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Higher Education Degrees Offered in the United States

There are several higher education (tertiary) programs available for students in the United States that will prepare them for employment; these include undergraduate programs, postgraduate programs and special certification programs.

Each employment area requires different levels of qualifications, but both educational attainment and work experience will generally lead to increased job opportunities and salary.

The focus of TAC will initially be on offering American-style undergraduate degrees and master’s degrees to prepare students for specific employment.

Undergraduate Programs

Both associate and bachelor’s degrees are considered undergraduate degrees. This means that they are available to students as soon as they complete their secondary level education.

Associate’s Degrees

An associate degree gives students the basic technical and academic knowledge and skills they need to either go directly into employment or lead into further study in their chosen field. This degree allows students to complete a program after only two years of full-time study (60 credit hours).

There are two types of associate degrees: general and applied. The main difference between the two is that applied programs focus on preparing students for a particular career with practical vocational skills. General associate programs are targeted more for students who want to continue into a bachelor’s program either immediately or in the future.

There are highly skilled jobs that require only an associate’s degree. The easiest way to decide whether or not you should attain an associate degree is to consider the career you want to enter, and to apply for the degree that will best prepare you for that position. It could be worthwhile to check current job listings in the country where you want to work and research the qualifications and skills most in demand among your target employers for a specific job.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree opens doors to professional employment and access to advanced studies. Bachelor’s degrees generally take 4 years of full-time study to complete (about 120 credit hours).

All U.S. bachelor’s degree programs include requirements for both breadth as well as depth of study. Students fulfill the requirement of breadth of study by completing courses that fulfill general studies requirements for introductory knowledge in several subjects. Depth of study is completed by concentrating studies in one or more subjects; this is called a major. This is one of the aspects of an American-style educational experience that differentiate degrees taken on U.S. campuses from degrees earned in many other countries which focus solely on a single program. Having both general studies and studies in a specific major prepares students to move across employment areas as the need arises instead of having a very narrow range of skills.

General studies requirements prepare students to be effective citizens in a changing world by giving them opportunities to develop the following:

  • Communication skills (oral and written);
  • Critical thinking skills, which are necessary for analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and decision-making;
  • Scientific reasoning skills, which are necessary for understanding scientific concepts;
  • Quantitative reasoning skills in order to understand mathematical concepts and reasoning, and to analyze and interpret various types of data;
  • Information literacy skills to collect, verify, document, and organize information from a variety of sources; and
  • Global-socio-cultural responsibility, which demonstrates an understanding of diversity in the world community, an awareness of civic and social participation, and an understanding of ethical and informed decision-making.

Bachelor’s programs prepare students in depth by building skills in a specific, focused area through selecting a major. This is the field of study that students specialize in while earning their college degree. Typically, between a third and half of the courses students take in college are in their major or related to it. By completing a major, students demonstrate sustained, high-level work in one subject, preparing students for a specific career.

Majors are not static; they will change and evolve over time. Information taught in majors constantly change as knowledge, practices, technologies, industries, etc. continue to evolve. Selecting a college major is not about picking one area of concentration for the rest of your life. It is more about picking an area of study and demonstrating your aptitude, perseverance, focus, and ability to master subjects. This will be attractive to future employers or opportunities where your credentials will be one of the characteristics that help you stand out from the crowd.

Most programs prepare students for a range of job opportunities and professions. The major helps develop confidence in a specialized subject area, which allows students to demonstrate that they can apply themselves and succeed.TAC has developed programs which include opportunities for internships (employment in business, industry, or government), which allow students to combine actual work experience with their college studies to further prepare for employment after graduation.

Postgraduate Studies

Postgraduate degrees, such as master’s and Ph.D. programs, require students to have already completed a Bachelor’s-level program upon entry.

Master’s Degrees

A master’s degree is granted to individuals who have undergone postgraduate studies demonstrating a mastery of a specific field of study or area of professional practice with specialized knowledge of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

Generally, a master’s degree requires an additional 1-2 years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Certification Programs

A certification program is a set period of education that results in a certificate of completion rather than a degree. In general, these programs either prepare students to complete a specific task or educate them about one particular aspect of a field. Different certification programs may be completed at several points during an educational career.

Some individuals may choose to take a certification program in order to be licensed in a specific field, such as in electrical work or massage therapy, which does not require any postgraduate studies.

On the other hand, some certifications or licensures may be taken after a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree is received. For example, a psychologist could complete a certificate program in addiction studies. This training would supplement the therapist’s education and expand professional opportunities.

Because these programs either replace or supplement degree programs, many people find them useful throughout their careers. Individuals often find professional success by regularly updating their knowledge base.

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD)

A PhD is typically the highest degree that can be earned in a university. It is sometimes also referred to as a doctorate, and graduates are typically titled doctor after obtaining this degree.

Universities offer doctorate programs in a variety of subject areas. Almost any topic that can be studied at the bachelor’s degree level can also be pursued in doctoral studies.

Most of the time, students pursue PhDs as a way of obtaining maximum knowledge in a particular area, and setting themselves apart as subject matter experts. Earning a PhD, regardless of the subject of study, requires a typical set of courses and assignments that typically span 5-6 years. Students must first take advanced courses in their field for a few years, followed by a set of comprehensive exams. After this is accomplished, PhD students produce a dissertation or research project, which can vary in its completion time.

Some programs of study allow students to move directly from a bachelor’s program into a PhD program, while others require students to have a master’s degree before entry is accepted.

Teaching at the university level typically requires a PhD and the degree is often also essential for scientific researchers.

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