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Study Abroad Guide

Types of Educational Degrees

Education engages about 30% of an individual’s life. On an average a student spends about 20 years in different fields of study and research. During this time a student usually acquires different types of accolades and degrees that constitute to a career in a field of employment. On the road of education there are various different degrees to be achieved. These degrees are set in a certain hierarchy starting with a uniform formal education i.e. schooling and moving upwards to a doctorate degree at the top. Each degree or qualification facilitates the next and cumulatively play a vital role in building students skill set and professional experience. The higher the degree that a student pursues, better are the job prospects.


The different types of degrees are listed below in the hierarchy they fall under:

Foundation Course

A foundation course is usually a one or two-year preparatory course for students who have completed their formal education and want to qualify to apply for a bachelor's degree course. The course mostly comprises of practical approaches. A foundation course is mostly a requirement for undergraduate applicants in the UK but have variations across countries. In Ireland it is known as a Core Studies course and exists in Australia, Canada and New Zealand as well.


A certificate course is usually two years or less and focuses on a specific department or area of study. Most certificate courses may include profession specific syllabus or technical skills focused syllabus. Certificate courses are usually for people who do not wish to pursue a postgraduate degree immediately after their formal education.

Vocational Diploma

while an undergraduate degree focuses on all round development of the student, a vocational degree focuses on a specific skill or trade that prepares a student for a skill-based career. Vocational courses take a considerably shorter time for completion and once done; the student is well equipped for the job. A few examples of courses that come under this category are nursing, cosmetology, electric work etc.

Undergraduate Degree

An undergraduate degree is an academic degree awarded to a person who has successfully completed an undergraduate course. Undergraduate courses are offered by colleges and universities. The most common types of undergraduate degrees are associate's degree and bachelor's degree. While a Bachelor's degree usually takes at least three years to complete an associate degree takes about 2 years to complete. Usually an undergraduate degree comes directly after formal schooling in preparation for the Master's degree. An associate degree is an undergraduate degree is a level of qualification between formal school education and bachelor's degree. Associate degrees are popular in the USA but rare in other education systems around the world.

Postgraduate Diploma

A postgraduate diploma is a degree that students pursue after their graduation. It is mostly awarded by a university or graduate school. It usually takes about 2 additional terms to complete. Students usually opt for a postgraduate diploma in a specific area to gain a more in-depth study as compared to the subject matter +taught in the undergraduate course to help them in their future careers.

Masters Degree

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges on completion of a course after demonstrating a certain mastery in a specific field or area of professional practice. A requirement for all master's degrees are a Bachelor’s degree in the same or similar field. A Master’s degree gives the student an added advantage in the corporate world as companies look for candidates that are skilled in certain areas and have a higher education degree. A Master’s degree takes a minimum of 1 year to complete, though some universities and countries have 2-year Master’s programs depending on the field of study.


A doctorate or doctor’s degree is an academic degree conferred on students by a university. Doctorate degree are mostly research based and take about 4 years to complete. The most common academic degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) which is awarded in various fields ranging from humanities to the sciences. Applied Doctorate degrees include Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Education (EdD) and so on. A doctorate also permits its holder to teach in universities in the degree's field.

Students often get confused as to their eligibility for a course, whether their qualifications are adequate for a further studies course and so on. The hierarchy of the degrees makes it a bit easier to understand and make professional decisions that will benefit the student. Another recommendation would be to look at the requirements of the universities and compare your degree to the eligibility criteria and make the right decision.


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Edwise Overseas Education Consultant

We at Edwise streamline and personalize the process for each student irrespective of the destination, institution, course or any level of study. Our team of experienced professionals will provide you individual attention and exceptional guidance throughout your process of application. We provide assistance related to course selections, admission, visa, bank-loan and scholarships. We also host University delegates for direct student interaction and all these services are provided free of cost. We have established since 1991 and have been maintaining strong networks with over 725 universities in 16 countries, hence giving us a unique insight into the finest educational establishments worldwide.

Also read: Top 10 universities in the USA for MBA

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