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Degree Levels

Associate | Bachelor | Master | Doctorate | Certificates | Diplomas | Non-Degree Training

Institutional and Program Titles and Designations

Degree designations are fairly standard across the United States, so that educators and employers have general expectations when someone presents a credential indicating award of a certificate, diploma, or degree of a certain level.

Program content and the name of the subject concentration often varies from institution to institution, so U.S. educators and employers usually examine student records in order to determine what an individual has in fact studied and what they are qualified to do at the degree level which they have completed. A few degrees in professional subjects are closely regulated by state governments and professional associations and have uniform content if awarded by an accredited institution.

The designation or name of an educational institution is not as important in the United States as is the degree level, the content of the study program, and whether an institution is accredited to offer a particular program at a particular level. Our system does not segregate types of education or levels to the extent that many other systems do. Many U.S. institutions award credentials at several levels in both academic and occupational fields.

Undergraduate Post-Secondary Education

Undergraduate post-secondary education is the U.S. terminology for formal education after graduating from secondary school but prior to advanced study in the research disciplines or professional fields. It corresponds to the initial phases of higher education studies in other education systems.

Undergraduate studies in the United States are generally divided into two phases: a set of distributed course requirements that must be completed involving basic study in several subjects; and a concentrated program of study in one or more subjects.

Undergraduate Postsecondary Education

Graduate education is the term used in the United States for studies undertaken after the award of a bachelor's degree. It corresponds to what is called post-graduate or advanced education in some other systems. Education at this level in the United States can be of two types: (1) professional studies that require the student to have already earned an undergraduate degree; or (2) research studies following either a bachelor's degree or a professional degree.