Are you looking for a way to advance your career, earn more, or take on more responsibilities within a company? Earning an advanced degree could help you reach these goals. It is important to know that there are two types of degrees: a professional degree and an academic degree. Both of these degrees have their own benefits and can help you on your career path.

Not too many people know that there is a difference between professional and academic degrees as most of the time, they’re used interchangeably. That’s why in this article, we’re going to be focusing on the difference between these two degrees. However, let us start by giving a definition for each of these types of degrees.

What Is a Professional Degree?

A professional degree, best known as the first professional degree, is a degree that one can obtain to work in particular fields like medicine, pharmacy, law, and many others. In the American educational system, a professional degree is considered to be a graduate-level program as they follow undergraduate studies. This kind of degree is designed to prepare the holder for a particular profession by focusing on practical skills over theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government-approved body.

Even though several professional degrees take the term “doctor” in the title, one should be careful not to confuse them with Ph.D. degrees or other types of research doctorates. A professional degree doesn’t require a dissertation as a Ph.D. might demand.

A professional degree should meet the following criteria:

  • Completion of the academic requirements to start the practice in the profession
  • Two years of college before entering the program
  • The program must last at least six years

What can you do with a professional degree?

There are various kinds of professional degrees. In this article, we’re going to focus on some of them. So, come along. The data are taken from job recruiting sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Doctor of Veterinary


Doctor of Veterinary is a four-year professional program. This degree is preceded by three to four years of pre-professional study. Those that get a professional degree in veterinary medicine should expect to have the option to choose among many job opportunities and earn decent wages. Let’s take a look at some of the jobs you can do once you obtain this professional degree.

Veterinary Surgeon

The median salary of a veterinary surgeon is $98,204.

Nature Conservation Officer

The median salary of a nature conservation officer is $74,764.

Environmental Consultant

The median salary of an environmental consultant is $52,700.

Doctor of Pharmacy

A Doctor of Pharmacy is a first professional degree that is required to practice the pharmaceutical profession. After this degree is earned and some licensure examinations are passed, the graduates can practice pharmacy anywhere in the country and earn good money.


The median salary of a pharmacist is $128,090.

Pharmacy Director

The median salary of a pharmacy director is $196,762.


The median salary of a toxicologist is $71,498.

Doctor of Medicine

A Doctor of Medicine is a first professional graduate degree that prepares students to perform the doctor’s role. Once you get this degree, you’ll be open to countless well-paying job opportunities.

General Surgeon

The median salary of a general surgeon is $300,900.

Obstetricians and Gynecologist

The median salary of an obstetrician and gynecologist is $208,000.


The median salary of an internist is $192,930.

Juris Doctor


A Juris Doctor, also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence, is the first professional graduate degree that one takes to prepare for law-practicing jobs. Once this degree is obtained, you’re eligible to apply for countless jobs in the law field.


The median salary of a lawyer is $107,549.


The median salary of a judge is $92,715.


The median salary of a lobbyist is $74,700.

How long does it take to get a professional degree?

While we would like to have a definitive answer on this one, unfortunately, this isn’t possible. Mainly because the length of the professional programs depends on the institution you decide to attend. An estimate we can tell you is that the program length can span up to six years.

What Is an Academic Degree?

An academic degree is a qualification presented to students upon successfully completing a  course in a higher education institution like a university or a college. Unlike professional degrees, academic degrees are research-oriented and thus prepare students for research-oriented careers. Courses build on the technical knowledge that is learned throughout the program, and students are usually required to plan, organize, and conduct research to complete their coursework. Additionally, students are often required to complete a thesis or capstone project in order to graduate.

Academic degrees cover several disciplines. Any major that involves a curriculum that focuses on theory, history, methodology, and research material is considered an academic degree.

What can you do with an academic degree?

The opportunities one might have to find a decent job that pays well are countless after earning an academic degree. The higher up the academic ladder, the better the chances and salaries. The data are taken from job recruiting sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Computer Science

A degree in computer science, be it at a bachelor’s or master’s level, will provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform in the jobs related to this field. Here are some of them:

Data Scientist

The median salary of a data scientist is $113,309.

Web Developer


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The median salary of a web developer is $68,524.

Product Manager

The median salary of a product manager is $108,992.

Information Systems

A degree in information systems can help students to apply technology in the commercial setting. Information systems graduates can find a job in many fields and industries. Here are some of the jobs you could land.

IT Consultant

The median salary of an IT consultant is $65,334.

Software Engineer

The median salary of a software engineer is $92,046.

Systems Analyst

The median salary of a systems analyst is $64,616.


A degree in history prepares students with the skills and knowledge that could help them fill in roles in a wider range of careers than holders of many other degrees. By conducting original research, they learn to identify relevant and reputable sources, find relevant information, and give answers based on their analysis. With a degree in history, you can land some of the jobs we listed below.


The median salary of a historian is $83,309.


The median salary of a librarian is $58,875.


The median salary of a researcher is $81,851.

How long does it take to get an academic degree?

As for the length of an academic degree, it depends on what academic degree you’re obtaining. Many educational institutions offer academic degrees at various levels, from the associate degree that takes 2 years to finish, the bachelor’s degree might take up to 4 years, the master’s degree might take up to 1.5-2 years, whereas a doctoral degree can take 4-6 years.

Professional Degree vs. Academic Degree

When it comes to distinguishing these two degrees, that distinction isn’t always crystal clear. More often than not, these two degrees complement each other. There are instances when a structural engineering student will need a knowledge of physics to grasp the loads and compression forces and have a foundation in geology to know the condition of the soil.

However, the main difference between the two can be exerted in the fact that an academic degree prepares students for research-oriented careers. In contrast, a professional degree prepares students for careers in specific fields. At the bachelor level, the distinction between the two is less obvious. However, they become more apparent at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Here are some critical points to remember when comparing professional and academic degrees:

  • Professional degrees are academic qualifications.
  • Professional degrees are required to enter certain professions.
  • Academic degrees are not oriented to specialized professional careers or roles and can be used in different fields and career settings.
  • Professional degrees usually take longer to complete than academic degrees.
  • Professional degrees may have additional qualification requirements such as bar exams, licensing tests, and trainee programs attached.
  • A professional bachelor’s degree is not the same as a bachelor’s degree.

Even though once excepts to find a significant difference between these two degrees, we ought to tell you that this isn’t possible. They both complement each other. One cannot get a professional degree without first having an academic background, while the academic degree has a professional side through which students are prepared to join the workforce. The degree you choose depends on your objectives and goals. That’s why you need to look within yourself and understand what you want to be doing.