There tends to be some levels of confusion over the nomenclature of diploma versus degree. In an academic sense, degrees can only be awarded from a college or university. Diplomas, however, are awarded after successful completion of high school.
A diploma is a certificate which testifies that the particular individual has completed the necessary coursework to be awarded one. This can include a high school diploma, as well as a diploma from a university. In addition, diplomas can be awarded to any individual who completes any level of coursework, whether it be an 8-week intensive real-estate class or a 4-week course in French.
A degree, however, is only awarded to individuals who have completed college or university level coursework. This can include an Associate Degree, an Undergraduate Degree, or a Graduate Degree. As degrees are meant to specify the completion of college or university level work, it cannot be used to describe the completion of high school curriculum.
An associate degree is considered an undergraduate degree, typically in-between the high school or GED level and a bachelor’s degree. Most Associate degrees require coursework lasting two to three years of study. On average, individuals with an associate degree can look to earn between $32,000 to $45,000, commensurate on overall experience.
A bachelor’s degree is generally meant to refer to coursework completed by a student as an undergraduate. This can be completed at either a college or university. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four-years to complete, requiring roughly 120-130 credit hours. On average, individuals with a bachelor’s degree can look to earn roughly $60,000 upon completion.
Bachelor’s degrees can be further broken down by specific concentrations. Typically, dependent on the major pursued, an undergraduate student will either graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). Though the two provide different acronyms upon completion, they are generally interchangeable. For a full, and exhaustive, list of undergraduate and graduate degrees, feel free to check out this site.
Graduate degrees are generally the realm of universities. Whereas the term college or university can be used interchangeably, a university is typically larger than a college and is able to offer graduate degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate. Colleges are only capable of providing associate and undergraduate degrees.
Master of Arts degrees are meant to refer to further specialization in a major or concentration after the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Though it is not necessary to pursue the same major or concentration as you did in your undergraduate career, it is typically helpful. Master’s degrees can range in length to complete but will typically require at-least an additional two-years. The most common master’s designation is M.A. On average, individuals with a master’s of arts degree can look to earn roughly $79,000 and can earn upwards of $123,000 by mid-career.
Lastly, there is the Doctor of Philosophy degree, abbreviated as a PhD. These individuals have completed both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees and have committed themselves to additional study, thesis completion, and coursework’s. A Doctor of Philosophy degree is a general term, used to describe most concentrations after a master’s, save for those in the medical or theological fields. On average, individuals with a Doctor of Philosophy degree can look to earn $97,000.