Degree vs Major: Difference and Comparison

A degree represents the overall academic program completed at a higher education institution, encompassing various subjects and requirements. A major, on the other hand, is a specific area of focus within that degree, allowing students to specialize and gain in-depth knowledge in a particular field.

Key Takeaways

  1. A degree is an academic qualification you earn after completing a course of study, while a major is a specific subject area within a degree program.
  2. A degree provides a broader range of skills and knowledge, while a major allows you to specialize in a particular subject area.
  3. The degree is listed first on a resume, followed by the major, and it is the degree that confers the official academic qualification.

Degree vs. Major

A degree is an academic credential awarded to a student upon completing a program of study at a college or university. A major is a specific area of study within a degree program. A degree represents completing a program of study, while a major is a specific study area within that program.

Degree vs Major

Comparison Table

FeatureDegreeMajor
DefinitionA formal qualification awarded by an accredited institution upon successful completion of a program of study.A specific area of focus within a degree program, representing the student’s primary area of study.
ScopeBroader, encompassing a wider range of courses and disciplines.Narrower, focusing on a specific area of study within the degree program.
Credits RequiredVaries depending on the degree (120-180 credits).Typically requires 30-40 credits, though this can vary depending on the university and program.
CourseworkIncludes general education courses, core courses specific to the degree, and electives.Primarily consists of upper-level courses directly related to the chosen major.
ExampleBachelor of Arts (BA)English Literature (Major) within a Bachelor of Arts (BA) program.

What is a Degree? 

A degree is a formal recognition granted by an accredited educational institution, signifying the completion of a prescribed course of study. It is a testament to a student’s academic achievements and proficiency in a broad range of subjects.

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Types of Degrees

There are various types of degrees, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Each level signifies a different depth of study, with higher degrees requiring more advanced coursework and research.

Degree Requirements

To earn a degree, students must fulfill specific requirements, such as completing a set number of credit hours, maintaining a minimum GPA, and satisfying general education or core curriculum obligations. The specific requirements vary depending on the degree level and the chosen field of study.

Degree Specializations

Degrees allow for specializations or concentrations, enabling students to focus on a particular area of interest within their chosen major. Specializations provide a more tailored education and can enhance career prospects in specific industries.

Significance of a Degree

A degree holds considerable significance in both academic and professional realms. It serves as a formal credential, demonstrating a graduate’s commitment, perseverance, and acquired knowledge in their chosen field. Many careers require specific degrees as a prerequisite for employment, making it a crucial aspect of career preparation and advancement.

Academic Pursuits

Beyond career considerations, degrees also foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills. They encourage intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge, contributing to personal and academic growth.

Professional Opportunities

In the professional arena, a degree significantly impacts employability. Many employers prefer candidates with relevant degrees, considering it as evidence of a candidate’s expertise and qualification for specific roles. Additionally, certain professions mandate advanced degrees for entry or advancement.

Lifelong Learning

Degrees are not merely stepping stones to a career but also emblematic of a commitment to lifelong learning. Graduates continue to enhance their knowledge and skills through continuous education, professional development, and advanced degrees.

degree

What is a Major? 

A major is a concentrated and specialized field of academic study within a higher education program, allowing students to delve deeply into a specific subject of interest. It serves as a focal point within a broader degree program, shaping the academic journey of individuals pursuing higher education.

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Purpose and Focus

Under the major, students undertake a set of courses specifically designed to provide in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular discipline. The purpose is to cultivate expertise, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities within that chosen field, ensuring graduates possess a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

Requirements and Electives

Majors consist of a combination of core requirements and elective courses. Core courses are essential components that form the foundational knowledge base, while electives offer students the flexibility to tailor their education to align with personal interests or career aspirations within the chosen major.

Career Implications

Choosing a major aligns with career goals, as it equips individuals with the specialized knowledge and competencies required for specific professions. Employers value majors as indicators of a candidate’s expertise in a particular field, making it a critical aspect of academic and professional development.

study

Main Differences Between Degree and Major

  • Definition:
    • A degree is an overarching academic credential awarded upon the completion of a specific program at a higher education institution.
    • A major is a specialized area of study within that degree, focusing on a specific subject or discipline.
  • Scope and Breadth:
    • A degree encompasses a broader range of subjects and requirements, providing a comprehensive educational foundation.
    • A major narrows the focus, allowing students to concentrate on a specific field and gain in-depth knowledge and skills within that area.
  • Flexibility and Personalization:
    • Degrees provide a structured curriculum with core requirements, offering a well-rounded education.
    • Majors offer flexibility through a combination of core and elective courses, enabling students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals.
Difference Between Degree and Major
References
  1. https://academic.oup.com/sf/article-abstract/89/2/389/2235242
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cou/57/1/23/
  3. https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.3.405

Last Updated : 02 March, 2024

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