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Degree Levels
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Associate's Degree

An Associate Degree is a type of undergraduate degree, requiring a minimum of 60 semester credit hours. The program consists of three parts: general education requirements, major requirements, and electives. You can complete an online associate degree at your own pace; full-time study is equivalent to 4 semesters or 2 years (15 semester credit hours). Accelerated online associate degree programs are available. Online associate degrees are the same as on-campus or in-classroom associate degrees, but the degree can be taken entirely through the Internet or by distance education.

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Bachelor's Degree

What is commonly called a "college degree" is the classic four-year, bachelor's degree. Typically comprising 120-128 credits, most universities will allow the transfer of up to 60 credits from associate degrees or community college programs. Undergraduate programs typically consist of general education and elective courses, along with your particular area of study (a "major").

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Master's Degree

A master's degree is a graduate, or post-baccalaureate, degree awarded to candidates who complete one to three years of concentrated study in a field of knowledge. A master's level education can mean entry into a profession, the chance for promotion in an existing position, or personal enrichment and achievement. It's a degree only three percent of Americans ever attain, so the letters M.A. or M.S. on a business card or letterhead command respect.

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Doctoral/PhD Programs

The doctoral degree is the highest academic credential it is possible to earn. Whether it's a research Ph.D. (DPhil to the Brits), a D.A. (Doctor of Arts), or some other variant, the doctorate degree typically requires four to six years of additional study beyond the master's level. To get a doctoral degree the graduate student must complete a course of study, do original research and write a publishable thesis or dissertation. Not surprisingly, only one in 100 Americans call themselves "doctor." Consequently, a doctorate commands respect.

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Certificate Programs

A certificate from an accredited college or university answers the need for a practical education that will get the student "out the door" and into the workplace. Certificate programs vary widely, but all offer focused study leading to a professional credential that US News calls the new "mini-degree." Working students in online certificate programs are nearly twice as likely to finish as degree-seekers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Time to completion for certificates varies greatly from eight weeks to one year or, in rare instances, more.

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