Defining the Undergraduate Degree

Understanding the many types of college degrees may help students narrow down what they really want to study. (Photo courtesy of ELearning101 on flickr)

Understanding the many types of college degrees may help students narrow down what they really want to study. (Photo courtesy of ELearning101 on flickr)

Okay, here you go. You’ve been researching schools for months, had numerous phone interviews and (possibly) a campus visit or two. You’ve decided which school you would like to attend for the next few years while studying and pursuing a college degree; but, what type of degree will you earn upon completion of the college program? There are numerous variations of the common Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, so how do you know which one is good versus better?

Associate of Arts

An Associate of Arts degree is the most common form of a two-year program completion. Often abbreviated as an A.A.,this Associate’s degree prepares students who would like to transfer to a four-year university and complete a Bachelor’s degree. The majority of classes to be taken under this category would be liberal arts and sciences courses (math, literature, and history).

Associate of Science

An Associate of Science degree has a specific focus woven into the program’s curriculum in addition to general education classes. For example, a student can earn and A.S. in Computer Networking which would (typically) involve 2/3 of the total program focusing on Computer Networking coursework and 1/3 on general education subjects. An A.S. degree provides students with the opportunity to either transfer to a four-year university or begin working upon graduation in their selected field of study.

Associate of Applied Science

The Associate of Applied Science degree, like the A.S. provides students with coursework that will allow them to immediately enter an occupational field upon graduation. There are still general education classes included in the program, but the main focus is career-based. An A.A.S. degree can be used to transfer into a four-year college of university, but additional coursework may be required to meet the graduation requirements of a Bachelor’s program.

Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts degree typically takes four years to complete at a college of university and requires a combination of general education, major and elective coursework to be completed. Depending on what type of system a school runs (quarter or semester), a B.A. degree could require anywhere from 120 to 180+ credits to graduate.

Bachelor of Science

Similar to the Bachelor of Arts degree, a Bachelor of Science is a four year program requiring general education, major, and elective coursework. Unlike the B.A., a B.S. is typically awarded to science or technology-based programs such as Nursing or Engineering.

Bachelor of [insert major here]

There are a variety of other types of Bachelor degrees based on the school, major, and curriculum. Usually, the focus for these unique degrees is the major more so than the general education classes. While this may be true for all Bachelor degrees, these programs have a heavier emphasis on the major of study. Below is a list of some examples:

  • BASc – Bachelor of Applied Science
  • BArch – Bachelor of Architecture
  • BBA – Bachelor of Business Administration
  • BComm – Bachelor of Commerce
  • BCompSc – Bachelor of Computer Science
  • BD – Bachelor of Divinity
  • BDes – Bachelor of Design
  • BEd – Bachelor of Education
  • BEng or BE – Bachelor of Engineering
  • BFA – Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • BMath – Bachelor of Mathematics
  • BMus – Bachelor of Music
  • BPharm -Bachelor of Pharmacy
  • BTech – Bachelor of Technology
  • BSEE – Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • BSF – Bachelor of Science in Forestry
  • LLB – Bachelor of Laws

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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