What are the Differences Between Degrees?

Academe is a veritable alphabet soup of degree titles - from A.A. to Ph.D. The following are some common degree titles with brief descriptions. Note that credit hours are approximate and will vary by program. For most programs, except doctoral level ones, 30 credits is approximately equal to one year of full-time coursework.

  • A.A. - Associate of Arts - Undergraduate liberal arts degree; approximately 60 credits; typically spread over a number of disciplines (e.g., liberal arts, social sciences, general education, etc.)
  • B.A. - Bachelor of Arts - Undergraduate liberal arts degree; approximately 120 credits; typically spread over a number of disciplines (e.g., liberal arts, social sciences, natural science, general education, etc.) as well as courses related to your major
  • B.S. - Bachelor of Science - Undergraduate degree similar to the Bachelor of Arts; while the B.S. also has a distribution of credits, typically a greater percentage of the 120 credits are concentrated in a major area of study
  • M.A. - Master of Arts - Graduate research degree; approximately 36-45 credits with either a thesis or a comprehensive exam
  • M.S. - Master of Science - Graduate research or professional degree found within the natural science, social science, business, and technology fields; approximately 36-45 credits
  • M.B.A. - Master of Business Administration - Professional graduate degree in the area of business and management; approximately 45-60 credits
  • M.A.R. - Master of Arts in Religion - Graduate degree focused on the study of religion and theology; approximately 45-60 credits
  • M.Div. - Master of Divinity - Professional/practitioner graduate degree designed to prepare individuals for the pastoral ministry; approximately 90 credits
  • Th.M. - Master of Theology - Research-oriented graduate degree designed for those who already hold an M.Div; approximately 30 credits
  • J.D. - Juris Doctor - Professional graduate degree designed to prepare individuals to become lawyers; approximately 90 credits. An ABA-accredited J.D. is typically the requirement to sit for a state bar exam.
  • D.B.A. - Doctor of Business Administration - Doctoral level professional/practitioner degree designed primarily for those in the business/management community; approximately 45-60 credits with an applied research dissertation
  • Ed.D. - Doctor of Education - Doctoral level professional/practitioner degree designed primarily for those in the education community; approximately 45-60 credits with an applied research dissertation
  • D.Min. - Doctor of Ministry - Doctoral level professional/practitioner degree designed primarily for those in full-time ministry; approximately 30-45 credits with an applied project/dissertation
  • Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy - Doctoral level research degree; considered the cr?me de la cr?me of academic degrees; approximately 60 credits with comprehensive exams and an original research dissertation
  • Th.D. - Doctor of Theology - Doctoral level research degree; historically designed as the theological counterpart to the Ph.D. for those who already hold an M.Div., however many seminaries have converted their Th.D. programs to Ph.D. programs; approximately 60 credits with comprehensive exams and an original research dissertation
If you're interested in teaching or performing research within academe then you would be advised to stick with research-oriented degrees (e.g., M.A., Ph.D., etc.). On the other hand, professional/practitioner degrees (e.g., M.B.A., D.Min., etc.) may be more useful if you're looking for a more practical application of your studies.



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