Exploring Degree Programs and Career Fields

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It is important to understand the different degrees offered at educational institutions, as well as other options for career credentials and apprenticeships. The information below will help you decide the correct path for you to achieve your career goals.

College Degree – Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Professional and Doctorate

Associate degrees are offered at colleges and universities, including community colleges and junior colleges. An associate degree is typically 60-90 undergraduate credits and takes two years of full time enrollment. Associate degrees focus on general education courses and/or specific core courses leading to a specialized career.

Bachelor’s degrees are offered at colleges and universities and typically require at least 120 undergraduate credits. Bachelor’s degrees usually take at least four years of full time enrollment to complete a degree program. Bachelor’s degrees include general education courses and additional core courses for a specific major. A completed associate degree is not required to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degrees are offered at colleges and universities and typically require 36-48 graduate credits. Master's degrees usually take an additional one to two years beyond a completed bachelor's program.

Professional degrees are offered at colleges and universities and are typically associated with professions that require licensing to practice in the field. These degrees emphasize skills and practical analysis rather than theory and research to prepare the student to practice a profession as a career. Some professions require only a first professional degree while others require an additional graduate degree to achieve licensure.

Doctorate degrees are offered at universities and are considered the highest level of academic degree that can be obtained. The most common type of doctorate degrees is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). There are also professional doctorate degrees, such as the Medicinae Doctor (M.D.) or the Juris Doctor (J.D.). To earn a Ph.D., students must usually research, write and defend a dissertation or thesis. Doctorate degrees can take up to eight years to earn depending on the program.

Certificate and Diploma Programs

In addition to college degrees, some academic institutions also offer certificate and/or diploma programs. Certificate and diploma programs may be vocational or academic. Some programs are offered at career and vocational schools and some are offered at colleges and universities. For example, a Personal Training Certificate at a career or vocational school, or a Project Management Certificate at a university.

Not all certificate and diploma programs are eligible for Navy Tuition Assistance. In order for Navy TA to fund courses leading to a certificate or diploma, the academic institution must be a signatory of the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding, courses must appear on a college transcript as Clock Hours and the program must be listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. Refer to NAVADMIN 305/12 for official guidance regarding certificates or contact the Navy College Virtual Education Center to verify if a specific program is eligible for Navy TA.

Licensure and Certification – Navy COOL

Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line small square with diagonal arrow extending from it (COOL) helps Navy Service members find information on certifications and licenses related to their jobs. You can find detailed information on:

  • Credentials related to a Navy rating, collateral-duty/out of rate assignment, or designator
  • Credential requirements and potential gaps between Navy training and civilian credentialing requirements
  • Resources available to fill gaps between military training and civilian credentialing requirements
  • How to get a COOL funded voucher to pay for credential exam and maintenance fees
  • Other key resources such as Advancement Bibliographies (BIBs) and Learning and Development Roadmaps (LaDRs)

Sailors are strongly encouraged to pursue clock hour programs that prepare them for Navy COOL-funded certification or license examinations. You can research certifications and licenses at Navy COOL small square with diagonal arrow extending from it.

Apprenticeships – USMAP

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program small square with diagonal arrow extending from it (USMAP) is a formal military training program that provides active duty Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy Service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are on active duty.

A registered apprenticeship is a formalized, structured training program. It combines on-the-job training (OJT) and related technical instruction in which you receive practical and technical training. Industry determines the essential skills because apprenticeship is industry-driven career training. Each apprenticeship requires from 2,000 to 8,000 work hours to complete. The apprenticeship is broken down into skill areas with a set number of hours for each skill area. An apprenticeship also has structured formal training. Each year of apprenticeship (2,000 hours), requires 144 hours of apprenticeship-related training.