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What Is A "Degree"?

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Author: Danni R.

The escalating cost of higher education is causing many to question the value of continuing education beyond high school. Many wonder whether the high cost of tuition, the opportunity cost of choosing college over full-time employment, and the accumulation of thousands of dollars of debt is, in the long run, worth the investment. The risk is especially large for low-income families who have a difficult time making ends meet without the additional burden of college tuition and fees.

The following question continues to being asked through our webs forum or chat board:

"What is a degree and is it worth getting?"

Well, here is our answer and we hope it will help you make an educated decision:


A degree is earned through a certain number of years of education from a college. Of course, before college comes high school. People who graduated from high school can further their education via traditional college education or distance education from online college courses.

Colleges and universities in the United States (USA) offer a four level approach to education which are:

1. Associate of Arts Degree (A.A., often via community colleges)

2. Bachelor's Degree (B.A., via traditional college, also called undergraduate degree)

3. Master's Degree (M.A., also referred to as graduate degree)

4. Doctorate Degree (Ph.D., the highest degree)

To sum it up in simple terms, the A.A. degree is the least rigorous. It takes about 2 years to get. Next comes the B.A. which can take up to 4-5 years to achieve. The M.A. is awarded to students who have obtained their bachelor's degree. It can take another 1-2 years after the B.A.! After that comes the doctorate degree, which is the highest degree awarded in the U.S. and takes the longest to achieve. It is the most rigorous and in depth of all other degrees.

Prospective college students should keep in mind that different colleges have different graduation requirements. Also their cost can differ greatly. And before embarking on any college degree program it's a good idea to also check on their college credit transfer policies and (as mentioned) their graduation requirements.

There are many career training opportunities and training offered by vocational institutions, colleges, and through online distance education that lead to allied health professional diplomas and degrees such as in clinical and administrative medical assisting, medical coding and billing, and health care administration. The key is finding a program that perfectly meets your standards and needs! If you are interested in a degree, there are hundreds of subjects to choose from to suit all interests.


Research has consistently shown that while it is clear that investment in a college degree, especially for those students in the lowest income brackets, can be a financial burden, the long-term benefits to individuals as well as to society at large, appear to far outweigh the costs.

There is considerable support for the notion that the rate of return on investment in higher education is high enough to warrant the financial burden associated with pursuing a college degree.


Most students today-- about 80 percent of all students--enroll either in public 4-year colleges or in public 2-year colleges.

According to the U.S. Department of Education a full-time student at a public 4-year college paid an average of $8,655 for in-state tuition, room and board (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2002).

A full-time student in a public 2-year college paid an average of $1,359 per year in tuition (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2002).

The average annual cost of in-state 4-year public school in 2003-2004 was $12,841. Out-of-state cost was $19,188 (The College Board 2004).

However, the sizeable differences in lifetime earnings put the costs of college study in realistic perspective. Though the earnings differential between college and high school graduates varies over time, college graduates, on average, earn more than high school graduates. According to the Census Bureau, over an adult's working life, high school graduates earn an average of $1.2 million; associate's degree holders earn about $1.6 million; and bachelor's degree holders earn about $2.1 million (Day and Newburger, 2002).

About the author:

Danni R. is a highly respected online educator, copywriter, website developer and search engine marketing expert. Her background is a unique blend of medical sciences, graphic arts, and web design. It is exactly THIS fusion of contrasting disciplines and experience that makes her work so successful on the Internet! One of her most popular websites is Medical Assisting Career at for job seekers in the many health care disciplines.

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