Choosing a College
Rather than explaining to you the entire history and background of
the college degree, I'll let the encyclopedia do it. I'm sure their definition
will help if you had any questions.
title granted by a college
or university, usually signifying completion of an established course of study.
Honorary degrees are conferred as marks of distinction, not necessarily of
scholarship; some, such as D.Litt. (doctor of letters), are generally honorary
in the U.S.
Institutions of higher
learning have granted degrees since the 12th century. The word itself was then
used for the baccalaureate and licentiate, the two intermediate steps that led
to the certificates of master and doctor, requisites for teaching in a medieval
university. During the same period, honorary degrees were sometimes conferred by
a pope or an emperor. In England, the archbishop of Canterbury, by an act passed
during the reign of King Henry VIII, acquired the authority to grant honorary
During the Middle Ages, the
conferring of a doctorate also allowed the recipient to practice the profession
in which the certificate was awarded; this condition still holds true for the
legal and medical professions in European countries, such as France, in which
the government controls the universities. In the United States, however, the
doctor's degree in medicine and law in itself is only a measure of academic
attainment; the holder of the degree of M.D., for example, cannot practice in
the medical profession until he or she has passed a qualifying examination and
received a license.
In Germany and at most
Continental universities, only the doctor's degree is conferred, except in
theology, in which the licentiate, or master's degree, is also presented.
Granting of the doctorate is contingent upon the acceptance of a dissertation
and the passing of examinations. The baccalaureate, or bachelor's degree, is
usually not a university degree in Europe. In France, it is acquired by passing
a state examination at the completion of secondary education; the only
university-conferred baccalaureate is that awarded by the faculty of law.
The University of Cambridge
and the University of Oxford in England grant the bachelor's degree after the
satisfactory completion of a 3-year course. Since the 18th century these
universities have also given tripos, or examinations for honors. A candidate for
graduation must pass all parts of the tripos for a particular subject in order
to qualify for an honors degree. The master's degree in arts or science is
granted after a further period of residence and study and the payment of fees.
Other English universities grant the master's degree only after a candidate has
passed a series of examinations and presented an approved thesis. Various
doctorates are awarded for distinguished scholarly work or given honoris causa
to prominent public figures.
The most commonly granted
degrees in the U.S. are the B.A., or bachelor of arts, and the B.S., or bachelor
of science, both given generally after the completion of a 4-year course of
study and sometimes followed by a mark of excellence, such as cum laude, with
praise; magna cum laude, with great praise; or summa cum laude, with highest
praise. The master's degree is granted after one or two years of postgraduate
work and may require the writing of a thesis or dissertation. The doctorate
requires two to five years of postgraduate work, the writing of a thesis, and
the passing of oral and written examinations. In a recent year U.S. institutions
of higher learning granted about 988,000 bachelor's degrees, some 289,000
master's degrees, and 34,000 doctor's degrees. The most familiar degrees are
shown in the accompanying table.
The academic dress worn at
degree-granting ceremonies consists of a long, black, full-cut gown, and a
mortarboard, a stiff square-shaped cap with a tassel. The tassel is either black
or of the color indicating the field of study, such as blue for philosophy,
purple for law, or scarlet for theology. Some also wear a hood lined with
colored silk indicating the graduate's institution and decorated with velvet
strips to designate the field of study. The bachelor's gown, usually of cotton,
has pointed sleeves. The master's gown, of cotton, silk, or worsted, has oblong
sleeves. The doctor's gown, generally of silk, has colored velvet facings down
the front. The bell-shaped sleeves are decorated with three similarly colored
Common academic degree's
and their abbreviations:
|A.B. or B.A.
||Bachelor of Arts
|A.M. or M.A.
||Master of Arts
||Bachelor Business Science
||Bachelor of Civil Law
||Bachelor of Divinity
|B.Lit., B.Litt., or Lit. B.
||Bachelor of Letters (or Literature)
|B.L.L. or L.L.B.
||Bachelor of Laws
|B.S., B.Sc., or Sc.B.
||Bachelor of Science
||Doctor or Civil Law
|D.D., or S.T.D.
||Doctor of Divinity
||Doctor of Dental Surgery
|D.Litt., or Litt.D.
||Doctor of Letters (or Literature)
||Doctor of Dental Medicine
|D.S. or D.Sc.
||Doctor of Science
||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
||Doctor of Law
||Doctor of Humanities
||Doctor of Laws
||Master of Business Administration
||Master of Civil Engineering
||Doctor of Medicine
|M.S. or M.Sc.
||Master of Science
||Bachelor of Music
||Doctor of Music
||Doctor of Philosophy
||Graduate in Pharmacy
||Bachelor in Sacred Theology
Academic," Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1995
Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. © Funk & Wagnalls Corporation.
All rights reserved.