What are the different types of degrees?

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Degree vocabulary on tablet screen

If you’re weighing up your options and considering going to university, you’ll be thinking about doing a degree.

So you might have heard of the degree qualification BA, or a BSc. But have you come across BATheol or BMidWif? Or what about BCLD(SocSc)? Nope, we hadn’t either.

So we thought we’d put together this guide to the different types of degrees. We’ll take a proper look at those baffling abbreviations, so when you’re investigating the degree types that are right for you, you’ll have all the info.

'BA, MEng, PhD, DPhil - what's with all the letters? If you're confused, check out our quick guide to the baffling array of degrees'

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Bachelor’s degree

If you’re in school and thinking about going to uni as one of your school-leaver options, a bachelor’s degree is the one you’ll have heard the most about.

Bachelor's degrees give you an in-depth knowledge and
understanding of your chosen field

They are the most popular and common undergraduate route into higher education (read this if you’re puzzled about what higher education is). Bachelor’s degrees are also known as undergraduate or honours degrees, and they take three or four years to do (architecture and medicine are two main exceptions to that).

These degrees give you a very in-depth understanding of your chosen subject area. You learn during lectures and seminars, and sometimes in practical labs, depending on the course. Your degree will be assessed by a mix of exams, assignments and projects. Sometimes you’ll be offered the chance to study abroad or work in the industry you’re learning about.

There are literally thousands of degree types in the UK. And that’s where those abbreviations come in. The types of degrees have different award titles, depending on the subject.

  • BA = Bachelor of Arts. That includes courses that are focused on the humanities, for example education or theology. So you could do a BASoc (Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, or a BATheol (Bachelor of Arts in Theology).
  • BEd = Bachelor of Education. These are degree courses that train you to become a teacher.
  • BSc = Bachelor of Science. This could include anything from engineering and dentistry to agriculture and medicine.
  • LLB = Bachelor of Laws. This is the right degree if you’d like to become a lawyer.

Foundation degree

Other types of degrees include a foundation degree. The abbreviation is FdA. These courses combine gaining skills in a workplace setting with more academic learning. After your foundation you can go straight into a job or “top-up” to finish a full degree.

Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/HND) 

The HNC lasts one year, and the HND takes around two years if you do it full time. You could do HNDs in business, travel or hospitality, for example. This qualification can take you directly into a job. It’s also the same as doing the second year of a university degree, so it’s often used as a stepping-stone to a full degree.

Master’s degree

Graduates at graduation ceremony
Students preparing to collect their degrees

A master’s degree is the most common type of postgraduate qualification. They allow you to study a subject in even more detail than an undergraduate. They usually last one or two years if you study full-time.

The different types of degrees at the Master’s level include:

  • MA = Master of Art. These include things like journalism, history, geography and music.
  • MS or MSc = Master of Science. This option would see you studying subjects like biology, health, chemistry.
  • MRes = Master of Research. This route is for people who want to pursue a career in research, or who want to apply for a PhD (see below).
  • MPhil = Master of Philosophy. Another type of research degree often taken before doing a PhD.
  • MBA = Master of Business Administration. This is a master’s degree in business.
  • LLM = Master of Laws. A master's degree in law, studied by those who already have an LLB. In some countries, you need an LLM to practice law - in the UK, you only need an LLB.

Doctorate

A doctorate or doctoral degree is the highest type of degree awarded by a university, and it includes various types of degree. Doctorates involve very in-depth research and in taking one you will become an expert in your field. People with doctorates are known as doctors. 

Different types of doctorates include:

  • PhD = Doctor of Philosophy. This is probably the most well-known type of doctorate, and has an academic focus. Don't be confused by the word "philosophy" - PhDs cover every academic area. It is occasionally known as a DPhil.
  • EdD = Doctor of Education. One of many professional doctorates, held by people who work at an expert level in particular fields. An EdD is held by experts in education.
  • EngD = Doctor of Engineering. Held by professional engineers who have studied to a very high level.
  • DClinPsy = Doctor of Clinical Psychology. The sort of doctorate held by someone working as a clinical psychologist in a hospital.

This is just an example list, there are many more doctorates relating to different fields and professions, and which are equivalent to the EdD, EngD and DClinPsy qualifications above.

If you’re thinking about going to university, we have some useful guides to help you out:

Image credits

Lead image via Blue Diamond Gallery, Graduands via Wikimedia Commons

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