Let’s say you’re getting a chemistry degree. It’s not enough to just major in this subject, earn your degree, and present it to prospective employers. Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree; a few job roles require a master’s degree. These are called degree levels and no two levels, or more, are equal.

Degree levels represent the years of study and amount of knowledge gained in a subject. They’re divided into two groups: undergraduate and graduate. Undergraduate levels can be thought of as entry-level knowledge, whereas graduate could be perceived as intermediate to advanced knowledge.

What are common degree levels?

  • A certificate (1 year of education) could be categorized as undergraduate or graduate, but it’s usually undergraduate and indicates that you gained quick knowledge about a subject.
  • An associate’s (2 years of education) is an undergraduate degree level and usually represents a couple years of study for a subject. It also indicates that you’ve gained very basic knowledge about a subject.
  • A bachelor’s (4 years of education) is an undergraduate level and usually represents several years of study for a subject, which normally means you’ve gained sufficient entry-level knowledge.
  • A master’s (6 years of education) is a high-level graduate degree representing at least a couple years of advanced study about a subject. A pre-requisite for a master’s degree program is to pass an LSAT, GMAT, GRE, or another intermediate test which measures an applicant’s mastery of advanced math, written skills, and other areas of education topics learned in undergraduate study. Depending on the program, you may be required to submit one or more essays.
  • A doctorate (8 years of education) is the peak of collegiate education, representing several years or more of advanced study in a subject. Multiple essays and interviews may be required to enter a degree program, and a final thesis approved by a faculty member is necessary to earn a degree.

These are typical degree levels for most subjects, although sometimes the names differ. For example, doctorate degrees can be called “JD” (“Juris Doctorate”) in legal studies, while some areas of study refer to doctorate credentials as “PhD” (scientific and social studies) or “EdD” (education studies). Regardless of what they’re called, the degree levels are the same.

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