What Are Degree Qualifications?

A. Reed

Encompassing a wide variety of career choices, degree qualifications are credentials proving that one has embarked upon a vocational path while expressing interest in a specific subject area or industry and met the requirements for completion, resulting in the subsequent awarding of a degree. Qualifications are conferred at several levels, beginning with the undergraduate, and progressing on to the master's and finally the doctorate degree. When someone completes a degree, he or she is considered to have gained a breadth of knowledge within a certain area and has demonstrated this somehow, typically in the form of course completion, testing, and research. Educational institutions all over the world including universities, colleges, and professional schools provide the means to obtain degree qualifications.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Undergraduate degree qualifications refer to those awarded based on completion of a general education component, elective coursework, and might include an area of emphasis, commonly referred to a major course of study, such as chemistry, English, or business administration. These degrees hold the title of Associate in Arts or Associate in Science (A.A. or A.S.) and Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (B.A. or B.S.), followed by the major, such as Bachelor of Science in Biology, for example. Technical programs offer undergraduate degrees in applied science areas including computer technology and drafting.

For some careers, it is essential to continue to graduate school, where the Master of Arts or Master of Science (M.A. or M.S) is conferred upon further specialized education in a particular field or subject, including the master's in business administration (MBA) or master's in fine art (MFA). Graduate degree qualifications require a lot writing, as most students must compose a master's thesis, an extensive paper on a particular subject demonstrating in-depth understanding and mastery, a precursor to the longer PhD dissertation. This degree typically takes two years of full-time study to complete.

Degree qualifications permitting work in research and teaching at the university level generally require completion of a doctorate degree (PhD). Examples of such fields includes psychology, education, and public policy, which might also additionally require licensing or certification to practice in a particular capacity, like a clinical psychologist or educational specialist. Obtaining a PhD generally necessitates the drafting of a dissertation, a type of thesis explaining and discussing original research conducted by the student, followed by its oral defense to a doctoral committee. The oral defense is a formal presentation of the research detailed in the dissertation, during which members of the committee may ask questions. It is the final step of completing the PhD.

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