Part of your college selection process should include thinking about your career plans and what kind of degree that entails.
Certificate or Diploma
Some occupational fields, such as beauticians and chefs, require only a certificate or diploma to gain employment. These certificates are specific to this topic and are not considered college-level coursework. Community colleges and technical/vocational colleges offer certificate courses. Some four-year colleges offer certificate courses as well.
For those planning on entering a technical or vocational field, an Associate degree is useful. Associate degrees are usually earned in two years or less and are available at community colleges, technical and vocational colleges. After completion of your requirements, you will receive an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Science (A.S.) degree, after which you may enter the workforce or transfer to a four-year college to complete the requirements for a Bachelor's degree.
Bachelor's or Undergraduate Degree
These degrees are considered college-level education in most workplaces and are generally offered in four-year programs. Students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree have to study general education courses and chose a major area to focus on beyond all others. The most common types of Bachelor’s degrees are a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), a Bachelor of Science (B.S) or a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.). A bachelor’s degree is the completion of higher education for many and a stepping stone to those working towards a Master’s degree or a Doctorate.
The requirements vary depending on the college, the state you plan to teach in and the type of teaching you plan to do. All institutions that prepare teachers are accredited by the state and at some schools you can receive a teacher certification by completing a bachelor's degree and state certification requirements. If a Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) is required by the state, chose a college or university that offers it as part of their program to avoid having to change schools.
Master’s or Graduate Degree
Master’s degrees are obtained after completion of one’s undergraduate education at a graduate school or program, with most programs taking two years to complete. A Master’s degree helps advance one’s career because it implies a mastery of a subject or area of study. Those entering graduate programs are expected to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and complete specific undergraduate courses. Some of the most common Master’s degrees are: Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), and Master of Education (M.Ed.). A Master’s degree is typically followed by a Doctoral degree.
Doctorate or Post-Graduate Degree
A doctorate is an academic degree that indicates a high, if not the highest, level of academic achievement. While a doctorate usually entitles one to be addressed as "doctor", usage of the title varies depending on the type of doctorate earned and the doctor's occupation. Those pursuing a career in higher generally pursue a research doctorate, which is a good indicator of a quality college faculty. Degrees of this type include the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). Professional doctorates are awarded in fields where most are engaged primarily in a profession, such as law or medicine. Examples include Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and Juris Doctor (JD). Attaining a Doctoral degree generally takes anywhere from three to five years or longer and the requirements typically entail successful completion of pertinent classes, passing of a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation or thesis.
Once you know what type of degree, or degrees, your career plans require, you can begin to search for the colleges that offer them.