Earning an Undergraduate Degree in the United States
In the United States, there are several levels of academic degrees to earn. Undergraduate degrees typically refer to Bachelor’s degree programs. The courses of study to obtain a Bachelors degree are usually designed to take four years of full time study. Some students take extra classes, or start their degree track with college credits earned in high school so that they can obtain the degree in as few as three years.
A Bachelors degree may also take five years to earn for more involved courses of study, such as business. There are also Associates degrees which are designed as two year programs to lead into trade work or an additional two years of study to earn a Bachelors degree.
The Associate’s degree is often a building block that results in obtaining a bachelor’s. An Associate’s degree is offered by community colleges in the United States. Community Colleges are universities that are operated or overseen by the state, and are related to state universities in that way. The community colleges structure their courses of study to award two year degrees in trades or in subjects to prepare their students to continue on for a Bachelors degree. They sometimes form partnerships with full universities such that the community college provides the first two years of courses, and the student gains automatic enrollment in the university to finish the final two years of their Bachelors program. For most trade professions an Associate’s degree from either a community college or a trade school is enough to move into a profession.
There are multiple types of Bachelor’s degrees to earn. The program selected for study dictates which type of degree is earned. These programs usually offer one of two major categories; Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.). There are several other degree types to earn including the following; Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.), Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng.), Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.), Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs (B.S.P.A.), Bachelors of Philosophy (B. Phil.), Bachelors of Architecture (B. Arch.), and Bachelor of Business (B. Bus.). Many colleges offer different tracks of academia within the degree programs they offer. An important fact to consider is that in the United States, there are no undergraduate programs for Medicine or Law. These programs are graduate programs that typically require an undergraduate degree to begin.
These typically include a standard difficulty level, and an honors level which is offered to students with higher grade point averages. The honors courses of study typically include more intensive study, independent research and projects, and specialized honors seminars. Some universities that offer the honors program will also allow students to focus on an honors program within a specific area of study, such as mathematics. These courses also offer notations on the diploma, often written with the Latin phrase “in cursu honorum” for a student who completed the honors track in a university. For students who obtained honors in a specific subject, they will receive a notation on their transcript of “with honors in” and the subject they completed the requirements for.
Beyond the degree track and program, there are other awards that can be noted on a diploma based on the G.P.A. achieved in the course of obtaining the degree. It is a scaling honors system based in Latin. From lowest to highest, the common annotations are “cum laude,” “magna cum laude,” and “summa cum laude.” The subject of study selected can influence whether the Bachelors degree program works towards preparing the student for the work force and beginning a career, or if the program is designed to prepare the student for furthering their study with a graduate and/or post-graduate level program of study.
If you have questions about the types of undergraduate degrees that you can earn at the university you wish to attend, contact the university that you are seeking to attend. You can also look at the College Board website to see what universities offer the degree that you want to pursue.