Article - Professional Degree Description:

A professional degree is one that prepares individuals for the practical aspects of a particular career. When it is not possible for someone to enter a career without completing a very specific course of study, that degree is usually considered to be a professional degree. When people think of professional degrees, the fields of medicine and law usually come to mind. These are good examples because it is impossible for someone to become a doctor without graduating with an M.D., and no one can be a lawyer without first obtaining a law degree and passing the bar exam. There are many other types that are offered at different levels of study and in other fields as well, though.


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Many professional degrees are offered at the master's level, while others can be obtained with only bachelor's or even associate degrees. Some professional degrees require an individual to complete a doctorate level education. There is usually some type of requirement that must be fulfilled to enter the careers even after a professional degree is earned. This could include passing a specific exam or completing further training in order to be approved for a license.

Many of the fields also require continuing education to be completed over the entire course of one's career to refresh knowledge and stay up-to-date on current advancements. These requirements may be regulated by state or national laws and overseen by the government, or they may be controlled by professional organizations.

Learning which specific degrees are considered to be professional degrees can help to make sense of the definition of the term. The ones that require the most education, a doctorate in a particular area of study, are medicine, veterinary medicine, osteopathy, and law. Some of the master's level professional degrees are social work, physical therapy, counseling, and nurse practitioner.

The lower level professional degrees can allow individuals to enter career fields that generally are very solid and pay well, without having to obtain extensive education. At the bachelor's degree level, this includes things like becoming a registered nurse, accountant, or teacher. Mechanics, electricians, veterinary technicians, and occupational therapy assistants, are some examples of people who get professional degrees at the associate's level with about two years of higher education.

In some fields where different levels of training or certification are available, the one that requires the most education is considered to be a professional degree. This can be seen with registered nurses. One can become a registered nurse with an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, so in this career the bachelor's degree is called the professional one. Nursing also meets the criteria mentioned above. Individuals in this field must complete an exam to become licensed, and they also have to complete continuing education on a regular basis throughout their careers. Nursing is a very specific field of work that focuses on practical skills rather than academic research. Those reasons are why it is considered a professional degree, while other things, like a degree in sociology, are not.


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