Explanation of Degrees

Undergraduate Program

A program leading to an associate (2-year) or a bachelor’s (also called baccalaureate) (4-year) degree; generally following secondary or high school.

Graduate Program

A program leading to a master’s degree, doctoral degree or advanced certificate; advanced study generally following a bachelor’s degree.

Associate’s Degree

A degree granted by a college or university after the satisfactory completion of a two-year, full-time program of study or its part-time equivalent.

Bachelor’s or Baccalaureate Degree

A degree received after the satisfactory completion of a four or five year full-time program of study or its part-time equivalent at a college or university. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) are the most common baccalaureate degrees.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is designed to provide additional education or training in a specialized branch of knowledge, significantly beyond the level of baccalaureate study.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree (doctorate) is designed to train research scholars and, in many cases, future college and university faculty members. Receipt of a doctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity as a trained research scholar in a specific discipline.


Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated PhD, is an advanced academic degree awarded by universities. In the United States the PhD is the highest degree one can earn and applies to graduates in a wide array of disciplines in the sciences and humanities. The PhD or equivalent has become a requirement for a career as a university professor or researcher in most fields.