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University Convocation

Academic Degrees & Academic Regalia

The first known degree was doctorate conferred by the University of Bologna in the middle of the 12th century. Originally, the doctor's and master's degrees were used interchangeably, each indicating that the holder was qualified to give instruction to students. The bachelor's or baccalaureate degree indicated only entrance upon a course of study preparatory to the doctorate or mastership. Gradually, however, the bachelor's degree came to mean successful completion of one level of study preparatory to the higher degrees.

Today, there are more than 1,600 different academic degrees conferred by American colleges and universities. The advanced degrees granted by Morgan State University are the Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Architecture, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of City and Regional Planning, Master of Engineering, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Public Health.

The Doctor's Degree: The doctor's degree represents the most advanced degree conferred by American institutions of higher education. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a doctor in the academic sense as "one who, in any faculty or branch of learning, has attained the highest degree conferred by a university." There are two major types of doctoral degrees: earned doctorates and honorary doctorates. Earned doctorates are further divided into two distinct types-the research degree and the professional or practitioner degree. The distinguishing feature of the research degree is that it normally requires a lengthy scholarly dissertation which is usually designed to constitute a substantial contribution to the existing body of knowledge in its field. The most important doctorate of the research type in American institutions of higher education is the Doctor of Philosophy. The only other earned doctorate of the research type which has secured wide recognition and use by a large number of leading American universities is the Doctor of Education.

The Master's Degree: The master's degree is an academic honor conferred upon students who have successfully completed one or two years' work beyond the baccalaureate. A thesis and an oral examination are usually required. The word magister connected with a qualifying phrase was used among the Romans as the title of honor, but its present meaning must be traced to the time of the establishment of the oldest universities. Regularly organized faculties were not then known as they now exist in the universities. The whole circle of academic activity was limited to seven liberal arts. Those who received public honors in the completed studies, and who had already received the degree of baccalaureus (bachelor), where called magistri atrium (masters of the liberal arts).

The Bachelor's Degree: The bachelor's degree represents completion of a four-year course of study of collegiate grade and is the oldest academic degree used by American institutions of higher learning. The degree of Bachelor of Arts was the first conferred in America in 1642 on nine young men, comprising the first graduating class of Harvard College. Yale conferred its first Bachelor of Arts in 1702; Princeton in 1748; William and Mary in 1753; Pennsylvania in 1757; Columbia in 1758; and Morgan Sate to George W. F. McMechen in 1895.

The most colorful and distinctive item of the academic regalia is the hood, which passes around the neck and extends down the back. The doctor's hood is the largest, and bachelor's hood is the smallest. Often the use of a bachelor's hood is omitted. The wearer's field of learning is indicated by the color of the hood and the tassel.