Whether you are going back to college or just starting your first year at a university, knowing the different kinds of degrees and their functions will be valuable during your time as a college student. If you are a first-time college student, you may be confused about the difference between associate, bachelor, master or doctorate. When you first arrive at college, the main two degrees that concern you are associate and bachelor. If you are returning after earning your bachelor's degree, your next step is to obtain your master's degree, and after that, your doctorate.
College freshmen have the option of completing an associate degree at a 2-year college, like your city's local community college, and then either transferring to a 4-year college to earn their bachelor's degree, or simply using their associate's degree to find a job that suits their degree. Freshmen can also go directly to a 4-year university straight out of high school instead, and earning their bachelor's degree at once. Associate degrees tend to be less specialized and allow students to enter the workforce quickly, but do not expect to have many advancement opportunities without a bachelor's degree. Because associate degrees are less specific than bachelor's, it is obvious that most college goers would choose to, at least eventually, earn their bachelor degree.
Once you have graduated from your university with a full 4-year degree, you may decide that your degree was still not specific enough. You also might have found a good job, but they require you to eventually earn your master's degree in order to move up. In any case, going back to school to get your master's degree may be a tough choice, especially if you have started a family and work full-time. However, the good news is that the master's programs usually take about 2 years to get through. The bad news is that, since this degree will be more specific and focused, the work you will be assigned will definitely be difficult. It is highly likely that you will have to write a master's thesis paper, which will take quite a bit of time. If you are not ready for the kind of time investment this requires, then you may need to look at other options.
Going for your doctoral degree after obtaining your master's is as far as you can go. With a 4 to 7 year commitment, going into a doctorate program can also be incredibly time-consuming, so be sure you are ready for this. Some colleges might allow you to skip earning your master's degree so you can go straight from bachelor to doctorate, but not all, so be sure to inquire about this at your college of choice. Because the doctorate degree can take the most amount of time, you should take the time to be sure that your job and family will not suffer from you taking doctorate level courses.
The good news about these time-consuming degrees is that your salary is sure to increase upon earning each one, but make sure you are ready to commit that time to school. You may find that online colleges would work best for you while you earn your bachelor's degree.