Academic programs may refer to a broad area of study, such as specific colleges, but usually refer to specific types of degree paths. These academic programs may be nothing more than a workshop or series of workshops over a weekend, or may be a long-term area of study over many years. Depending on the extent of the education, they may also be broken down into different subgroups of programs.
The most basic types of academic programs are those that teach students a vocation. These vocations may include some general education work, but will mainly be focused on the skills needed to perform a certain task. In the United States, this is often a task of community colleges. In such an academic skills program, it is usually easier to achieve a degree in fewer semesters than it may be to achieve a more traditional degree.
The second level of academic programs are known as Bachelor's degree programs. On average, these take approximately four years to complete, or roughly 120 semester hours. There are many different types of programs and fields of study available for those seeking Bachelor's degrees. Some are science degree programs. Others are available in the business field, education field, or any one of a number of other fields.
The third level of academic programs include graduate academic programs. These will include Masters programs and PhD programs. These are often the most difficult to achieve, requiring the highest level of expertise and often requiring the greatest detail in work, especially at the PhD level. Those who attempt to earn these degrees are expected to be experts in their respective fields. Thus, the requirements are often very stringent.
Some students may be involved in what is known as an academic scholarship program. These programs involve giving the student the benefit of a free or discounted education, provided certain qualifications are met. Such qualifications may include maintaining a certain number of credit hours each semester, achieving a certain grade point average, and even doing some community service or college service work.
Different schools may specialize, or at least have a good reputation for, certain academic programs. For example, some schools may be known for their medical programs. Others may be known for their law programs. Choosing a school may often depend on the type of academic program the student wishes to pursue. This is why the school is often nearly as important as the career chosen.