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professional degree vs academic degree

Professional Degree vs Academic Degree

Academic Degree or Professional Degree – Which One Should You choose

Before discussing Professional Degree vs Academic Degree merits  it is important to know that selection of a suitable college program/degree is a significant step in the direction towards your dream career. Securing an advanced degree could help you advance your career and earn more money.

When deciding on an advanced degree, a significant decision would be ‘which kind of degree will help you meet your professional and personal goals: a professional degree or an academic degree?’

Each of the above choices has its benefits that may make one degree more relevant to you depending on your profession and career aspirations. Not sure which degree you should choose? Below are the basic similarities and differences to consider when deciding between a Professional Degree vs Academic Degree.

Academic Degree

An academic degree also called a research degree, is a more traditional degree program than a professional degree. This type of degree is mainly research-oriented and focuses on a major in a specific field of study.

Academic degree programs include subjects like science (theoretical sciences), literature, history, etc., i.e., subjects consisting of more theory and essay-based material.

An academic degree’s requirements involve completing courses and research work related to technical knowledge that you have gained throughout the program.

In discussion of Professional Degree vs Academic Degree usually, academic degrees also require students to submit a capstone/ FYP (Final Year Project) or a thesis to complete their degree. The period of academic degrees ranges from one to four years.

Students can choose an academic degree program from several available options depending upon their interests and career goals. These include Bachelors/Masters of Science, Masters in Computer Science, or a degree in Information Systems, etc.

The admissions in academic degrees are usually based on merit, i.e., on your previous grade score or a small-scale entry examination. Unlike Professional degree programs, an academic degree does not make you completely job-ready; however, it serves as a career-enhancer for anyone who opts for it.

Professional Degree

In contrast, a professional degree program is specifically career-oriented. It equips its students with all the ingredients needed to excel in a particular professional career.

These degrees include medicine, law, pharmacy, education, communication, design, etc.

The degree requirements are a vast amount of real-world application-oriented assignments and assessments. Students are required to complete internships, projects, and various fieldworks depending on their respective fields before graduation.

Such on-the-job training assignments added to students’ curriculum vitae give them a pre-job simulation that enhances their work quality in the real professional environment. The time span of professional degrees ranges from one to five years.

There are many professional degrees like Juris Doctor (JD) which prepare one for careers in law, and other specializations like Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), etc. A student can choose from a vast pool depending on one’s career aspirations.

Admissions in a professional degree program are base on entrance examinations and interviews; hence even if for any reason you have not scored well in the previous class, you can still go for the degree program.

Comparison

The idea of professional degrees as a separate category of degree programs is relatively recent. You can find that the coursework for many programs has overlapping elements from both the academic and professional realms; hence, it is not justified to treat the two types as two opposite poles. Instead, both of them possess similar and distinct advantages at their respective positions.

On the one hand, an academic degree provides its students with a wide range of career options by offering greater flexibility in choosing a specialized career. While on the other hand, professional degrees provide students with a great deal of practical learning, focused on a particular area rather than a vague understanding of the subject.

Academic degrees help you to specialize and gain deep knowledge regarding a particular subject by opting for it. For example, a person doing Bachelors in Computer Science and then Masters too in Computer Science will have a significant grasp of computer science issues.

In contrast, a professional degree adds to this knowledge by presenting its real-world applications. The courses in professional degrees are fast-paced and extraordinarily structured so that students can get familiar with the rush of the actual work environment.

Talking about Professional Degree vs Academic Degree despite all the advantages of an academic degree and a professional degree, there are a few limitations.

Academic degrees, though they provide a lot of knowledge, do not make one ‘job-ready. The dos and don’ts of a working environment often remain untouched throughout the degree program.

For professional degrees, the disadvantage is that sometimes they do not build an efficient academic foundation. The coursework is so specialized that it may create hurdles if one wants to switch careers or fields in the future.

Some students adopt drilling and memorization in academic degree programs to excel in academic degrees as there is little hands-on involvement, which kills the students’ creativity.

Another limitation of professional degrees is that it is challenging to provide distance learning opportunities as a lot of practical/hands-on work is required to complete the degree.

Final Thoughts

Both degree programs possess advantages and disadvantages of their own. Hence, it will be unjust to declare an academic degree better than a professional degree or vice versa.

The selection of a degree is crucial as it determines the path you will choose to reach your dream career. Some of the advantages of an academic degree can overcome a professional degree’s disadvantage and vice versa. Both types of degrees back up and complement one another.

A student might also find some combination of both the degrees better depending on one’s learning objectives and expected outcomes. Therefore, a student needs to be clear and precise on his goals and objectives to make an efficient decision.

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