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Your College Degree Options

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What's the main goal of going to college? To graduate with a degree. Here are your degree options.

Once you start planning for college, you'll quickly discover there's more to it than declaring your major. You'll need to think about what type of degree you'll get.

Undergraduates Usually Earn a "Bachelor's" Degree

When people say they graduated from college, it usually means that they received their bachelor's degree. (Sometimes called a "baccalaureate" degree.) The main types of bachelor's degrees in the U.S. are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.).

  • The B.A. degree focuses on the "liberal arts"—but it's not about politics or artistic expression. "Liberal" in this context means "broad." "Arts" is an age-old term for the essential knowledge an educated person should possess. Liberal arts fields include literature, history, social sciences, music, mathematics, fine arts, and laboratory sciences. Students broadly study these fields and then choose a major related to one of them.
  • The B.S. degree focuses on the mastery of knowledge in technical and scientific fields. It includes disciplines such as nursing, pharmacy, economics, engineering, and computer science. Some highly specialized B.S. programs take five years to complete.

Specialty bachelor's degrees focus on business, fine arts, and religion.

How Your Degree Choice Affects Your College Choices

If a B.A. degree is a good fit for you, then looking at colleges that have a strong program in the liberal arts would make sense. If a B.S. degree is a better fit, then technical institutes and universities might be good places to start.

The Path to Getting Your Degree

To get your bachelor's degree you will need to fulfill general education requirements defined by the college. You'll also need to choose a major and meet the requirements of that major.

If You Plan to Pursue a Graduate Degree or Professional License

If you plan to continue your studies after graduation, either a B.A. or B.S. can help prepare you. For example, some future lawyers major in science or technology while some future doctors study psychology or history. Of course, you will still need to satisfy the prerequisite courses required to get into graduate school.

Combined Degree Options

Many colleges offer combined degrees, which allow you to get two degrees at once.

  • An accelerated degree lets you earn a bachelor's degree and a graduate degree in less time than it would take to pursue the degrees separately. Students pursuing this type of degree take a rigorous course load during the sophomore and junior years and begin graduate school or professional training during their senior year.
  • Dual degree programs usually include two bachelor's degrees. Typically, these combine a liberal arts degree and a career-oriented degree. These programs are not accelerated and often require a fifth year of college.

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