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In university I learned that we say to do a degree in X but I saw many other sources where it says to take a degree in X.

Which is correct? Is there a regional difference?

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  • 6
    In the US, at least, you generally get a degree.
    – user13141
    Oct 29, 2011 at 17:54
  • 3
    And in the US, before you actually get a degree, you are working on it, not doing it. Oct 29, 2011 at 19:37
  • I am in the US. My impression that "take a degree" is British terminology. If so, it would have been good if those answers from 10 years ago also told us what location they are talking about.
    – GEdgar
    Sep 4, 2021 at 12:51

4 Answers 4

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The OED’s definition 34a of take is:

To receive, get (something given, bestowed, or administered); to have conferred upon one (spec. a sacrament, office, order of merit, degree, etc.)

That confirms my first thought that you can only take a degree once you have earned it. Before you reach that stage you have to study for a degree or, much less formally, do a degree. In British universities you can read for a degree, but that has a rather stiff sound to it these days.

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  • But after you have accepted your degree then take is no longer relevant. You must have taken or even took a degree. Whilst studying is take verb (ACT); to do or perform: Shelley is taking (= studying) economics at university. Also, the question is, I would suggest, incorrect. In university I learned that we say I am doing a degree in X but I saw many other sources where it says taking a degree in X. Unless gaining a degree has become instantaneous, not continuous.
    – Brad
    Sep 4, 2021 at 12:40
  • Just to be clear: Barrie England's answer was posted in 2011. His last answer on EL&U was posted in 2014 and the last time he logged in was 8 months ago. It's unlikely that he will respond to any comment or observations.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 4, 2021 at 12:56
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I would generally say, and usually hear, that a person is pursuing a degree in something. Such as, "John is pursuing a double degree in business and marketing."

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Agreed:

You can pursue a degree in X. You can get a degree in x. (Americans use this expression most.) And you can work on/towards a degree in x.

North Americans would very much be at a loss hearing "do/take a degree".

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Both are fine, but in the States we usually say, "get a degree in" while in the process and "have a degree in" once it has been conferred.

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