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College Guide
College Connection

Welcome to our On-Line Guide to understanding
American Colleges

Education has been known to be a key to obtaining success and wealth. Listed below are definitions of common degree terms.

Fact: A succinct, easy to read and understand resume can drastically reduce the amount time and money spent looking for a career opportunity.

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The Difference in College Degrees:

Associates   Bachelors   Masters   PhD

Two Years - Associates Degree
An Associates Degree, also known as a "two-year degree", is a basic college degree that can be earned in approximately two years (if attending full-time). Education coursework is usually general, such as college-level mathematics (i.e. algebra and calculus), composition (writing and literature), basic sciences, and the humanities (history, etc.).

An Associate of Arts Degree (A.A.) is usually the step leading towards a Bachelors Degree. An A.A., alone, signifies only a basic college education; this is contrary to an A.S., where a specific skill is learned. Most people who receive an A.A. go on to get their Bachelors degree.

An Associates Degree generally has two tracks: Associate in Science and Associate in Arts. The former is usually more specific in its purpose, and may lead one directly into employment in a particular field. Examples of A.S. programs might include veterinary technician, dental hygienist, or legal secretary.

Most Associates Degrees are awarded at two year colleges such as junior or community colleges. A community college is a school designed to give students only the first two years of a college education, after which the student transfers to a college or university to finish up their degree. Once at the college or university, the student will combine their general education learned at the community college with a more specific field--this is known as choosing a major. Getting into a community college is less vigorous than a four-year college.

Many students opt to attend two year colleges if they have been rejected by universities. If a student through their studies at a two year college, demonstrates their ability test well on a college level, in some cases my re-apply to schools they may have been denied by and get accepted.

Community colleges are operated by the local government and are financed by public funds. They serve three functions: (1) students who do not want to pursue a bachelor's degree will attend a community college to pursue an associate degree; (2) students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree will complete the first two years of their undergraduate education at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college for the last two years; (3) members of the local community will attend classes in various subjects without pursuing any type of degree (this is called "continuing education").

The tuition at a community college is typically much less than at a four-year college or university.
Junior colleges are very similar to community colleges except that some are privately funded and, therefore, are not always as economical.
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Bachelors Degree -4 Year Degree -  Most Requested Degree
A Bachelors Degree, also known as a "four-year" degree, is awarded at both colleges and universities. Once a student has chosen a major--that being the subject they want to pursue into a career--then a four year institution will have a set curriculum that everyone must go through in order to be awarded a diploma in that field.

The two classes of bachelor's degrees awarded by US schools are the Bachelor of Science (also called the B.S.) and the Bachelor of Arts (also called the B.A.). Some schools offer only the B.A., even for science majors (such as a B.A. in biology). Other schools offer both the B.A. and the B.S.

A Bachelors degree is the most common credential, and a most viable way of gaining healthy employment.
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Masters Degree - six year degree
A Masters Degree is a Graduate Degree. The master's degree is a graduate school degree that typically requires two years of full-time coursework to complete.

Depending on the subject, a Masters degree can mean many different things. But on most occasions, what you will find is that someone specializes in one or two areas within their field. For example, the person who gets a Bachelors Degree in electrical engineering, and then goes on to get a Masters, might be a specialist in semiconductors, robotics, or a host of other subfields in the engineering profession.

In general, a Masters curriculum is challenging, and in many cases the programs are highly selective. Also, it is very common to sum up one's degree by the completion of a Thesis. This is usually a scholarly research paper ranging from 40 to 150 pages.

Under a thesis program, typically a minimum of 36 or more quarter credits (27 course credits and a minimum of 9 credits of thesis) must be earned.

It is safe to say that the more advanced degree one is pursuing, the more specialized their course of study becomes. This is emphasized even further in the acquisition of a Ph.D.
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 Doctorate/PhD -8+ year
A Ph.D., also known as a Doctorate, is considered a terminal degree. What this means is that this is the last degree that one can earn in a particular field. In most cases, a Ph.D. is the culmination of a very long academic career (after an Associate. Like the Masters, the Ph.D. track is characterized by intense specialization and even more intense research. At this level, students are expected to conduct very advanced--perhaps groundbreaking-- studies. Also, it is common to culminate one's Ph.D. curriculum by publishing a dissertation. This is a research "paper" describing whatever it is the student in question has researched in the course of his graduate study. In general, a dissertation may take several years to write, with pages numbering well into the hundreds.

Once one has acquired this credential, they are referred to as a "Doctor" (not to be confused with a Medical Doctor) Most university professors and many professionals in advanced positions (school principals, scientists, etc.) hold PhDs.
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