Degree, academic, title conferred by a university as a recognition of academic competence. Degrees were originally awarded after the candidate had successfully passed a vigorous oral examination, but abuse of this system (particularly in the 18th century at Oxford and Cambridge) led to the gradual adoption of the written examination, at least for the lower (bachelor) degrees. Master's and doctor's degrees are usually awarded for research work undertaken after passing a first degree examination. Honorary degrees are now awarded to distinguished diplomats or artists, without regard to their academic standing. In the United States special achievement in the bachelor's degree is recognized by the Latin terms (in ascending order of excellence) cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude.
The most commonly awarded degrees are B.A. (Bachelor of Arts), B.S. (Bachelor of Science), M.A. (Master of Arts), M.S. (Master of Science), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), LL.M. (Master of Laws), LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) or J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence), M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), and B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity).