Once a person has completed their Advanced Level studies it is common for them to attend some University or College in order to prepare them for life in the workplace. If you are one of those people who like to know in advance what’s in store for them or you are simply curious to know what University is all about you have this article is for you.

University is quite different from life in High School. The goal is to get certification in the form of a diploma/degree and get employed or form your own business.

What is a Degree?

A degree is an academic rank which is given to a person who has completed a certain University/College course and obtained the required minimum grade. For example an accounting,history,commerce or geography degree.Some degrees are also given to people who have accomplished something as a way of honoring them.

Types of Degrees

There are a lot of ways to classify degrees. The most common way is:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Master’s Degree
  3. Doctor’s Degree/Doctor of Philosophy

This is not very different from the way High School used to be dived into 3 levels i.e. Junior Certificate (ZJC) for Forms 1-2, Ordinary Level Forms 3-4 and Advanced Level which is made of Form 5 and 6.

There are difference though. For starters the length of each each degree varies from University to University or College to College. Also a person does not necessarily need to get a Master’s Degree once they have completed their Bachelor’s Degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Is usually the first/lowest degree given to students for completing a University/College course. It usually lasts from 3 to 7 years depending on the course in question and the University/College’s policy. If you are coming from High School or have never done a given course before this is the degree you will get. Students who are studying towards this degree are known as Undergraduates hence this is also known as and Undergraduate Degree.

Abbreviations and Titles

Depending on the field and even University Policy the degree is often has various titles and accompanying abbreviations for example Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) or Bachelor of Commerce (BComm). These titles and abbreviations vary from College to College or University to University. Bindura University for example has Bachelor of Teaching degrees for almost every course they offer.

Honors Degree

Depending with a given course a Bachelor’s degree can have an Honours class. This means that students who take additional courses (University/College subjects) or get a certain grade get special recognition by having the word honours as part of their degree. Thus the degree becomes Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) in Finance for example. In some Universities and Colleges the word Honours is used to show that the student also has some work experience for example they went on attachment.

Master’s Degrees

Are given to students who have completed a certain course (i.e. now have a Bachelor’s Degree) and want to either specialize in a certain branch of that course or want to study further in that course. For example a person who has obtained a BComm in Business Studies now wants to do a Masters in Finance or Master of Business Administration. Such a student is known as a post graduate student. Master of degrees typically last for 2 years and requires work experience.

Examples include:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

This degree would allow someone to become an expert in their given field. It is also required if someone wants to get a Doctorate Degree.

Doctorate Degrees

This is the highest attainable degree in any given field. In order to qualify a student typically has to complete the Bachelor’s and Master’s level although it is possible to skip the Master’s level. Universities have rigorous requirements for these degrees depending with the field involved.

Examples of doctorate degrees are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Law (LLD)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)

Whoever completes this is known as a Doctor. This is not to be confused with the term Doctor as applied to medical doctors who often only hold Bachelor’s Degrees in Zimbabwe!

Other ways of classifying degrees

There are other ways of classifying degrees besides the above:

Associate Degree

A degree which is often completed in two years. It is lesser than Bachelor’s Degree is offered by some Colleges as something between a diploma and an Undergraduate Degree.

Joint Degree

Is when a degree is offered by two Universities working jointly together. The Universities/Colleges can be in the same or different countries.

Honorary Degree

These are offered to individuals who have made some sort of achievement. For example a singer who has made impressive contribution to the music etc. They are often in the form of Doctor’s Degrees which are known as Honorary Doctrate Degrees.

Research Degrees

Degrees that are earned as a result of ground breaking research in a given field.

Affiliate College

This is when a college or academic institution which is a separate business offers degrees/courses from another institution. For example Oxford Brookes University works with ACCA colleges to give ACCA students a Bachelor’s Degree.