How Many Years Of College Does It Take?

Just How Long Does it Take to Earn a Degree?

There is no question that earning a college degree is vital to an individual’s future success in the world. While there are many jobs that can be gained with little or no education, the ceiling for advancement and earnings potential in these roles is often limited. Each year as millions of students graduate from high schools across America, students begin wondering how long it will take them to earn a degree.

What most students do not realize is that a number of factors will play into the length of time it takes to complete a degree. The biggest factor is the type of degree itself. The length of time it takes to complete an Associate’s degree is not nearly as extensive as the amount of time required to earn a Doctorate.

Certificate/Technical/Associate’s Degree

Certification programs, technical degrees, and Associate’s degree programs take anywhere from one to two years to complete. On average, certificate programs take one year to 18 months to complete and are offered by specialized institutions looking to train individuals for very specific career paths.

Associate’s degree programs take, on average, 18 months to two years to complete. Depending upon the institution, students will get a little taste of general studies and complete a wide array of courses specific to a wider career field (i.e. Information Technology, Business Management).

Bachelor’s Degree

The most commonly held degrees in America are four-year Bachelor’s degrees offered at thousands of college and universities across the country. By in large, a Bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. Students will spend their first two years of school taking liberal arts or general study courses in areas of study such as mathematics, science, social sciences, literature, and language.

The remaining two years often consist of cleaning up any remaining general requirements, while also completing the specialized courses required of their degree program. Four years shouldn’t be viewed as a hard and fast timeline though. The availability and timing of courses can easily delay students by a semester or even a full school year.

Graduate Degrees

Earning a graduate degree, such as a Master’s or Doctoral degree, can take anywhere from two to six years. At this point in an individual’s education, the amount of time it takes to complete a degree can vary drastically from one degree program to the next. For example, the average Master of Business Administration (MBA) program takes two years to complete. Students in MBA programs take a heavy dose of business-focused coursework to prepare them for advanced roles in the world of business.

By contrast, students pursuing a medical doctorate (M.D.) could spend four years working on their doctoral program. Students training to become doctors must first spend two years taking specialized coursework in the classroom before spending extensive time in labs, clinics, and hospitals shadowing doctors and learning in a more hands-on environment.

Keep in mind that these degree timelines are in addition to previous school work. Master’s degrees and Doctorate programs require a Bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite for admission in most cases. The total amount of time for some careers, from undergrad start to graduation, can be upwards of eight years.

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