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U.S. Academic Levels, Definitions and Expected Durations

Short-Term Certificate or Non-Credit: Courses offered which usually do not qualify for regular college credit, and which may or may not be used to meet the requirements for a degree or diploma awarded by an academic institution. Each short-term or non-credit course may last from a few weeks to several months, but typically less than one year.

Associate: The credit-hour requirement for most associate degrees is approximately 60 credit hours, typically completed in two academic years. Often abbreviated AA (for Associate Degree of Art) or AS (Associate Degree of Science), associate's degrees are usually earned at a community or junior college. The course-work for an associate's degree can usually be transferred to a four-year college or university, and applied towards the requirements for a bachelor's degree. Dual enrollment programs, where students may enroll simultaneously at a U.S. high school and a community college, or at a community college and a university, are gaining popularity throughout the United States.

Bachelor: Institutions offering Bachelors Degrees are primarily undergraduate colleges or universities with major emphasis on baccalaureate programs. The traditional definition refers to the lowest degree conferred by a four-year college or university. However, an increasing number of U.S. colleges and institutions are beginning to offer a wider variety of degrees, including Associate and Certificate Programs.

Master: Institutions offering Masters Degrees typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the Masters Degree. A master is a person holding an academic degree higher than a bachelors but lower than a doctors. An intensive masters degree may be completed in one year, though the average duration is between two and three academic years.

Doctoral / Research: The Carnegie Classification states that these institutions typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the doctorate. A doctor is a person holding one of the highest academic degrees (as a PhD) conferred by a university. The duration for a doctorate varies widely, from just a few years to decades.

Group Programs for Professionals: These inquiries were originally included under the heading of Short-Term Training Sessions or Non-Credit / Certificate Programs. We distinguished the individuals from the groups due to increased demand by both sides -- international professionals and U.S. campuses. Descriptions of group courses vary greatly; some qualify for regular college credit, and may or may not be used to meet the requirements for a degree or diploma awarded by an academic institution. Each course may last from a few weeks to several months, but typically less than one year. Group inquiries tend to originate from a central source such as a corporate environment or a government-sponsored entity.

Internships: The term is technically defined as a period of time in which a student or recent graduate gains supervised practical experience. Another less formal explanation may be borrowed from Michael Landes' Backdoor Guide to Short-Term Job Adventures: An internship is simply about discovering life's options and finding your place in the world. It's a time to explore, dream and discover -- and turn your dreams into reality.

Summer Programs: Classes held generally between the months of early June and late August. Summer School Students may access many of the same amenities as their full-time counterparts, including on-campus and off-campus housing, library systems, computer labs, athletic facilities, and performances of the arts. The selection of academic courses during summer sessions appears to be growing across the United States, as campus administrators recognize the potential of short-term enrollees evolving into long-term enrollees. College credit is often available during Summer School, though conditions vary widely.

Youth / High School: Academic programs specifically designed for students between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. Academic disciplines vary, though most programs focus on the Liberal Arts (studies such as language, philosophy, history, literature, or abstract science, intended to provide general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities). Duration generally lasts from a few weeks to 12 weeks. College credit may be available to qualified students.

Distance Learning: Wikipedia defines distance education, or distance learning, as a field of education that focuses on delivering education to students who are not physically on site to receive their education. There are many universities that offer online degree programs as their primary method of educating students.



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