Ever asked yourself how many types of university degrees are there, and what do their abbreviations mean? From BA to MBA, and from BS to BMBS, to PhD, there are different types of degrees depending on higher education level and subject of study.
You’re about to finish high school, and you want to continue your education, but as you start to look into your options, they may be a bit confusing. There are so many different types of degrees, and it all gets even more intimidating if you plan to study abroad.
Let’s simplify things with this clear guide.
The degrees fit into these categories, in this order: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. Bachelor’s are considered undergraduate degrees, while Master’s and PhD’s are postgraduate degrees. Each have their variations influenced by country and the subject of study.
The following guide will clarify what are the different types of graduate degrees as well as postgraduate degrees.
Undergraduate means you will build a foundation
Undergraduate degrees are the first level of higher education you can pursue after you graduate from high school. Unlike your previous education, this is not mandatory and is specialized in a particular field of study, like literature or biology for example. During your studies, you will build a solid foundation in this subject, gaining general knowledge from all areas related to it.
There are different types of degrees at the undergraduate level, but the most common ones are:
Bachelor’s of Arts (BA)
This 3- or 4-years degree is typically awarded in humanities, arts, and social sciences subjects. It implies a mostly theoretical study with few practical elements and a more holistic approach to knowledge.
Bachelor’s of Science (BS)
A BS is usually awarded for science subjects like Math, Biology, Engineering, etc. This degree will surely have a stronger practical component and is likely to have more exams rather than essays for assignments.
Certain specializations also come with different types of degrees. They are still very similar to a BA or a BS, but because of their subject-based differences, in some countries, they bear different names.
Even within the same area of study, you can find different types of degrees, such as
- Bachelor’s of Medicine BMed
- Bachelor’s of Surgery BSurg
- Bachelor’s of Medicine, Bachelor’s of Surgery (MBBS, BMBS)
In many countries, if you want to study Law at undergraduate level, you will earn a Bachelor’s of Law, also known as LLB, short for Legum Baccalaureus from Latin.
If you want to study Business Administration, you will graduate with a BBA (Bachelor’s of Business Administration).
A degree with a strong focus on all things Business, which will give you the tools to thrive in the business environment after graduation, a BBA is considered a challenging but satisfying degree.
>> Learn more about BBAs: 6 Reasons Why You Should Study a BBA Degree in 2022
You can earn a Bachelor’s of Engineering (B.Eng) after 3 to 5 years, depending on the country, of studying Engineering.
A Bachelor’s degree with honours is, in most cases, a harder but more valuable type of Bachelor’s. In the UK, most BAs are honours, in other countries, you can earn one if you fulfil certain conditions.
>> Read more about honours degrees around the world to understand how they work: What Are Honours Degrees? Should You Study an Honours Bachelor’s in 2022?
Postgraduate means you start specializing
What are the different types of graduate degrees?
Once you get your undergraduate degree, you can continue with postgraduate education (also known as graduate education; the terms are used interchangeably). Postgraduate includes two different types of degrees: Master’s and PhD. Most of the times, a PhD succeeds a Master’s, but this depends on the part of the world in which you’re studying.
If you want to understand more about how they complete each other and if it’s worth doing a Master’s even when you can skip straight into a PhD, read this article: Can you get a Ph.D. without a Master’s? Yes, but Here Are 4 Good Reasons to Do One Anyway.
A Master’s is a postgraduate degree delivered through teaching. You will have classes and seminars like you did in your undergraduate degree. The main difference between a Bachelor’s and a Master’s is that the latter has more specialized courses, more difficult course material, and you’ll have to produce a complex project based on individual research at the end of the programme.
The different types of degrees at this level are mostly analogous to the undergraduate ones. So, the most popular ones are:
Master’s of Arts (MA)
Like the BA, the MA is typically for subjects in humanities, arts, and social sciences.
Master’s of Science (MS)
The MS is a Master’s in one of the science subjects.
In this case, as well, there are different types of degrees for certain professions, but they are weight just as much as an MA or an MS:
Master’s of Law (ML or LLM)
You earn the degree if you study Law at postgraduate level.
Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)
MBAs are highly popular today and very appreciated in the business world.
>> If you want to learn more about MBAs and decide whether they are the right degree for you, read this article: 10 Very Good Reasons to Do an MBA Degree
Still unsure which is the right Master’s for you? Read this article to shed even more light on the subject: How to Choose the Right Master's Based on Degree Type
Postgraduate By Research
This level means doctorate studies which end with you earning your doctor title. This is the most specialized level of higher education and is focused on your individual research in the subject of your choice. The aim of doctoral studies is not so much for you to learn something new as it is for you to bring new knowledge, new discoveries into your subject of choice.
But what are the different types of graduate degrees at the doctorate level?
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The PhD is by far the most common doctorate degree awarded around the world. PhDs are almost exclusively research-focused, but there are also some, especially in sciences, which are structured; in other words, you still have to follow some courses and a set direction.
Apart from the PhD, there are also some professional doctorate degrees, in which the focus is less on theory and more on using existing research to find solutions to different problems.
Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Engineering Doctorate (EngD)
Honorary Doctorate Degree
Sometimes, universities award an honorary degree to someone who has high achievements in a particular field but who hasn’t applied for a doctorate in the traditional way. It can be the case for a writer who published many highly appreciated novels and receives an honorary PhD in Literature.
Less known degrees
Apart from what we’ve already discussed, there are different types of degrees which are not so well known. Among them, the most common is the Associate Degree.
If you want to continue your studies after high school, but a Bachelor’s is too much commitment, perhaps you might consider an Associate Degree. Also an undergraduate degree, it takes less time to earn it and is less demanding.
Moreover, an associate degree can open a path towards earning you Bachelor’s if you don’t fulfil the admission requirements yet.