Professional degrees are designed to prepare people for practice-oriented occupations. The bulk of the coursework teaches students about everyday situations in their field and often requires a significant amount of real world experience. This distinguishes them from academic degrees, which encourage students to focus on theory and philosophy within their chosen field – though practical matters are certainly not absent in such programs.
Generally speaking, professional degrees are found in fields where very specific knowledge and skills are required to perform a certain job – abilities everyone in the profession must master, even in entry-level positions. To use medicine as an example, a medical doctor needs to know certain things. Without a certain amount of hands-on, practical knowledge, he or she will be lost professionally. On the other hand, a medical researcher must be highly educated, but the need for specific knowledge is not quite the same. In fact, the research community is strengthened when its members come from slightly different backgrounds.
Many fields offer one type of degree. Law is a good example of this; all practicing attorneys must earn a J.D. degree. Other fields offer both kinds of degrees; however, the degree you choose to pursue may depend on your desired career path. For example, if you are interested in practicing medicine, you will need to earn an M.D. degree. Alternatively, if you are interested in doing medical research, you might prefer to earn a Ph.D. in any number of related fields.
Some examples of professional degrees include:
D.M.A. (Doctor of Musical Arts)
D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine)
J.D. (Doctor of Law)
J.S.D. (Doctor of Science of Law)
L.L.M. (Master of Laws)
M.Arch. (Architecture Master of Architecture)
M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)
M.F.S. (Master of Food Science)
M.H.A. (Master of Health Administration)
M.I.L.R. (Master of Industrial and Labor Relations)
M.L.A. (Master of Landscape Architecture)
M.P.A. (Master of Public Administration)
M.P.S. (Master of Professional Studies)
M.R.P. (Master of Regional Planning)
M.S.W. (Master of Social Work)