What is a degree?

It may seem like a silly question, but do you really know what a degree is?

A degree is a unit for measuring temperature. (Just kidding. Back joke.)

A degree is a qualification indicating that someone has completed a course of study. To prove that you have a degree, on graduation day universities dole out pieces of paper which are designed to prove it. These are commonly framed and hung on walls, or shown to prospective employers.

(Problematically, certificates, like banknotes, can be forged. Check out this post about famous fraudsters who faked their degrees.)

Without getting bogged down in the detail of it, people with degrees are meant to have “well-developed cognitive, technical and communication skills”. You’re supposed to be able to do things like:

  • ‘analyse and evaluate information’
  • ‘analyse, generate and transmit solutions to unpredictable and sometimes complex problems’
  • ‘transmit knowledge, skills and ideas to others’.

Traditionally, degrees are doled out by universities, but confusingly many colleges of further education are now also handing out degrees.

There are many different types of degrees, including bachelor degrees, masters degrees and PhDs. Check out this post which explains the different types of degrees.