A professional degree is generally a college degree that allows you to work in a certain profession. There are some types of employment that are not open to people without a professional degree. For instance you can’t be a doctor, a nurse, a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner without obtaining the appropriate degrees first. In most cases, some fields require a professional degree before you can even be considered for hire in your chosen career. Further, many licensing agencies, may not agree to give testing or licensing to those who don’t have a degree.
Frequently, the professional degree is a master’s level or doctorate degree. There are a few professional degrees that require only bachelor’s degree training, and even a couple that require only an Associate of Arts or Sciences(A.A. or A.S.) degree, essentially two years in college. Typically, most professional degrees will require a fairly extensive education. Some require training after education is finished in order to become licensed.
The professional degrees that require doctorate level training include the following:
- MD or medical doctorate
- DO or Doctor of Osteopathy
- JD or Juris Doctor
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
- PhD in fields like psychology or pharmacology
Many people in specific professions take a professional degree that is essentially equivalent to master’s level work. Again these degrees will require a bachelor’s degree prior to obtaining a professional degree. These degrees may be required in fields like engineering or for teaching at the community college level. You need a professional degree at the master’s level to become a nurse practitioner, social worker, or a counselor or therapist. You may also need a master’s level degree to practice in fields like physical therapy, and in divinity/theology. The teaching credential is also considered a professional degree.
Other types of work require a professional degree that is earned by attending a college and obtaining a four-year degree. For example, people who wish to become licensed accountants, work as researchers in most of the sciences, become registered nurses or physicians assistants must all hold bachelor’s degrees. A few professional degrees are two-year degrees. A vet tech, an electrician or a licensed vocational nurse usually must have completed two years of college in their chosen field in order to be considered as having a professional degree.
The concept of the professional degree can be somewhat difficult to understand because often, there are several degrees available to the professional. A person can call her/himself an engineer with a bachelor’s degree. Yet the same person may also obtain master’s or doctorate degrees in engineering. A teacher can teach with certificate training, sometimes included in the bachelor’s degree, but he or she can go on to earn master’s, or a PhD in either his or her area of expertise or in education.
When there are several degrees available for a specific profession, there can be advantage in seeking an advanced professional degree. This usually means a person will receive a higher level of pay, and in competitive fields, it can mean a better chance at receiving a job. For instance, most people with a master’s degree can teach at a community college. Yet with greater competition for jobs in some community colleges, it may be difficult to get more than part-time employment without a PhD.