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What Kind of Degree Do You Want?

When you say you want to earn a "college degree" that could mean any number of things. Part of your college selection process should be thinking about exactly what kind of degree you want to earn, and which college can get you there. Here are some of your options:


Certificate or Diploma

These non-degree offerings generally lead to employment in an occupational field. For example, to enter fields such as computer science or teaching, you may first have to get a certificate or diploma.

Associate's Degree

You receive an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) degree after completing two years of study similar to the first two years of a four-year college. Community colleges offer associate degrees. After earning an A.A. or an A.S., you may transfer to a four-year college to complete the requirements for a bachelor's degree. The Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree is awarded on completion of technological or vocation programs of study.

Bachelors or Baccalaureate Degree

Complete a four- or five-year, full-time program of study (or its part-time equivalent) at a college. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) are the most common.

Combined Bachelor's/Graduate Degree (or Joint Degree)

Complete a bachelor's degree and a master's or first-professional degree in less than the usual amount of time. In most programs, students apply to the graduate program during their first three years of undergraduate study, and begin the graduate program in their fourth year of college. Successful completion results in awarding of both bachelor's and graduate degrees.

Teacher Certification

At some schools, you can receive a teacher certification by completing bachelor's degree and state certification requirements. All institutions that prepare teachers are accredited by the state; each state sets its own certificate standards.


A program leading to teacher certification typically involves three types of courses:

  • General liberal arts courses
  • The major (such as elementary education or mathematics)
  • Professional education courses, including student teaching

In order to gain certification in most states, you must pass an achievement test in the field in which you plan to teach.