The term degree can mean a number of things depending on the education system where it is earned. Most commonly, it represents a benchmark credential that denotes completion of one level of education and grants access to the next higher level of education. This is a common definition in the education system of the United States and similarly structured countries. However, in many education systems, it is not as easily identifiable.
The education system of the United States at the post-secondary level is comprised of the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. In disciplines from the arts and sciences, these degrees require a minimum of four years of full-time study for the bachelor’s, one to two years for master’s, and three or more for the doctorate. As with many cases in credential evaluation, there are several exceptions, even in the US education system.
Professional degrees, such as those in the fields of architecture, agriculture, physical therapy, among others, can use the term “bachelor’s degree” but may require a different number of full-time years or credits. As is often the case, this happens to meet the functional outcome of said degrees, namely licensure to practice in the place where they are earned. In other fields, such as medicine, dentistry or law, there are no Bachelor’s degrees. Rather, the first professional degree is called Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Dental Surgery, or Juris Doctor. Master’s degrees in these fields are reserved for highly specialized post-professional programs, which require a first professional degree, such as Doctor of Medicine for admission.
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