What Lies at the Bottom of the Ocean and Twitches?

November 11, 2009

Yesterday I wrote about braindancing, a word from my dissertation, and today someone asked me what a dissertation is. Here’s the short answer: a dissertation is a really long research paper that a person writes as part of completion of a doctoral degree (a Ph.D., Doctor of Philosophy, or an Ed.D., Doctor of Education, for example; there are many more). The author is generally expected to contribute new and creative information to her or his field of study in the dissertation.

There are many kinds of degrees represented by letters that can be confusing. An explanation of a few of these letters follows here. You’ll probably encounter lots of other versions of these. I encourage you to ask if you don’t know what something stands for.

A.A. stands for Associate of Arts and an A.S. is an Associate of Science. An A.A. or an A.S. is usually a two year-degree that is often earned at a community college (usually a two-year school). Many times people get an associate’s degree before going on to complete another two years and get a bachelor’s degree. You don’t have to get an associate’s degree in order to get a bachelor’s degree. You could go to a two-year school and transfer to a four-year school without an associate’s degree.

There are many more variations of associate’s degrees. Sometimes an associate’s degree is all that a student needs in order to pursue her or his career goals. There are also numerous certificate programs and other kinds of learning and training that may have letters attached to them. I’m not even going to begin to try to explain what all these variations might be.

B.S. stands for Bachelor of Science and B.A. stands for Bachelor of Arts. These are four-year degrees earned at a school that offers a full four years of undergraduate study. There are many other variations of the bachelor’s degree as well. The A.A., A.S., B.S., and B.A. are all undergraduate degrees.

The next step is a graduate degree. Not all four year schools offer graduate degrees. Students must apply for admission to a graduate school, and a bachelor’s degree is one of the requirements. I teach in two graduate programs. One is an MAT program. That stands for Master of Arts in Teaching. The other is an M.Ed. program—Master of Education. You may also see other variations of this in education: Master (or Master’s) in Education, MAEd., MSEd., or Ed.M., for example. These programs can have diffferent time requirements depending on whether or not students are also doing student teaching in the public schools.

This just begins the master’s degree discussion, however. There’s an M.A. (Master of Arts), an M.S. (Master of Science), an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts), a M.I.M. (Master’s in Management), an M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration), and dozens of other advanced academic degrees. In some fields, the master’s degree is considered the highest—or terminal degree—for that discipline (discipline means an academic field of study). Often a thesis (another long paper, although not as long as a dissertation) is required for completion of a master’s degree.

And then, finally, we’re back to doctoral degrees which require that students complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees first and then apply for admission to a doctoral program. Not every university offers doctoral degrees. Counsework varies, but almost every program will require the student to write a dissertation, a long journey that is completed independently when coursework is done.

There are many more details than I’ve supplied here, but I’m feeling the need to tell a joke or share a riddle right now so I’ve realized that this is enough.

What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches? (see below the quotation)

I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cab driver. Then they would be really educated.
• Al McGuire

A nervous wreck!


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