sector, and engineering also require you to have a four-year degree.

Some career paths require a specific major. In many states, you'll need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to become a registered nurse . In other fields, your specific major matters less than the quality of your skills.

What is the highest degree?

The highest degree is a doctorate, also called a doctoral degree. In terms of university degree levels, both master's and bachelor's degrees rank below doctorates.

You can earn a doctorate in a wide array of fields, including the social sciences, business, the humanities, education, engineering, and healthcare.

In some fields, however, a master's degree represents the terminal, or highest, degree. For instance, a master of fine arts (MFA) is the terminal degree for creative writing.

What is the hardest college degree?

Most would agree that the hardest college degree is a doctorate. As the highest education level, a doctorate requires significant expertise in the field.

Many Ph.D. programs take six years or more and require you to write a book-length dissertation based on original research.

Because a doctorate represents the top of the university degree levels, it's a relatively uncommon degree. Only around 2% of U.S. adults held a doctorate in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau .

What is the quickest degree?

The fastest degree you can get is either a one-year associate degree or a one-year master's degree. While other types of degrees typically take a minimum of two years, you can earn a master's degree in one year with an accelerated or fast-track program.

You can sometimes add a master's degree to your bachelor's through a 4+1 program, also known as a bachelor's-to-master's program. In this case, some of your coursework counts toward both your undergraduate and graduate degrees, meaning you'll spend an additional year in college to leave with a master's degree.

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Early Childhood and Childhood Education

Embark on a transformative journey where passion meets purpose, and every child's potential is nurtured and celebrated. Our bachelor and masters programs in Early Childhood Education are designed to cultivate compassionate, competent educators who shape the future with knowledge, dedication, and innovation. Siena graduates leaders who are intent on making the world a better place by shining their light in classrooms across New York.

Our faculty, composed of experienced educators and researchers, are committed to mentorship and academic excellence. They foster a collaborative learning environment where students engage in meaningful dialogue, critical reflection, and experiential learning opportunities.

Join us in shaping the future of education. Your journey begins at Siena.  

B.S. in Early Childhood and Childhood Education

The undergraduate program in Early Childhood and Childhood Education leads to a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Childhood Education, and provides the coursework and fieldwork required for initial certification for Birth-Grade 6 in New York State and reciprocal states. The program incorporates content core requirements (a concentration in the liberal arts and sciences to ensure the knowledge base for teaching NYS learning standards), core requirements, and clinical field requirements.

B.S. Degree Concentrations:

M.S. in Ed. Program

The graduate program in Early Childhood and Childhood Education provides the education coursework and fieldwork required for initial and professional certification for Birth-Grade 6 in New York State and reciprocal states. Many of the undergraduate and graduate courses will be offered online, with fieldwork and student teaching in person.

M.S. in Ed. applicants may have a major or concentration in psychology, English, Spanish, biology, math or history or American studies.

Related Programs & Majors

masters in education vs bachelors

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

masters in education vs bachelors

Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction

masters in education vs bachelors

Education Dual Major

Nearly Half of All Masters Degrees Aren't Worth Getting

According to new research, 23 percent of bachelor's degree programs and 43 percent of master's degree programs have a negative roi..

Emma Camp | 5.10.2024 3:23 PM

Is college worth it? Well, it depends on what degree you're getting and where you're getting it, according to a new paper from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP), an economic opportunity think tank.

While more than three-quarters of all bachelor's degrees have a positive return on investment (ROI), according to the paper, master's and associate degrees are much riskier bets—with many costing students in the long run.

The paper, by Senior Fellow Preston Cooper, examined data from over 50,000 degree and certificate programs at thousands of American colleges and universities. Cooper's analysis looked at how much students were earning immediately after graduation, as well as how much they were making 10 years later. The paper also took into account a student's chance of dropping out when calculating a degree program's ROI.

In all, Cooper found that 31 percent of students are enrolled in a program with a negative ROI—meaning that "the earnings benefits of the degree are unlikely to fully compensate students for the cost and risk of pursuing post-secondary education."

However, different kinds of degrees were more likely to have a negative ROI than others. For example, 77 percent of bachelor's degrees and doctoral and professional degrees have a positive ROI. In contrast, just 57 percent of master's and associate degree programs have a positive ROI. 

For bachelor's degrees, fine arts, education, and biology programs had the lowest median ROI, while engineering, computer science, and nursing degrees gave students the highest long-term rewards.

However, where college students were enrolled also mattered when it came to ROI. For example, an English degree from the University of Virginia has a $581,925 positive return on investment—climbing to over $600,000 when only including students who graduated on time. In contrast, students at Virginia Commonwealth University—another public university—who majored in English have a negative $30,000 ROI, with just a $3,624 benefit for those who end up graduating on time.

"When choosing a college and program of study, students should evaluate several key variables that contribute to ROI. The most important is earnings after graduation," Cooper writes. "Besides starting salary, another critical factor is the institution's completion rate. While students' individual ability and motivation affects their likelihood of completion, research shows that college quality also has an impact on completion rates."

Cooper also pointed out just how much federal dollars go toward funding low-value degree programs. He found that 29 percent of the federal funding that went to the programs he studied went to programs with a negative ROI.

"That figure includes $37 billion in Pell Grants, $47 billion in loans to undergraduates, and $39 billion in loans to graduate students," Cooper writes. "Because ROI is negative for these programs, it's unlikely that most of those loan dollars will be repaid." 

This latest paper paints a detailed picture of the kinds of concerns prospective students and their families should take into account when deciding whether to enroll in college. While bachelor's degrees are still a good bet overall, students need to consider what they'll really get out of both the major they want to study and the school they've been accepted into.

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School of Education Launches New Degrees, Certifications through Samford Online

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Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education is expanding its reach and accessibility through a number of new undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certifications with Samford Online .

Samford Online helps students work at a pace that is right for their needs, while still providing the top quality in academic excellence for which Samford University is known. Students can expect an educational experience anchored in Christian understanding, world class faculty and a commitment to ensuring quality online content and delivery.

For many, higher education seems out of reach, impractical and even impossible, but Samford Online’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are tailor-made to reach students where they are and at any season of life.

Orlean Beeson School of Education is devoted to producing top quality graduates and professionals who make the world a better place in their community-focused and people-oriented professions. These new online offerings represent Samford’s unwavering commitment to provide leading academic programming and career preparedness in higher education and to foster positive change across the globe.

Samford Online’s Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Science

Samford Online is now offering a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Science. The program focuses on interpersonal relationships, their connection to and their impact on human flourishing in families and communities. Skills are applied as students conduct family science research and complete internship hours in local community settings. This major prepares students for family-centered careers and provides an excellent foundation for graduate study in numerous areas.

“This course curriculum is designed to equip graduates with all the skills necessary to move into roles with significant human impact,” said Kristie Chandler, professor and chair of the human development and family science department. “Preparing students to work with and advocate for families and children in non-profit or ministry settings, government, business, education and other fields is vital to ensuring healthy and thriving communities.”

Samford Online’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership

Samford Online is now offering a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership . The program builds upon adult learning principles, culturally responsive leadership, purpose-oriented project management, organizational communication, and values-based performance appraisal, graduates will acquire the advanced knowledge, skills, and dispositions that characterize faith-informed leadership.

“Research indicates that our nation is experiencing a shortage of qualified, ethical, and moral leadership,” said Anna McEwan, dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education. “This program seeks to fill that shortage with the highest quality leaders and professionals.”

This program offers a direct pathway from Samford Online’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership , to those interested in pursuing one of the university’s doctoral programs and is considered the perfect prerequisite for those interested in the School of Education’s Doctorate of Education .

Samford Online’s New Certifications

For many, continuing studies through one of Samford Online’s programs or certifications is an excellent resource for building one’s portfolio and resume, or for distinguishing their degrees. As such, the following new certifications are tailer-made for those pursuing or polishing careers in the Human Development and Family Science fields.

  • Parenting in the 21 st Century

Students can expect to unlock the keys to raising children who embody the virtues of compassion, integrity and resilience as parents learn to foster a nurturing home environment through this comprehensive certificate program. Specializing in character development, this program guides students through proven strategies and timeless wisdom from character development specialists. Delve into 30 hours of enriching educational content designed to empower you as a parent.

  • Caring for Children with Special Needs

Students will embark on a transformative journey of learning and empowerment with this comprehensive online certificate program in caring for children with special needs. This program equips parents, guardians, teachers or caregivers with invaluable insights and practical skills to positively impact the lives of those they care for. Learn effective communication strategies, behavior management techniques, practices for supporting daily living, skills for accessing support services, methods for promoting social inclusion and peer relationships and caregiver self-care practices in this 30-hour immersive educational experience.

  • Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults with Special Needs

This certificate offers 30 hours of educational content tailored for parents, caregivers, educators and advocates, designed to address this critical age group's unique challenges and opportunities. Explore topics such as transition planning, vocational skills development, fostering independence and promoting social and emotional well-being. Whether navigating the transition to adulthood with a family member or supporting individuals in educational or vocational settings, this program equips you with the knowledge and tools needed to make a meaningful difference in the lives of adolescents and young adults with diverse abilities.

With a variety of options for those interested in pursuing academic studies, Samford remains steadfast in creating a place where students’ passion meets purpose.

“Our faculty are devoted to providing a valuable education to all of Samford’s students,” said McEwan. “Whether this be in the classroom or through distance-learning opportunities, we will never stop pursuing our calling to educate, lead and serve.”

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Build the Knowledge to Facilitate Learning with a Bachelor’s in Education Studies

Gain the insight necessary to maximize student learning from PK to grade 12. By studying education and learning theory, you’ll understand how to create situations conducive to student success. Franklin University’s 100% online B.S. Education Studies exposes you to learning theories and models that are prevalent in today’s PK-12 education settings. 

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Education Studies Program Overview

Impact learners at various stages and in a variety of learning environments.

Whether you want to team teach at a childcare center, run your own classroom at a charter or private school or create a foundation for graduate-level studies in instructional design, the bachelor’s degree program in Education Studies is a good fit for you. 

You’ll learn to understand the learning challenges children and teens face and how to create strategies to overcome them. With inclusive practices woven throughout the program, you’ll gain insight on how to meet learners where they are in order to help them succeed. 

Identify milestones in student development

You’ll examine human development across the lifespan to understand the biological, psychological, and social influences on development. As a result, you gain insight into prominent theoretical perspectives associated with development in childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, as well as mid- and late life.

Match instructional needs to students’ needs and progress

You’ll explore research and theory on the effectiveness of differentiated classrooms and examine the importance of differentiating instruction for today's diverse student population. You’ll learn to recognize the need to increase variety in teaching, learning and assessment to respond to individual student needs, as well as how to use strategies including assignment tiering, graphic organizers, critical thinking skills, reflection and assessment strategies customized for a mixed-ability classroom. You’ll begin to diagnose student needs and prescribe tasks that create better matches between learning needs and preferences and plan and implement methods appropriate for assessing individual learning needs in a performance-based curriculum.

Create an inclusive classroom culture and help students take ownership of their learning

As a student in Franklin’s Education Studies major, you’ll create a variety of valid and reliable classroom assessments. You will also explore how to use data to influence classroom decisions, guide and improve teaching skills, and tailor instruction to individual learning needs. You’ll find the connection between constructive evaluation skills such as constructive feedback; helping students monitor their own progress; influencing students’ continuing motivation; and their perceptions of self-efficacy as learners and the positive effect on student learning.  

Earn your bachelor’s in education studies from a university built for busy adults 

Whether you want to team teach at a childcare center, run your own classroom at a charter or private school or create a foundation for graduate-level studies in instructional design, the bachelor’s degree program in education studies is a good fit for you. 

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Education Studies Courses & Curriculum

In this course, students acquire the writing competencies necessary for completing analytical and argumentative papers supported by secondary research. A variety of assignments, beginning with personal reflections, build upon one another, as students develop ideas that respond to, critique, and synthesize the positions of others. Students systematize and organize knowledge in ways that will help them in all their courses. The course also emphasizes the elements of critical reading, effective writing style, appropriate grammar and mechanics, clarity of language, and logical and cohesive development. It culminates in submission of an extended, documented research paper.

This course introduces you to statistics with applications to various areas. The course covers both descriptive and inferential statistics. Topics included are: sampling techniques, data types, experiments; measures of central tendency, measures of dispersion, graphical displays of data, basic probability concepts, binomial and normal probability distributions, sampling distributions and Central Limit Theorem; confidence intervals, hypothesis tests of a mean, or a proportion for one or two populations, and linear regression.

Choose either MATH 140 Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning or MATH 150 Fundamental Algebra as the prerequisite to MATH 215. Course can count as a University Elective.

This course is a survey of the various fields of study comprising modern scientific psychology. We will examine the theories, research findings, and applications in each of the major areas of psychology, with the goal of providing students with practical information they can apply to their personal and professional lives. The topic areas covered in the course include learning and memory, motivation and emotion, human development, theories of personality, psychopathology, and social behavior.

2 credits from the following types of courses: Choose from the Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, or Sociology disciplines.

6 credits from the following types of courses: Two courses from the Science discipline. One course must have a lab component.

6 credits from the following types of courses: Choose from the Art, English Literature, Fine Arts, Humanities, Music, Philosophy, Religion or Theater disciplines.

This course prepares students to be successful lifelong learners both academically and in their chosen careers. Franklin courses require a high level of self-directed learning and focus on the skills required in the workplace and the classroom that are easily transferrable between the two environments. The course includes strategies for time management, goal setting, reading comprehension, and advancing communication skills, including the use of electronic tools to participate in virtual environments.

This course prepares students to be successful lifelong learners both academically and in their chosen careers. Franklin courses require a high level of self-directed learning and focus on the skills required in the workplace and the classroom that are easily transferable between the two environments. The course includes strategies for advancing communication skills, including the use of electronic tools to participate in virtual environments. The assignments and activities in the course are created to closely simulate teamwork found in the workplace.

By using applied critical and creative thinking, students in this course will develop a set of communication skills that will enhance their personal and professional relationships and endeavors. This course will focus on skill development in key areas such as self, perception, listening, verbal messages, conversations, relationships, conflict management, persuasion, and presentation skills.

This basic public-speaking course intends to improve the student's ability to think critically and to communicate orally. Theory and practice are provided in various speaking situations. Each student is required to speak before an audience, but class work also involves reading, gathering and organizing information, writing, and listening.

4 credits from the following types of courses: Any General Education course at the 100 or 200 level

A survey of human development across the lifespan examining the biological, psychological, and social influences on development. Prominent theoretical perspectives associated with development in childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, midlife, and late life will be included.

This course explores the profession of education and examines the state, federal, and institutional standards that guide the profession. Students will examine the psychological, sociological, and philosophical foundations of education as they relate to learning. Topics of discussion and analysis include the development of individual differences; atmosphere of respect; understanding students' needs grouping, education of minorities; how the teacher creates instructional opportunities that are equitable and adaptable to diverse learners; exploring the components of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.

This course provides students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the philosophical, historical, and legal foundations of special education as well as an understanding of the characteristics of learners who have special needs; explore and define the concepts of special education in schools and society, and acquire knowledge about the legal and procedural aspects of special education and develop an understanding and respect for individual needs and diversity. Students relate multicultural issues, beliefs, and practices to the needs of the student with mild/moderate disabilities, explore crisis intervention/prevention models and strategies and examine conflict resolution. This course presents students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the issues relating to developing and encouraging positive social interaction skills, issues relating to the diverse emotional needs of students with mild/moderate disabilities, and issues relating to student behavior.

This course will provide the opportunity for students to dig deeper into how students acquire and retain knowledge, as well as the factors that affect student learning and motivation. Students will learn the importance of teaching and designing lessons in consideration of the biological functions of the brain. The fundamentals of brain-based learning will be covered as well as how this knowledge can be applied to the classroom environment and instruction. The cause of academic deficits will be explored in light of executive functioning skills and students will learn interventions to address executive functioning difficulties in learners.

The course explores literature for the early and middle childhood aged student with an emphasis on standards for selection of materials with reference to the interests, needs, and abilities of children at the different levels within these ranges of ages. Attention is given to books and their uses in all subject matters. Special emphasis is placed on activities that will motivate early and middle childhood students to read. The goal of creating life-long readers is stressed.

This course provides students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the theories of cognition, intelligence, and learning, especially as it relates to identifying children with special needs. A developmental perspective will be utilized in the examination of the biological, social, psychological, and cultural influences on growth and change during childhood and adolescence. Students begin the process of relating the theories to instruction and assessment processes.

This course is required for prospective teachers seeking the Resident Educator Early Childhood License, the Resident Educator Middle Childhood License, and the Resident Educator Intervention Specialist License. The focus is the explicit, systematic teaching of phonics: the history, the evidence, and the individual components of this approach. Letter-sound relationships, blending, word building, decoding multisyllable words and fluency are established as effective, evidence-based methods of teaching decoding skills. Application is addressed through explanations, models, and resources provided within the text and additional supplemental resources available through a companion website access.

This course is required for prospective teachers seeking the Provisional Early Childhood License, the Provisional Middle Childhood License, or the Provisional Intervention Specialist License. The course examines the development of communication skills in early learners, from listening and speaking to reading and writing. It presents frameworks aligned with the science-based principles of early literacy development, encompassing components of Structured Literacy, incorporating evidence-based strategies that promote effective reading and writing instruction.

This course is required for prospective teachers seeking the Resident Educator Middle Childhood License, the Resident Educator Adolescence to Young Adult License, or the Resident Educator Intervention Specialist License. The course explores the development from learning-to-read to using reading to learn. It investigates the role of vocabulary instruction, comprehension, study skills, and the writing process. It also addresses the assessment of textbooks, the reading process, and student motivation.

This course is designed to emphasize the connectivity of technology to the classroom and the general curriculum. Students will explore programs that will aid them in classroom management, data collection, student-produced work, creating instructional tools, and administration of classroom responsibilities. Students will develop products that can be used to support their teaching and the learning process of their students.

This course is intended for students seeking an American Education Studies Bachelor?s Degree. This course will provide students with the opportunity to explore research and theory on the effectiveness of differentiated classrooms; examine the importance of differentiating instruction for today's diverse student population; recognize the need to increase variety in teaching, learning, and assessment to respond to individual student needs; utilize strategies including assignment tiering, graphic organizers, critical thinking skills, reflection and assessment strategies customized for a mixed-ability classroom; diagnose student needs and prescribe tasks that create better matches between learning needs and preferences and plan and implement methods appropriate for assessing individual learning needs in a performance-based curriculum.

This course is required for prospective teachers seeking the Resident Educator License. The course examines all aspects of instructional planning and examines the common strategies teachers employ to conduct their lessons. It assumes students have a deep understanding of the content they will teach and an extensive understanding and appreciation of the students with whom they will work. The overriding purpose of the course resides in the transformation of content and behavioral objectives into sequences of instructional activities that make it accessible to students.

Presents an overview of classroom organization and management, and systematic behavior change techniques required for the effective teaching and enhanced students learning for all children in Pre-K through 12th grade. This course explores the social and emotional development of school-aged children, investigates the causes of children?s various behaviors, and prepares teacher candidates to support children in developing self-regulation skills needed to support learning and communicating with others. This course will also focus on classroom management practices necessary to build an effective classroom learning community that supports student learning. You will learn to establish and maintain collaborative partnerships that are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture with each student?s family to foster student learning and development in all settings and skills needed to establish relationships with and use resources of the students? communities to support student learning and development.

This course is required for prospective teachers seeking the Resident Elementary Education License. This course explores the history, philosophy, purposes, and societal needs for elementary education. Appropriate organization and curriculum for PK-5 will be discussed. Readiness for learning will be investigated.

This course is intended for students seeking an American Education Studies Bachelor?s Degree. This course introduces students to data-based instruction and individualization. Assessment techniques, the analysis of assessment results, and the uses of data are explored. Students will also explore how to use data to influence classroom decisions, guide and improve teaching skills, tailor instruction to individual learning needs, and support decisions regarding student?s inclusion or progress in tiered systems of support.

39 credits from the following types of courses: Any undergraduate courses offered by the University except developmental education courses.

All students are required to pass College Writing (ENG 120), and either Basic Learning Strategies (PF 121) or Learning Strategies (PF 321) prior to enrolling in any course at the 200 level or above. Students who enroll at Franklin with 30 or fewer hours of transfer credit are required to pass PF 121 Basic Learning Strategies in place of PF 321 Learning Strategies. Interpersonal Communication (COMM 150) or Speech Communication (SPCH 100) must be taken prior to enrolling in any course at the 300 level or above. Students must also meet the University algebra competency requirement.

Academic Minors

Personalize your degree with a minor. Explore available minors, learn how minors can benefit you, and find out what requirements you must meet to earn a minor.

B.S. Education Studies Program Details

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67% LESS IN TUITION

For students taking 31 credits per year, Franklin University’s undergraduate tuition for the 2023-2024 academic year is $12,338. According to Collegeboard.org , that's about 67% less than the national average private, nonprofit four-year college tuition of $38,070.

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1. To be awarded an undergraduate degree, students must:

  • Successfully complete all courses required in the major program, including:
  • General Education
  • Business or Professional Core
  • Major Area and Elective Courses
  • Technical transfer credit (for specific degree completion programs only)

2. Meet these grade point average (GPA) requirements:

  • All students must attain a minimum Franklin University cumulative GPA of 2.00
  • All students must attain a minimum GPA of 2.25 in the major area, and each major area course must be completed with a grade of “C” or better to count toward degree requirements

3. Complete the residency requirement

Students seeking a bachelor’s degree must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours at Franklin University to be eligible for a degree. Students seeking an associate’s degree must earn 20 credit hours overall in residence at Franklin University to be eligible for a degree. 

4. Complete the payment of all requisite tuition and fees

5. Not be under disciplinary dismissal due to academic dishonesty or a violation of the Student Code of Conduct

Program Chairs and Academic Advisors are available for consultation to provide information and guidance regarding the selection of courses, the accuracy of schedules, and the transfer process. However, students are responsible for understanding and meeting the degree requirements of their major program or degree and for planning schedules accordingly.

Overall Residency Requirements

Course level requirements.

A student must have 40 credit hours overall that are equivalent to 300/400 level Franklin University courses for a bachelor’s degree. A student must have a minimum of 12 credit hours of courses that are equivalent to 200 level or above for an associate’s degree.

Business Core Requirements

Majors that have Business Core requirements are Accounting, Applied Management, Business Administration, Business Economics, Business Forensics, Energy Management, Entrepreneurship, Financial Management, Financial Planning, Forensic Accounting, Human Resources Management, Information Systems Auditing, Logistics Management, Management & Leadership, Marketing, Operations & Supply Chain Management, and Risk Management & Insurance. The Business Core is the foundation of the related academic disciplines appropriate for a baccalaureate degree in business. The purpose of the Business Core is to provide students with a conceptual understanding of organizations, how the functional areas interrelate to achieve organizational goals, and how to apply professional decision-making competencies and technical skills in today’s environment. After completing the Business Core, graduates will be able to:

  • analyze an organization’s accounting information in order to develop sound business decisions
  • identify and apply valuation models relevant to an organization’s financial decisions
  • identify the impact of forces influencing the major functional areas of business (e.g., ethical, legal, technological, economic, global and social)
  • apply marketing activities to the delivery of goods and services in business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets
  • apply interpersonal and resource management skills to enhance business success

Business Principles (BSAD 110) is a Business Core prerequisite. Transfer students with the equivalent of four business courses are not required to take Business Principles.

Major Area Requirements

A student must have 20 credit hours in the major area that are equivalent to 300/400 major level Franklin courses for a bachelor’s degree. A student must have 12 hours of major area courses that are equivalent to 200 level or above for an associate’s degree. A minimum 2.25 GPA is required in the major area for students enrolled in either the associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs, and each major course must be completed with a grade of “C” or better to count toward degree requirements.

Capstone Requirement

Every major has a capstone experience for which credit cannot be transferred into the University. This is a Franklin course designed to integrate and assess the learning outcomes specific to each major as a whole. This course should be taken as the last major course. If, given the academic scheduling process and the student’s projected graduation date, this is not possible, then the student should have Senior Standing (90 or more credit hours), plus the skill-based General Education courses (COMM, SPCH, WRIT, MATH, COMP), all business or professional core courses, and the capstone prerequisite courses.

Subsequent Degree Requirements

Students pursuing subsequent bachelor’s degrees must earn in residency at Franklin University a minimum of 30 credit hours at the 200 level or above, of which a minimum of 16 credit hours must be major area courses equivalent to 300/400 level courses.

Additional Degree Requirements

Students seeking an additional bachelor’s (or associate’s) degree must successfully complete a minimum of 30 credit hours (including the major requirements) beyond the first bachelor’s (or associate’s) degree. (See the “Subsequent Degree” section of the Academic Bulletin.)

Transfer Credit

Transfer credit and credit awarded on standardized exams, proficiency exams or portfolio credit awarded by another institution will not count toward the residency requirement at Franklin University. Credit awarded based on proficiency examination or portfolio evaluation conducted by Franklin University may apply as appropriate major area credit, but will not reduce the hours required toward the residency requirement.

A student who meets at least one of the following criteria is eligible for admission as a degree-seeking student: 

  • Has provided official documentation of graduation from an accredited high school or its equivalent (see Documentation Required below), or 
  • Has an associate, bachelor or master’s degree from an institutionally (formerly regionally) accredited institution of higher education, an institution recognized as a candidate for accreditation, or an institution recognized by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation

Documentation Required

  • Documentation of high school graduation or equivalence - required for applicants who are transferring fewer than 60 semester hours that apply towards a Franklin degree. 
  • If the student has transferable hours of 60 credit hours or more from an institutionally (formerly regionally) accredited institution of higher education, then they will not have to provide a high school diploma or equivalence. Acceptable forms of documentation of high school graduation or high school equivalence for undergraduate admission must include one of the following: 
  • Official high school transcript listing the date of graduation 
  • Official GED certificate 
  • Official documentation of having passed a State High School Equivalency examination 
  • Official documentation of a home school completion certificate/transcript 
  • Official transcripts from all educational institutions (college, universities, professional schools, etc.) previously enrolled in, regardless if credit was earned. 

A student classified as degree seeking will not be permitted to register for courses until all transcripts are received and placement tests completed (see specific requirements under “Placement Testing”).

Admission Process

Admission procedures should be started early to maximize scheduling options and financial planning. Learn more about the undergraduate admission process.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

Prospective students must demonstrate English Language Proficiency. The requirement is met through any of the following: 

  • The applicant is a citizen of a country where English is the official language. 
  • he applicant has received a bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an institution located in an English-speaking country in which the courses were taught in English. 
  • The applicant has earned appropriate scores on language proficiency exams taken within the last two years, as listed below.

Undergraduate face-to-face: Students must earn a minimum overall TOEFL score of 500 (paper-based), 60 (Internet-based), 5.5 IELTS, ACCUPLACER ESL 259, or Cambridge 160 with at least the following scores on each of the exam subsections. Prior to registration, students will be given a language placement exam to determine whether ESL studies are required.

Global or Online International students must take Reading Comprehension and Writing placement exams. 

Students must earn a minimum overall TOEFL score of 550 (paper-based) /79 (Internet-based), 6.5 IELTS, ACCUPLACER ESL® 105, or Cambridge 180 with at least the following scores on each of the exam subsections.

ACCUPLACER Assessments for Admission

  • Prospective students may demonstrate English language proficiency through the ACCUPLACER ESL® examinations administered by Franklin University. The ACCUPLACER ESL® suite of examinations are internet-based, computer-adaptive assessments designed to properly assess students’ English language competencies. 
  • Testing fees and any related administrative or proctor fee will be assessed for the administration of the 
  • ACCUPLACER examinations. Students are also responsible for all fees incurred for retake examinations. 
  • Students who do not meet the minimum score requirements may retake the examination(s) once within a two-week period. Subsequent examination retakes will be considered after a three month waiting period. Passing scores will remain valid with Franklin University for a period of two years. 
  • All ACCUPLACER examinations must be administered by an approved proctor that meets specific criteria, as defined by our proctor expectations. An alternative to finding a proctor in your area is Virtual, an online proctoring service, approved by ACCUPLACER. For additional information, contact the Office of International Students and Programs.

A learning outcome map functions as a roadmap to help guide students' progress through their program of study. Click HERE to view the matrix.

Requirements for licensure vary from one profession to another and from state to state. If you are considering an online academic program that leads to a professional license in your state, it is highly recommended that you contact the appropriate licensing agency in your home state BEFORE beginning the academic program located outside your state.  Academic programs and individual graduates must meet standards set by that state in order to be eligible for a license.  Eligibility for licensure and/or certification may involve more than successful degree completion.  If you are interested in professional licensure, please check with the appropriate licensing body in the state where you intend to practice. 

For more information regarding whether this program leads to professional licensure, please visit Franklin University’s Professional Licensure Disclosure webpage .

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masters in education vs bachelors

Education Studies Career Opportunities

Instructional aide.

Instructional aides assist teachers by preparing materials, locating supplies and perform other classroom-related tasks to support instructional activities. 

Charter School Teacher

Charter school teachers work with students to facilitate learning that aligns with the school’s mission.

Private School Teacher

 Private school teachers provide general or specialized instruction to elementary, middle or high-school aged children. 

Childcare Provider

Childcare providers support the well-being of young children and facilitate learning and development. Childcare providers may work independently or as part of a team.

Get College Credit for What You Already Know

The certificates and training listed below are relevant to this degree program. Search our database to view pre-evaluated credentials and see how a license, certification or professional training saves you time and money toward your degree.

B.S. Education Studies Frequently Asked Questions

Congratulations on wanting to finish your degree. At Franklin, we make it easy and convenient for busy, working adults to complete their bachelor's degree program in just under four years. Want to complete your degree even faster? Thanks to our generous transfer credit program, you just might. Visit MyTransfer Credit to see how transfer credits may help you graduate sooner.

Franklin makes getting started easy and convenient. We offer three trimesters each year with plenty of start dates within each trimester. Your start date depends on whether you choose a full- or part-time schedule. Talk to your admissions advisor to select the start date that's best for you.

Franklin University offers a quality education at a competitive cost so you can afford to invest in your future. Our per credit hour tuition rates (vs. per year or per term rates) enable you to get a realistic estimate of exactly how much your degree will cost - especially once you've factored in transfer credit. Our 2023-2024 tuition rate is $398 per credit hour and with our tuition guarantee , you can lock-in your tuition rate from your first term through graduation. Ask our helpful staff about available financing options and financial aid programs. Visit MyTransfer Credit to see how transfer credits could help you save time and money.

The Education Studies degree introduces you to learning theories and models used in PK-12 education as a foundation for an education career in a variety of settings.

With this in-demand Education Studies degree, you’ll gain a broad understanding of learning theories and models used in PK-12 education settings that equips you for roles at childcare centers, as well as private and charter schools. The degree also provides a foundation for graduate study in instructional design or post-baccalaureate teacher licensure.

The Education Studies program is one best suited for those that are interested in working in education roles that do not require a teaching license. These positions include childcare worker, private or charter school teacher or instructional aide. The degree is also a good fit if you plan to study instructional design at the graduate level or pursue a post-baccalaureate teacher licensure program.

Franklin’s Education Studies program is unique because it is 100% online with multiple start dates each term, so you can get started when it works best for you and balance earning your degree around other commitments.

Back to College Blog

What Are the Best Master’s Programs for Education?

What Kind of Master’s Degree Should a Teacher Get?

M.Ed. Salary: Calculating Value for Education Jobs

Types of Master’s in Education Degrees: Which Will Be Most Valuable for You?

Which Master’s in Education Should I Get?

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What Is an Associate Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Associate degrees open paths to new job opportunities and can be used to transfer into bachelor's degree programs.

[Featured Image] Associate degree students gather to discuss classwork.

An associate degree is a two-year college degree that you can obtain from a community college, junior college, online university, or some four-year institutions in the US. In terms of education, an associate degree falls between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree.

Students go on to do different things with their associate degree: some transfer into a bachelor’s degree program, while others choose to go directly into the workforce. You can also earn your associate degree after working for several years; it can be the first step to a new career or help you advance in your current one.

Read on to understand key facts about earning your associate degree, and the important factors—like educational and professional goals—you should consider as you decide whether it's the right choice for your future.

Associate degrees: Key facts

Earning your associate degree is typically more affordable and takes less time than earning your bachelor's degree. It can also help you forge new career paths in professional fields such as medicine, engineering, and computer science. Let's review the basics of what it costs—and what it takes—to get an associate degree.

Admissions requirements

Admissions requirements vary from college to college, but you'll generally need to meet the following conditions in order to gain entry to an associate degree program:

Be 18 years of age by the time you begin your first day of class

Have a high school diploma, or have passed a General Education Development test (GED) or an equivalent test

Meet GPA requirements established by some community colleges

While tuition levels vary between colleges and programs, the average tuition for one year in an associate degree program is $3,800 in 2021, according to the College Board [ 1 ]. That’s for public in-district schools—meaning you’re a resident in the district the associate degree program is located.

Compare that with the average tuition for a year in a bachelor’s degree program, which is $10,740 for public in-state schools, $27,560 for public out-of-state schools, and $38,070 for private nonprofit schools.

Financial aid

Students enrolled in an associate degree program might be eligible for federal financial aid, as long as the institution is accredited . You can submit a FAFSA application to see if you qualify to receive federal aid or federal student loans. For the 2021-2022 school year, 56 percent of community college students received aid, while 33 percent received federal grants [ 2 ].

How long it takes

It generally takes full-time students about two years earn an associate degree, though it can take longer for part-time students. If you prefer to work while earning your associate degree, you'll be in good company. More than four million community college students attended part-time in 2021 (compared to 2.2 million full-time attendees) and 72 percent of them worked [ 2 ].

How many credits is an associate degree?

In order to graduate, you’ll typically need to complete the 60 course credits required (or 90 if your college is on the quarter system), and maintain a minimum GPA set by your college or department. Learn more about college credits and how they're measured .

Read more: Should You Go Back to School? 7 Things to Consider

Types of associate degrees

The most common types of associate degrees are:

Associate of Arts (AA): Associate programs focused on business, humanities, arts, or social sciences are often called Associate of Arts degrees. An AA may be a stepping stone to transfer to a bachelor’s degree.

Associate of Science (AS): Associate programs in a field related to science or math are often called Associate of Science degrees. Along with an AA, the AS is typically recommended by schools for students who want to transfer to four-year programs.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Associate programs that focus on technical and vocational skills are often called Associate of Applied Science programs. These programs are generally designed to prepare students for a specific occupation or work in a specific field after graduation. Fields can include computer science technology, hospitality management, paralegal studies, law enforcement, welding, among many others. Although it’s less common to use an AAS degree to transfer into a bachelor’s program, some four-year degree programs have begun accepting them for transfers.

What can you do with an associate degree?

Once you earn your associate degree, you have two options to consider. You can extend your education and apply to a bachelor's degree program, or you can pursue jobs in the medical, engineering, computer science, or legal fields, among many others.

Transfer to a bachelor's degree program

If you're interested in continuing your education, you can apply to bachelor's degree programs after you earn your associate degree, and begin completing courses in your declared major .

In fact, a number of students earn their associate degree at a lower-cost community college before transferring to a four-year college or university to finish their bachelor's. Remember that for in-state students, the average annual cost of attending a community college was $3,800 in 2021, compared to $10,740 for a public four-year school, which can amount to a significant savings over two years or more [ 1 ]. 

Earning your associate degree before deciding to pursue your bachelor's also gives you time to:

Build up study skills: If you’ve been out of school for a while and want to brush up on your study skills, or your high school GPA didn’t quite meet admission requirements for a four-year degree, an associate program can give you a boost. Not all community colleges have a GPA requirement for admissions.

Get more time to explore: If you’re not sure what you want to study, attending a community college for general studies courses can give you time to explore courses that might interest you before you fully commit to getting a bachelor’s degree in a subject.

Enjoy added flexibility: Many community colleges keep working people in mind and offer courses at night or on weekends. If you’re working or have family to take care of, starting off with an associate degree could bring you the flexibility you need.

If you’re hoping to start a degree, and factors like affordability and flexibility are important, online bachelor’s degrees may be another option. Online bachelor’s degrees are available in a wide range of topics, like computer science or psychology.

Pursue a career

You can explore new career opportunities with your associate degree—often with higher salaries than a high school diploma will yield. Associate degree holders in the United States earn a median income of $938 per week compared to $781 for high school graduates [ 3 ].

Here is a brief snapshot of some of the jobs you can typically start with an associate degree. They’re expected to grow at least as fast as average, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [ 4 ], and the median salaries in the US are at least $40,000.

Keep in mind that employers for some positions—like registered nurses—might prefer bachelor’s degree holders but may also hire associate degree graduates.

Read more: How to Get Your First Job: A Guide

Differences between associate and bachelor’s degrees

There are benefits to pursuing any kind of higher education, be it an associate degree or bachelor's degree. Holding an academic degree can lead to more career opportunities and higher salaries. If you're unsure which degree is right for you, here are important differences to compare:

Data on average annual tuition and weekly earnings comes from the College Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics respectively [ 1 , 3 ].

Which is better: Associate degree or bachelor's degree?

The best degree will be the one that helps you achieve your goals—either personal, educational, or professional. While there are a number of careers you can pursue with an associate degree, you may find more opportunities with a bachelor's degree. But if time is a major factor, then an associate degree may be the best choice for your immediate needs. Ultimately, it's important to review your situation—your financial resources, your schedule, your objectives—to determine which is the best degree for you.

If you're interested in earning an academic degree to gain entry to a new career path or advance your career in a chosen field, it can help to look at job postings and see the minimum education required. Understanding the standards your industry expects may help determine which degree you eventually earn.

Associate degree alternatives

If your goals don’t require an academic degree, there are other options that may offer some flexibility.

Professional certificates

Professional certificates are qualifications you can earn by completing courses or exams to demonstrate your ability in a field. They often require no previous experience in a subject, and can take anywhere from several months to a few years to finish. You can get a professional certificate in a variety of fields, including IT support, data analysis, computer programming, and marketing.

Certificate programs can be part-time or full-time, and may be offered online and in person. Because they tend to take less time and financial resources than degrees, professional certificates can be a solid option for those who know what specific skills they want to develop, and prioritize flexibility. If you’re ready to explore, browse some online certificate options .

Trade or vocational school

Trade schools, also known as vocational or technical schools, train students to enter professions that require a certain set of skills. They’re characterized by their emphasis on hands-on training. 

Graduates go on to work as electricians, dental hygienists, chefs, construction managers, and car mechanics, among many other professions. Trade schools typically take two years or less to complete, though some professions may require additional apprenticeships after the program. They can be a good option if you have a specific job in mind and don’t need or want to pursue an academic degree to secure employment in that profession. Some characteristics to consider when researching trade schools include: whether the program is accredited, has a track record of job placement, and makes sense for you financially.

Bootcamps—intensive programs that are designed to quickly equip you with a new skill set—can be a fast way to enter a new field or advance in your current one. Bootcamps typically take a few months to complete. Though computer coding bootcamps are popular, you can enroll in digital marketing, cybersecurity, or UX/UI design bootcamps , too. Bootcamps can be online or in person, full-time or part-time.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How many of my associate degree credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree program ‎.

This depends on the courses you took and the bachelor’s program you’re transferring into. Universities will generally evaluate your courses and decide if they’re transferable or not. Thanks to accreditation , some community colleges may have agreements with universities that will guarantee that some of your credits will transfer (if the requirements are met).

To make sure you maximize your transferable credits, talk to your academic advisor at your community college, and reach out to an admissions officer at the university you want to transfer to. ‎

What are other types of degrees I can get? ‎

Other academic degrees include bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and professional degrees. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years (as little as two if you have an associate degree). You may go on to enroll in a master’s degree program after completing a bachelor’s. A doctoral degree , or PhD, is the generally the highest academic degree you can receive in most fields. Other professional degrees —such as JDs for aspiring lawyers, or MDs for doctors—are usually pursued after finishing a bachelor’s degree. ‎

Can I become a registered nurse (RN) with an associate degree? ‎

Yes. Though hospitals might prefer nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree, the minimum academic requirement to become an RN in the US is generally an associate degree or a diploma in nursing, according to the College Board [ 5 ].

Students must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and any state licensure requirements. Many community colleges offer degrees specifically for those who want to enter the nursing field. An associate degree can also be transferred to a bachelor’s nursing program.

Read more: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications ‎

Related articles

What Is a Bachelor’s Degree?

10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with an Associate Degree

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?

Can You Get a Bachelor's Degree at Community College?

Article sources

1. College Board. " Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021 , https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf." Accessed August 8, 2022.

2. American Association of Community Colleges. " AACC Fast Facts 2022 , https://www.aacc.nche.edu/2022/02/28/42888/." Accessed August 8, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Education Pays , The median salaries in the US are at least $40,000." Accessed August 8, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Occupation Finder , https://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder." Accessed August 8, 2022.

5. College Board. " Career: Registered Nurses , https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-diagnosis-treatment-registered-nurses." Accessed November August 8, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

What an Executive MBA Is and Reasons to Get One

The purpose of an EMBA is to help business leaders bolster their strategic leadership and management skills.

A Guide to Executive MBA Degrees

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Executive MBA programs mostly skip the basics and focus on the nuances of business.

Key Takeaways

  • Executive MBAs are designed for mid- to senior-level business managers.
  • These degrees are often more expensive than a traditional MBA.
  • The content and dialogue in EMBA programs tends to be at a higher level.

Seasoned business leaders sometimes come to a realization that, although they are experienced managers, there are aspects of business that they wish they understood better.

Executives who are interested in increasing their leadership skills sometimes make the time to attend a graduate business program, despite busy schedules and heavy workloads.

However, because these full-time managers have significant work experience and already understand the essentials of business, they often desire advanced business courses that delve into the intricacies of various management challenges executive MBA programs that are designed for leaders like themselves.

What Is an Executive MBA or EMBA?

Unlike the traditional full-time Master of Business Administration programs that early- to mid-career business professionals often choose, executive MBA programs tend to focus less on business basics and more on the nuances of business. While a conventional MBA may prepare someone to enter a management career, an EMBA is intended to teach a current leader how to be more effective.

According to the Executive MBA Council, or EMBAC, a nonprofit association of business schools that offer executive MBA programs, the average executive MBA student is 39 years old and has about 15 years of work experience , including roughly nine years of management experience. Because this type of student tends to have significant work obligations, EMBA course schedules are designed to accommodate demanding jobs, with classes often occurring on weekends and weeknights or part time.

"These are programs that are designed so that working professionals can fit them into their lives, so you're not going to go on campus during the day four or five days a week," says Michael Desiderio, EMBAC's executive director. "There's a myriad of formats: everything from meeting monthly for three immersive days to meeting biweekly for one or two days."

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning has become a more common way to complete an EMBA, Desiderio says. He notes that EMBA class sessions are often long, allowing coursework to be compressed into fewer days than a full-time MBA program generally requires.

Traditional MBA and EMBA programs typically result in the same credential – a Master of Business Administration degree. In rare cases, schools include the word "Executive" in the formal degree.

"While they both lead to the same type of degree, there are key differences with regard to how they are designed and delivered, as well as the audiences they target," Arman Davtyan, assistant dean of enrollment management at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University in California, wrote in an email. He notes that EMBA programs tend to target mid- to senior-level leaders and managers who are "responsible for the strategic direction of their organizations or businesses."

What Are the Costs and Payoffs of an EMBA?

The average cost of an EMBA, according to EMBAC's 2023 Membership Program Survey, is $94,203 – up more than $11,000 from 2019.

However, many business schools charge significantly more than the average rate. Among the ranked EMBA programs that were evaluated in the U.S. News Best Executive MBA Programs rankings, the total price of an EMBA often exceeds $100,000 and occasionally – in rare instances, at highly prestigious B-schools – the cost surpasses $200,000.

By comparison, for many of the top traditional MBA programs , which typically last one or two years, tuition is around $70,000 to $85,000 per year.

Some EMBA students are fully or partially sponsored by their employers, while others finance their own education. Nearly one-third of Graziadio students receive some level of financial support from their employer, Davtyan says.

But nationally, it's more common now than in the past for EMBA students to self-fund their education, according to EMBAC. In 2023, nearly 55% of EMBA students were paying for their own degrees, up from 53% in 2019.

"As a first step, anyone looking to enroll in an MBA program should inquire with the HR unit of their organization about education benefits that may be offered as part of their benefits package," Davtyan says. "In addition to employer sponsorship and reimbursement programs, some companies may have special arrangements or partnerships with business schools that provide access to other scholarship funds or tuition discounts."

Although full corporate sponsorships for EMBA students are rarer now, the demand for an EMBA is "strong," Desiderio says, noting a 9% increase in the number of applications in 2023 compared to 2019.

The average EMBA grad received a 23.9% increase in compensation between the start and end of their executive MBA program, according to the 2023 EMBAC Student Exit Survey, which primarily polls North American programs. Moreover, during their EMBA education, 42% of students received a promotion.

How Executive MBAs Compare to Other Types of MBAs

EMBA programs don't typically focus as much on fundamental principles or technical concepts of business such as accounting, finance, operations and marketing, Davtyan says. Executive MBA students are generally expected to have mastered those before enrolling.

"Because EMBA programs aim to equip experienced management professionals striving to deepen their impact on an organization, they usually place greater emphasis on strategic leadership, decision-making, innovation, change agency and management," he says.

Another important distinction between a traditional MBA and an EMBA is that the classroom discussions sound and feel different, Desiderio notes.

"The level of discussion, when it comes to business cases, tends to be at a higher level" in EMBA courses, Desiderio says. "People just have more real-world experience."

Most EMBA programs feature seminar-style classes, capstone assignments and company-sponsored projects, Davtyan says. "To support the continuing personal and professional development of students, some programs, including ours at Pepperdine Graziadio, also offer individual or small-group executive coaching sessions for students."

Davtyan says because executive MBA programs typically attract cohorts of experienced and established professionals, they tend to offer a higher level of peer-to-peer learning than traditional MBA programs, along with valuable networking opportunities.

"Most EMBA students find great value in the opportunity to convene and exchange perspectives with classmates from a range of industries and organization types, all in the context of a mutually supportive learning environment," he says.

A traditional MBA program is typically designed to provide students with an "immersive experience" that includes regular and full-time classes as well as experiential learning opportunities such as internships and global study trips, Davtyan says. By contrast, "a typical EMBA program is designed to accommodate the schedule of a busy management professional through less frequent but more intensive class sessions or learning modules."

According to Desiderio, most executive MBA programs "are lock-step programs, meaning you start with a group and you end with the same group. In between, you might take a different elective, but you're with that same peer group for the bulk of the program, which is different than a part-time MBA program."

Some EMBA applications may have more requirements than a traditional MBA application, Davtyan adds. "They may include special candidate assessments, documentation of leadership experiences or accomplishments, reference letters and other items that attest to the applicant's suitability for an Executive MBA."

Prospective EMBA students should also be aware of mandatory commitments a program may have and coordinate with company managers regarding any time their program may take them away from work.

Cheri DeClercq, assistant dean for graduate programs and strategic partnerships at Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business , notes that like a traditional MBA, EMBA programs typically last 18-24 months.

"EMBA students routinely indicate that the knowledge and networks they gain in an EMBA position them to make a bigger, better and broader impact inside their organization," she says. "EMBAs deliver value by bringing together professionals from across functions and industries who learn through and with each other, then apply this learning immediately to their organizations."

Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools.

B-Schools That Taught Fortune 500 CEOs

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Tags: MBAs , business school , education , graduate schools , students

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Is College Worth It?

2. public views on the value of a college degree, table of contents.

  • Labor force trends and economic outcomes for young adults
  • Economic outcomes for young men
  • Economic outcomes for young women
  • Wealth trends for households headed by a young adult
  • The importance of a four-year college degree
  • Getting a high-paying job without a college degree
  • Do Americans think their education prepared them for the workplace?
  • Is college worth the cost?
  • Acknowledgments
  • The American Trends Panel survey methodology
  • Current Population Survey methodology
  • Survey of Consumer Finances methodology

We asked Americans what they think about the value of a four-year college degree from a few different angles:

  • Is a degree important in order for someone to get a well-paying job in today’s economy?
  • Has the value of a degree changed in recent decades?
  • Can someone without a degree get a well-paying job?
  • How useful do people think their own education was in preparing them for a well-paying job?
  • Is the cost of college worth it today?

Four-in-ten Americans say it is not too or not at all important to have a four-year college degree in order to get a well-paying job in today’s economy.

Chart shows About half of Americans say having a college degree is less important today than it was 20 years ago

Only 25% say it’s extremely or very important to have a college degree, and 35% say it’s somewhat important.

We also asked the public about the importance of a college degree now versus 20 years ago.

About half of Americans (49%) say it’s less important today than it was in the past for someone to have a four-year degree in order to get a well-paying job. About a third (32%) say having a degree is more important now, and 17% say its importance hasn’t really changed.

Differences by party

Chart shows Half of Republicans say a college degree is not too or not at all important in order to get a well-paying job

Half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – compared with 30% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – say it’s not too or not at all important to have a four-year college degree to get a well-paying job.

And a majority of Republicans (57%) say having a degree is less important today than it was 20 years ago; 43% of Democrats say the same.

These partisan gaps hold even after controlling for differences in the educational attainment of Republicans and Democrats.

Differences by education

College graduates are more likely than those with less education to say that having a college degree is extremely or very important (30% vs. 22%).

But views on whether having a college degree is more or less important today than it was 20 years ago don’t differ significantly by education. Roughly half of four-year college graduates (51%) and those with less education (48%) say it’s less important today for someone to have a college degree than it was in the past.

Adults with a postgraduate degree, however, have somewhat different views than those with a bachelor’s degree on both of these measures. Some 35% of postgraduates say it’s extremely or very important to have a four-year college degree in order to get a well-paying job, compared with 27% of those whose highest attainment is a bachelor’s degree.

And 39% of postgraduates – compared with 30% of those with a bachelor’s degree – say it’s more important to have a college degree today than it was 20 years ago.

Differences by age

Chart shows Views on the importance of a college degree now versus 20 years ago vary by age

Young adults stand out in their views on the importance of a college degree today versus in the past.

Among those ages 18 to 29, 44% say having a degree is more important today in order to get a well-paying job than it was 20 years ago. By comparison, 29% of those 30 to 49 and 30% of those 50 and older say the same.

Americans also have mixed views when it comes to whether someone without a four-year college degree could get a well-paying job in today’s economy.

Chart shows 34% say it’s extremely or very likely someone without a degree could get a well-paying job today

Only about a third (34%) say it’s extremely or very likely that someone withouta four-year degree could get this kind of job.

Nearly half say it’s somewhat likely that someone without a college degree could get a well-paying job, and 20% say it’s not too or not at all likely.

These views differ by:

  • Partisanship: 42% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats say it’s extremely or very likely someone without a four-year degree could get a well-paying job. Among Democrats, 25% say it’s not too or not at all likely; just 15% of Republicans say the same.
  • Education: 28% of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree say it’s extremely or very likely that someone without a college degree could get a well-paying job today. This compares with 37% of those with some college and 36% of those with a high school diploma or less education.

Chart shows A majority of Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree say their education was extremely or very useful in preparing them for a well-paying job

When thinking about how useful their own education was in giving them the skills and knowledge needed to get a well-paying job, a majority of those with a four-year college degree or more education (58%) say it was extremely or very useful. (This finding excludes the 9% of respondents who said this question did not apply to them.)

Adults with a postgraduate degree are especially likely to say their education was extremely or very useful: 72% say this, compared with 47% of those whose highest attainment is a bachelor’s.

By comparison, adults with less education have more mixed views. Among those who have not completed a bachelor’s degree, 38% say their education was not too or not at all useful in giving them the skills and knowledge needed to get a well-paying job; 35% say it was somewhat useful, and 26% say it was extremely or very useful.

These views don’t differ as substantially by age or by party.

Chart shows Nearly half of Americans say college is worth the cost only if someone doesn’t have to take out loans

When asked about the cost of college these days, many Americans question whether it’s worth it if a student has to take on debt. Nearly half of adults (47%) say a four-year college degree is worth the cost, but only if someone doesn’t have to take out loans in order to attend.

Only 22% say college is worth the cost even if someone has to take out loans. And 29% say college isn’t worth the cost.

Meanwhile, data from the Federal Reserve shows that more than four-in-ten adults who attended college say they took out student loans for their education .

Views on the value of college differ by partisanship, education and age. But notably, in all groups except for Republicans, pluralities say the cost of college is worth it only if someone doesn’t have to take out loans.

A narrow majority of Democrats (54%) say the cost of getting a four-year college degree is worth it, but only if someone doesn’t have to take out loans. A smaller share of Republicans (41%) say the same.

About one-in-four Democrats (26%), compared with 19% of Republicans, say the cost is worth it even with loans.

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say college is not worth the cost (38% vs. 19%).

Americans with at least a four-year college degree are much more likely than those with less education to say that college is worth the cost even if someone has to take out loans (32% vs. 17%).

Those with a postgraduate degree are among the most likely to express this view: 37% say college is worth the cost even after taking out loans. This compares with 29% among those with a bachelor’s but no postgraduate degree.

Even so, across all education levels, more say a four-year degree is worth the cost only if someone doesn’t take on debt than say it’s worth the cost with debt.

Those with some college or less education are about twice as likely as those with at least a bachelor’s degree to say the cost of getting a degree isn’t worth it at all (35% vs. 18%).

Young adults are more likely than their older counterparts to say the cost of a degree is worth it only if someone doesn’t take out loans: 55% of those ages 18 to 29 say this, compared with 48% of those 30 to 49 and 44% of those 50 and older.

And 18- to 29-year-olds are less likely to say the cost isn’t worth it at all (22% vs. roughly three-in-ten among older age groups).

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    A master's degree is a continuation of education after a bachelor's degree. While a master's degree is in no way required to have a successful career within education, it can help provide more opportunities and a higher salary. Here are the key differences between a bachelor's and a master's teaching degree.

  4. How to Become a Teacher: Teacher Certification vs. Master's Degree

    A bachelor's degree in education program is a four-year program at an accredited university or college. A bachelor's degree can be in any subject, but it is highly encouraged that students who want to become teachers aim for a bachelor's degree in education. Teachers with a bachelor's degree make an average of $59,140-$62,870 per year ...

  5. Bachelor's Degree vs. Master's Degree

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median weekly earnings of someone holding a master's degree in 2022 was $1,661 .*. In comparison, this is more than 15.9% higher than the $1,432 average median weekly salary earned by those with a bachelor's degree in 2022, according to BLS.*.

  6. Master's vs. Bachelor's Degree: What's the Difference?

    Programs are typically between one and four years in length. Those students who've completed additional coursework related to their field of study can reduce the overall length of the master's program. Bachelor's programs are typically around four years in length. This involves two years of general studies education followed by two years of ...

  7. Master's Vs. Bachelor's Degree: What's The Difference?

    Higher education has the power to transform your life, but understanding the different types of degrees can be confusing. To help, let's break down exactly what master's vs bachelor's degrees are. When you go to a university, you can earn an undergraduate degree called a baccalaureate or a graduate degree called a master's. The exact ...

  8. Bachelor's vs. Master of Arts in Teaching Programs

    Master of Arts in Teaching degrees were made for those who want to pursue an education career inside the classroom. These programs are ideal for individuals have already earned a bachelor's degree in a non-education area of study. They will prepare you to secure a teaching license and to lead a classroom and are specifically geared toward ...

  9. MAT vs. M.Ed.: Which Degree Should You Get?

    The main difference between an MAT vs. M.Ed. relates to the focus and career opportunities with each degree. An MAT emphasizes teaching skills, including content area coursework, whereas an M.Ed. emphasizes administrative skills, including educational leadership.

  10. What Is a Master's in Education?

    When you're interested in teaching, you often need a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate issued by your state. But with a master's degree, you can advance your knowledge of how students learn while strengthening your classroom practice. A Master of Education (MEd) is a graduate degree you can earn to further your teaching career or pursue leadership roles in K-12 and higher ...

  11. The Many Types of Education Degrees: How to Pick Your Path

    That's about twice the median salary of preschool teachers, who usually had an associate degree and earned $30,210. The median salary among principals, who usually had a master's degree, was ...

  12. What Master's in Education Degrees Can You Get?

    With a master's in education, you can become a curriculum designer, an administrator, a school counselor, or a teacher. It's all about finding the degree that's best for your desired career path. 1. Master of Education. A master of education (M.Ed.) can help you improve your teaching skills, specialize in certain educational sectors, and ...

  13. Bachelor's Degree vs. Master's Degree: What's the Advantage?

    Even more importantly, take your earning potential into account. On average, master's degree holders make $228 more a week, which is $11,856 more per year, than the average bachelor's degree holder. In the long run, a master's degree can more than pay for itself. Myth 3:Going back to school is inconvenient.

  14. A Guide to Different College Degrees

    In 2019, a bachelor's degree was worth nearly $2.8 million in median lifetime earnings, a 2021 report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found.

  15. Master's Programs in Education

    HGSE's on-campus master's degree is a one-year, full-time, immersive Harvard experience. You'll apply directly to one of its five distinct programs, spanning education leadership and entrepreneurship, education policy, human development, teaching and teacher leadership, and learning design and technology. Explore HGSE's Residential Ed.M.

  16. Bachelor's vs Master's Degree Programs: What are the Differences?

    Master's programs generally require fewer courses, fewer credits, and less time to complete than bachelor's programs. While the total number of courses and credits in a master's program varies by program and by area of study, in most fields students who enroll on a full-time basis can complete a master's program in one to three years.

  17. MA vs. MS Degrees: A Guide

    The Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Science (MS) are both graduate degrees that build on the knowledge of your bachelor's education.. The biggest difference between an MA and MS degree has to do with subject matter. Although requirements will vary by program, MA degrees typically pertain to subjects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, while MS degrees typically pertain to ...

  18. How hard is master's compared to bachelor's degree?

    A master's degree workload is similar to a bachelor's degree in many ways. Both require focus and determination, but a master's ultimately encompasses the necessary skills many professionals need to grow, especially in uncertain times. A bachelor's degree is no more or less challenging than a master's; it is simply a different area of ...

  19. Quick Guide: Your College Degree Options

    This is a type of dual degree in which a student completes three years of liberal arts study followed by two years of professional or technical study. In the end, students earn two bachelor's degrees, usually a BA and a BS. An example of this is Columbia University's 3-2 Combined Plan program in which students can earn a BA and a BS in five ...

  20. What's the Difference Between Graduate and Undergraduate?

    While both undergraduate and graduate studies advance education and personal development, they cater to different academic and professional growth stages. Undergraduate studies provide a broad foundation, while graduate school focuses on specialized, intensive study and research. Feature. Undergraduate.

  21. Types of Bachelor's Degrees

    Bachelor of Science (BSc) The other most popular type of bachelor's degree, a Bachelor of Science (BSc) is geared towards natural and applied sciences. BSc subjects typically include biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering, and as a result, they tend to have a more technical and practical focus.

  22. Types Of College Degrees: Levels & Requirements

    Here are the college degrees in order, from lowest ranking to highest: Associate degree (undergraduate) Bachelor's degree (undergraduate) Master's degree (graduate) Doctoral degree (graduate) While a doctorate is the highest education level, some fields may stop at a master's. The phrase "terminal degree" refers to the highest degree in a field ...

  23. Early Childhood and Childhood Education

    Early Childhood and Childhood Education. Embark on a transformative journey where passion meets purpose, and every child's potential is nurtured and celebrated. Our bachelor and masters programs in Early Childhood Education are designed to cultivate compassionate, competent educators who shape the future with knowledge, dedication, and innovation.

  24. Nearly Half of All Masters Degrees Aren't Worth Getting

    For bachelor's degrees, fine arts, education, and biology programs had the lowest median ROI, while engineering, computer science, and nursing degrees gave students the highest long-term rewards.

  25. School of Education Launches New Degrees, Certifications through

    Published on May 24, 2024 by Kameron Brown Share this on: Samford University's Orlean Beeson School of Education is expanding its reach and accessibility through a number of new undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certifications with Samford Online. Samford Online helps students work at a pace that is right for their needs, while ...

  26. Online American Education Studies Degree

    Earn your bachelor's in education studies from a university built for busy adults . Whether you want to team teach at a childcare center, run your own classroom at a charter or private school or create a foundation for graduate-level studies in instructional design, the bachelor's degree program in education studies is a good fit for you.

  27. Best Engineering Schools to Be Published June 18

    On June 18, 2024, U.S. News will publish its 2024 Best Engineering Schools rankings, including an overall ranking of nearly 200 doctorate-granting schools of engineering. Rankings across 13 ...

  28. What Is an Associate Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

    In fact, a number of students earn their associate degree at a lower-cost community college before transferring to a four-year college or university to finish their bachelor's. Remember that for in-state students, the average annual cost of attending a community college was $3,800 in 2021, compared to $10,740 for a public four-year school ...

  29. What an Executive MBA Is and How It Compares to a Full-Time MBA

    Key Takeaways. Executive MBAs are designed for mid- to senior-level business managers. These degrees are often more expensive than a traditional MBA. The content and dialogue in EMBA programs ...

  30. 2. Public views on the value of a college degree

    Differences by age. Young adults stand out in their views on the importance of a college degree today versus in the past. Among those ages 18 to 29, 44% say having a degree is more important today in order to get a well-paying job than it was 20 years ago. By comparison, 29% of those 30 to 49 and 30% of those 50 and older say the same.