Individuals seeking higher education often have many options to choose from in degrees. It can be confusing which degree will best serve their educational and career goals. There are many differences between B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Knowing these differences can be beneficial in helping individuals determine the best education option for the career they wish to pursue.
B.A.: Bachelor of Arts
A B.A. degree is a Bachelor of Arts degree. Typically, this is a 4-year degree program within a specified departmental major. B.A. degrees are undergraduate degrees conferred upon completion of a Bachelor of Arts program or by transferring credits from an associate degree program toward the completion of a bachelor's degree program. Bachelor of Arts degrees emphasize education in the liberal arts. Students are often required to complete course credits in fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics and foreign language. Some schools may also require additional categories of course work, such as multicultural studies. To complete a B.A. degree, students must also declare a major field of concentration for the degree. The major concentration is normally associated with the humanities or social sciences.
M.A.: Master of Arts
An M.A. is a Master of Arts degree. Master of Arts degrees are graduate degree programs within a concentrated specialization pursued after the completion of a bachelor's degree. Individuals often pursue master's degrees to gain promotion in their current careers or to advance to a new career within their field. Master of Arts degrees are research degrees, as students often must complete extensive field research resulting in a master's thesis, a capstone project or a comprehensive examination. Individuals wishing to pursue doctoral studies often must complete a master's degree.
Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy
A Ph.D. means Doctor of Philosophy and is the highest academic degree an individual can earn within a field of study. Individuals who complete a Ph.D. receive the title of 'doctor.' A doctoral degree requires extensive research often leading to the completion of a dissertation. Ph.D. recipients can progress toward careers as college professors, researchers or other professional positions related to their field.
Selecting the Right Degree
Individuals wishing to pursue higher education degrees should consider their career goals and the objectives they hope to accomplish. They should research the career they intend to pursue and determine the level of education needed to acquire the position. Individuals should speak to academic and enrollment counselors at the prospective institutions where they wish to study before making final decisions about their education. Some careers require only a bachelor's degree while others prefer graduate degrees in the form of a master's or doctoral degree.
- Boston University: Bachelor of Arts Degree Overview
- Columbia College: Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts
- Penn State University: B.A. Degree Requirements
- Purdue University: Notes on the PhD Degree
- The New School for Social Research: Master of Arts Program
- The PhD Degree: What is a PhD Degree?
- The Princeton Review: Master's vs PhD Programs
- Thomas Edison State College: Bachelor of Arts
- Thompson Rivers University: Bachelor of Arts Degree
- University of California-Los Angeles: What Can I Do With a PhD?: Alternatives to Careers in Academia
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