Lesson 3: College Knowledge for Students Who Are Blind or Low Vision, Part One

Key Considerations

If you choose to attend college, you will have many options when selecting the college you will attend and the degree you will earn. It is important to know what the various degrees of study are and what it takes to earn them. Each type of degree is based on the length of time spent in school and the complexity of the program being studied.

If you choose to attend career school, you should be familiar with the certification options available so you will have marketable skills for entry-level work in one to two years.

Assignment #1

Familiarize yourself with the terminology associated with the varied levels of degrees you can earn in college in addition to the differences between a major and a minor.


A major is a specific or primary area of study that students specialize in or concentrate on. Some students begin college knowing what they want to major in, while others do not. During the first two years of college, students take courses that appeal to them and then focus on subjects that they are motivated to learn more about. Majors should be declared by the end of your sophomore year in college. Examples of majors include biology, business management, and history. One-third to one-half of the courses you take will be in or related to your major area of study. Students can also choose to major in two fields.


A minor requires fewer courses than a major. Some students choose to major in one area and minor in another. For example, a student could major in biology and minor in business or a foreign language. Although students are not required to have a minor, students who obtain a minor in another content area may stand out from other job applicants.


An academic degree is awarded when you complete a series of requirements and can be earned at many levels. Many degrees earned are in a specialty area such as nursing, engineering, or accounting. A degree can also prepare you for a range of careers as an individual with vision loss. For instance, a degree in English literature will open opportunities for you to have a job teaching, publishing, or in law.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree takes two years to earn and is typically earned at a community college. Students meet general education requirements that can later be used towards completing a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is typically earned in four years. Students spend the first two years taking subjects such as science, English, and history, similar to those in high school. Traditionally, 15-18 hours a week are spent in the classroom. The subsequent two years are spent taking courses in the selected major. This degree is earned as an undergraduate student.

A bachelor’s degree can be earned in the arts or sciences. Degrees in the arts include English, drama, history, math, literature, art, and other similar fields of study. Students can choose from a broad offering of courses to fulfill the degree requirements. Degrees in the sciences include engineering, biology, science, business administration, nursing, and other similar fields of study. Students who pursue a Bachelor of Science degree are expected to concentrate on the subject matter and have fewer opportunities to explore courses outside their major.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, occupations that require a bachelor’s degree include an accountant, editor, elementary school teacher, social worker, and other related occupations.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is an advanced degree that can be earned after completing a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree often requires one to two years of additional study beyond a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree can be earned in the arts or sciences and is earned as a graduate student.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, occupations that require a master’s degree include a nurse practitioner, librarian, mental health counselor, speech-language pathologist, and other related occupations.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree is also termed a Ph.D. It can be earned after completing a master’s degree and is the highest level of academic degree. Doctoral degrees take twice as long as a bachelor’s degree to earn, which equates to approximately eight years of college. Some careers that require a Ph.D. include a psychologist, physical therapist, and university professor.

Assignment #2

Familiarize yourself with the terminology associated with the types of programs, certificates, and licenses that can be earned from attending career school.

Full-Time Certificate Program

To earn a certificate from a career school, students take a series of courses that provide an in-depth study of the most up-to-date skills and information needed to excel in a chosen field. The coursework can be completed in one to two years depending on the type of certificate. After taking and passing an exam of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the job, students receive certification from a certifying agency.

Making the personal investment to earn a certificate shows employers a serious commitment to your field and increases your value in the workplace. Achieving a certificate shows you have met a recognized standard and can give you a competitive edge in hiring and promoting situations. Some certificates prepare you to take accreditation exams or meet state-mandated requirements for continuing education. An example of a job that requires a certificate is a car mechanic.


An apprenticeship blends on-the-job training and related classroom instruction by workers learning aspects of a highly skilled occupation under the supervision of a journey-level craft person or trade professional. The length of an apprenticeship depends on the occupation and type of program. Apprenticeships are commonly found in job sectors such as construction, carpentry, metalworking, manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. The U.S. Department of Labor has registered apprenticeship training programs for over 1,000 job sectors. As an apprentice, you are qualified to earn minimum wage while on the job. The length of time it takes to complete an apprenticeship depends on the sponsor and type of job, but the average is three to four years.


Many professions require licensure and are regulated by a government agency. A license grants permission to an individual to engage in an occupation if it finds that the applicant has attained the degree of competency required to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare will be reasonably protected. Licensing is always based on the action of a legislative body. Once a licensing law has been passed, it becomes illegal for anyone to engage in that occupation unless the professional has a license. Examples of professions requiring a license include a barber and a dental hygienist.