Detangling International Professional Degrees

May 31, 2022
  • Graduate and Professional Schools
  • International
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
Daytime aerial view of Kansas City, Mo skyline.

What is a Professional Degree?

A “professional” degree is a credential that meets the academic requirement on a pathway to licensure or certification in a regulated field of employment in a specific legal jurisdiction.

The components of a professional degree are different from those of a general degree at the bachelor’s level— a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, for example— which typically has a general education component, major requirements, possibly a minor, and upper and lower-division requirements. Instead, professional degree programs focus on academic and applied preparation for the practice of a specific occupation regulated by a body external to the academic institution for the protection and benefit of the public. The level and scope of professional degree programs vary around the world.

Often, it is challenging for a foreign professional degree holder to qualify to practice the profession in the United States, or in other countries, for that matter. Such qualifications are not easily transferable because of the differences in qualifying requirements from one jurisdiction to another. That is true even within the United States, where licensing or certification requirements can differ from state to state.

Join the Discussion

The upcoming  AACRAO-AICE Institute and Symposium on Professional Programs and Degrees represents a unique, three-day joint event that combines two days of intensive training on the evaluation of international professional programs and degrees in the fields of law and medicine with a one-day larger conversation among industry experts focused on the differences of professional programs and degree types with the goal of establishing consistent evaluation methodologies and update AICE Standards.

The two-day AACRAO Institute, Wednesday, July 20 - Thursday, July 21, provides in-depth training on evaluating international professional programs such as Law and Medicine and other health professions, including dentistry, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine, and how they differ from academic degrees. This training utilizes primary research, authentic international credentials, and best industry practices in evaluating these programs for recognition, undergraduate, transfer, and graduate admissions. 

Following the Institute, the AICE Symposium on Friday, July 22, “Setting the Standard: Evaluating Professional Qualifications in Law and Medicine from Around the World,” brings together colleagues from various higher education institutions and organizations with experts in the areas of professional education, professional regulation, higher education admissions, and international credential evaluation, for a discussion of the US models for legal and medical education, and how professional degrees in law and medical fields from outside of the US can be evaluated and applied to further studies in US higher education. The program focuses on questions posed by international evaluation professionals about how foreign professional degrees should be viewed in US higher education. The mode is interactive, the atmosphere collegial, and the goal is reaching a consensus and setting standards for evaluating professional program credentials.

Interested in taking part? Register to attend the AACRAO-AICE Institute & Symposium on July 20 - 22 in Kansas City, MO.