What does B.A. mean? What does M.S. mean? Let's talk about university degrees.

An Undergraduate Student (or undergrad)

When you are an undergraduate student you are studying to get your degree. After attending a university or college for four years as an undergraduate and fulfilling the course requirements you may graduate with any of the following degrees:


B.A.= Bachelor of Arts (focuses more on the humanities)*

For example:

B.A. in English, History, Sociology


B.S.= Bachelor of Science (focuses more on science/math)*

For example:

B.S. in Engineering, Physics, Molecular and Cell Biology

*Be aware that the classifications above can vary slightly from school to school.


B.F.A.= Bachelor of Fine Arts (creation of art)

For example”

B.F.A. in Acting, Studio Art, Dance




A Graduate Student (or grad)

When you are a graduate student, you’ve already attained a bachelor’s degree and now you are studying to get your master’s degree. This may take 1-2 years depending on the program and the rate at which you take courses. When you are finished you may graduate with any of the following degrees:


M.A.= Master of Arts

M.S.= Master of Science

M.B.A.=Master of Business Administration

M.F.A.= Master of Fine Arts

M.Ed= Master of Education


A Law Student

A law student obtaining their first degree in law will graduate with the following:

J.D. = Juris Doctor


A Doctoral Candidate (also known as a grad student)

You can get your PhD in a variety of areas usually in the humanities such as English, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Art History, to name a few. Someone who has earned their PhD has successfully defended a dissertation on a specific topic in their field and passed any exams (written or oral) required by the university.

People with PhDs might choose be professors at a university. They are expected to do research and publish articles in addition to teaching.

Someone with a PhD in Psychology can do research. Alternatively, they might set up a clinical practice where they help people with mental or emotional challenges.


PhD= Doctorate of Philosophy


A Medical Student

A student who is studying medicine to become a doctor (physician) goes to medical school. A psychiatrist must have an M.D. in order to prescribe medication.

M.D.= Doctor of Medicine


A Student of Chiropractic

A chiropractic student learns about how the spine and nervous system relates to health and will earn the following degree:

D.C.= Doctor of Chiropractic


Certificate Programs

A certificate program is not the same as a degree. All of the above are considered degrees. A certificate program offers coursework in a specific area. While the coursework might be beneficial to your personal growth and professional development, it does not have the same status as a degree. Completion of a certificate program may have value for international students who earn a certificate in a foreign country. For students in the U.S., a degree program is preferred. Certificate programs are considered supplemental and are not required for most jobs.

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