You might be wondering, “What is a bachelors degree?” Bachelor’s degrees are the most common degrees sought by college-bound students. They are also known as a baccalaureate degree. These undergraduate degrees are available in a variety of fields. Bachelor’s degrees are typically earned in four years of full-time study.
Graduates who earn their baccalaureate degree can move directly into a career or attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree or doctorate. In either case, bachelor’s degrees are the key that unlocks the door to a world of career options and development.
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An Introduction to the Bachelor Degree
A bachelor’s degree is an academic degree. In this program, students are usually expected to complete 120 semester credits. This is roughly 40 college courses. Students typically take about four years to complete their undergraduate degree.
A bachelors degree is considered the most traditional college level degree. It includes general education or liberal arts courses in areas such as:
- social sciences
- natural sciences
- computer science
- business administration
- liberal arts
General education courses help students build a strong academic foundation and develop critical thinking skills. A bachelor’s degree also includes required credit hours in your major area of study. In most cases, only 30 to 36 credits are in your major.
This degree program serves as a prerequisite for entry into most professional careers. It is critical for anyone looking for career advancement. In jobs like teaching and engineering you cannot enter the field without at least a bachelor’s degree.
You also need a bachelor’s degree to enter a graduate program. Master’s and doctoral graduate degrees usually require at least a bachelor’s degree.
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How Important Is a Bachelor Degree?
In today’s career field, having a bachelor’s degree is nearly a necessity to land a solid job with any possibility for advancement. Here are also some other benefits that a bachelor’s degree offers.
Improved Employment Opportunities
In many career paths, a BA or BS degree is a minimum requirement. This degree shows potential employers that you are committed to your field. It also shows a base level of relevant knowledge.
This degree is a valuable credential that can help you qualify for a wide range of positions. Some of the most common bachelor’s degrees are in areas like:
- business management
- health sciences
- healthcare management
- information systems
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a significant number of openings each year for jobs that typically require a baccalaureate degree through 2030. The most common job openings include:
- General and operations managers – 229,600 openings
- Accountants and auditors – 135,000 openings
- Management analysts – 99,400 openings
- Market research analysts and marketing specialists – 96,000 openings
- Human resources specialists – 73,400 openings
Most of these openings are created to fill positions when workers leave permanently. Some openings are the result of new jobs or roles.
Graduate School Possibility
If you are interested in advancing your studies, you will most likely need a baccalaureate degree to be accepted into a graduate degree program. This includes things like a master’s degree and also professional degree programs like med school or law school. You’ll also need your bachelor’s degree as a steppingstone to a doctoral degree.
Not only does a bachelor’s degree help you qualify for more jobs, it also helps you secure a higher rate of pay when you nab that job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person with a baccalaureate degree makes just over $500 more per week than those with only a high school diploma.
The median annual wage for all occupations in the US for 2020 was $41,950/year. For workers with a bachelor’s degree, that median annual wage jumps to $78,020/year. There are plenty of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree and have an above average median pay. These include:
- Computer and information systems managers- $151,150/year
- Financial managers – $134,180/year
- Medical and health services managers – $104,280/year
- General and operations managers – $103,650/year
- Management analysts – $87,660/year
Not only is pay higher for those holding bachelor’s degrees, these people are also less likely to be unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree had an overall unemployment of just 2.2% in 2019. The national average unemployment rate that year was 3.6%, rising to 3.7% for those who held only a high school degree.
What Types of Bachelor’s Degrees Are Available?
The possibilities for bachelor’s degrees and their particular fields of study are nearly endless, but most fall under three common degree types. These are:
Bachelor of Arts (BA Degree)
What is a Bachelors of Arts degree? A Bachelor of Arts is typically considered more general than some other degree options. It generally requires that a student has fewer concentration courses and more general study courses.
A BA degree is designed for those with an interest in the liberal arts who desire the opportunity to customize their educational path to meet their career goals. The most common majors awarded with a Bachelor of Arts upon graduation include:
- social sciences
Bachelor of Science (BS Degree)
What is a Bachelor of Science degree? BS degrees are less exploratory and more content specific. The BS degree is more focused on the field of your major and may even be considered more career focused. BS degrees feature coursework that focuses on logic and quantitative skills. For example, degrees in the medical field are often Bachelor of Science degrees. Popular Bachelor of Science degrees include:
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA Degree)
What is a bachelor’s degree of fine arts? A Bachelor of Fine Arts is a popular professional degree. Individuals pursuing BFA degrees are typically those interested in entering the creative arts. Students pursuing a BFA often aspire to have a career in visual or performing arts.
What Is Required to Earn a Bachelor Degree?
The particular course load required for your degree will depend on the college you attend. It will also depend on your selected major and the type of degree.
Most bachelor’s degree programs need roughly 30 to 36 credits within your major. This means that more than half of the coursework is focused on general education courses. There general education courses don’t have to be taken at a big university. Community colleges offer many of these general education courses.
In addition, some bachelor degrees require students to complete an internship or practicum to provide hands-on experience in their field.
What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree and an Associate Degree?
Many students entering higher education weigh the possibility of pursuing a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. It’s important to understand the key differences between bachelor and associate degrees to choose the best fit for you.
At a very basic level, a bachelor’s degree is a four year degree program while associate degrees are typically a two-year option offered by junior colleges (also called community colleges.) Obviously, you will receive more experience and learn more content during a bachelor’s degree program. The end goals of these degrees are generally different as well.
A bachelor’s degree program is designed to provide a student with a well-balanced education and the skills necessary to pursue a specific career field. Bachelor degrees prepare students for professional jobs such as those in middle management. They require both general and specific coursework.
An associate’s degree from a community college more often prepares graduates for entry-level careers with the necessary skills and knowledge required for their selected field. Community colleges award the associate degree to help students make a seamless transition to a four year school. Associate’s degrees meet the general education requirements for a more advanced degree.
Common career goals accessible through an associate’s degree include entry-level positions in:
- information technology
- mechanical engineering
- computer science
- criminal justice
Who Should Seek a Bachelor Degree?
Deciding whether an college degree is right for you is not always easy. There are a few considerations that can simplify the decision for you. A bachelor’s degree obviously presents more opportunities for individuals willing and able to put the added time and effort into a four-year degree.
You should consider a bachelor’s degree program if you:
- Plan to pursue a career for which an undergraduate degree is required
- Have already earned 60+ semester college credits
- Already hold at least one associate’s degree
- Know for sure your career requires you to attend graduate school
How Will I Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
Most colleges and universities require similar prerequisites for their bachelor’s degree programs. Some of the more common prerequisites for a bachelor’s degree program include:
- A high school diploma or GED
- A minimum high school GPA
- A minimum required SAT or ACT score
- An application essay
- Recommendations from teachers
High school students will need to make sure they take the appropriate standardized test to meet the admission requirements of their selected school.
Additionally, many colleges look for students to have taken certain courses prior to application. Often, students must have completed the following high school course work:
- 3 science credits
- 2 foreign language credits
- 3 math credits
- 4 English credits
- 3 history or government credits
- 1 art credit
Can I Earn My Degree Online?
Yes, you can! Not everyone can take time off work or away from family to complete an on-campus program. An online bachelor’s degree (also called a distance learning degree) is a great option for adult learners or students who just can’t come to campus for class. Online programs are available in a variety of majors. The most common bachelor’s degrees offered online include:
- Business administration
- Liberal arts
- Computer engineering
Online colleges usually have more flexible admission policies. They may have multiple start dates throughout the year, allowing students to begin their degree when it is most convenient.
There are plenty of accredited institutions that offer online degrees. Online bachelor’s degrees can make a college education more accessible for students. While a traditional bachelor’s degree takes four to five years to complete, an online degree can save time. It can also save money. You can even earn your graduate degree online!
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost of a bachelor’s degree depends on many different factors including:
- public or private school
- in-state or out-of-state
- financial aid awarded
- length of time to complete
A college education isn’t cheap. According to research done by College Board, the figures below are what you can expect average tuition and fees at ranked colleges:
- Private nonprofit- $38,070/year
- Public universities, out-of-state- $27,560/year
- Public universities, in-state- $10,740/year
Private schools tend to cost most than public schools. According to US News and World Report, the average sticker price for in-state schools is almost 73% less than the price of a private school. That’s HUGE!
Financial aid can help offset that difference. Princeton University has a sticker price of almost $54,000/year. The average cost to their students after factoring in financial aid was just over $23,000/year. Financial assistance made the school much more affordable. We discuss financial aid below.
How Will I Afford My Degree?
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a bachelor’s degree?” We can help you figure out how to afford one!
You will need to apply for federal student aid before you begin your degree. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required by most institutions of higher education. This form will help you apply for federal grants, work-study, and student loans.
Your school will also use the FAFSA to determine how much you (or your family) are expected to put forth toward the cost of your education. The form is easy to complete and is a critical piece of funding your education.
Private loans are another way to finance your education. These tend to be costly and require students to pay back the amount borrowed (plus interest).
There are also grants and scholarships available from a variety of sources including:
- colleges and universities
You will want to thoroughly research each scholarship opportunity to determine if you qualify. Some scholarships awards are for a few hundred dollars while others provide a full-ride including travel expenses! Scholarships and grants are a great choice for students since they don’t have to be paid back.
Related Resource: What Is The Difference Between A BS and BA Degree?
Is a Bachelor’s Degree Right for Me?
Making the decision to pursue a college education is a very personal one for most students. It is important to understand, though, that this degree can create multiple opportunities for you, not only as you enter the career field but also as you look to advance in it.
Likewise, by simply having an undergraduate degree, you’ll be able to increase your:
- rate of pay
- access to career opportunities
- reduce your risk of unemployment
- gain more credibility during the hiring process
Of course, in order to achieve a bachelor’s degree you’ll need to apply to and get into colleges that are a good fit for you.
That’s where services like College Rank can help. Here, you’ll find curated college rankings sorted by degree program, subject matter, and more. You can even locate lists of online bachelor’s degree programs.
To learn more about the various undergraduate programs leading to bachelor’s degrees, don’t miss these important rankings:
- 10 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Healthcare Administration
- 20 Best Online Bachelor’s In Nursing Degree Programs
- 20 Best Bachelor’s in Psychology
- 25 Best Online Bachelor’s in Human Services
- 35 Best Bachelor’s in Education and Teaching
- How Many Credits is a Master’s Degree and How Do I Earn One?
- The 20 Best Performing Arts Degree Programs