A bachelor’s degree, also known as a baccalaureate degree, typically requires four years of full-time study. Bachelor’s degrees are available in a wide range of academic fields. A bachelor’s degree demonstrates a student has a general and broad education with a focus on a specific subject. The major typically comprises 25 percent or more of a bachelor’s degree’s total credits.
In 2012 a third of Americans from 25 to 29 years of age earned at least a bachelor’s degree. In a Gallup 2010 survey approximately three-quarters of Americans agreed a college education is very important. According to the College Board 2010 Education Pay report workers with a higher level of education are more satisfied with their job than workers with only a high school diploma.
Many well-paying occupations require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. A lot of college graduates fairly quickly make up for the cost of a college degree and the time away from the workforce. According to The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees, A State and National Level Analysis, December 2012 report provided by the State Higher Education Executive Officers a postsecondary degree clearly results in higher earnings for the vast majority of people in all 50 states.
Typically the unemployment rate for people with just a high school diploma is substantially higher than for people with a bachelor’s degree. People with a college degree have a much better chance of getting and keeping a job and having a feasible path for long-term career success.
As college graduates get older their earnings, on average, increase much faster and peak at a later age when compared to people with only a high school diploma and similar backgrounds. The payoff from a bachelor’s degree happens not just for people with a bachelor’s degree in the sciences or engineering but also for people with a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences and the humanities.
Lifetime Earnings with a Bachelor’s Degree
The United States Census Bureau reports people with a college degree make on average $2,422,000 million during a 40-year timeframe, whereas people with only a high school diploma on average make $1,371,000 during a 40-year timeframe. People with a college degree earn over a $1 million more than people with just a high school diploma. However, earnings vary by the degree field.
According to The Economic Benefit from Postsecondary Degrees, A State and National Level Analysis December 2012 report Americans with a bachelor’s degree have a median income of $50,360, whereas Americans with only a high school diploma have a median income of $29,423.
The average earnings during a lifetime for workers with a specific bachelor’s degree are shown below:
Engineering: $3.5 million
Computers and Math: $3.1 million
Science and Engineering related: $2.6 million
Business: $2.6 million
Physical Science: $2.6 million
Social Science: $2.5 million
Communications: $2.3 million
Biological Sciences: $2.3 million
Literature: $2.1 million
Liberal arts: $2.1 million
Psychology: $2 million
Arts: 2 million
Education: $1.8 million
Bachelor’s degree Basics
A four-year bachelor’s degree typically includes 120 to 128 credits or semester hours. Some colleges offer accelerated bachelor’s degree programs students can complete in three years or less. Students in an accelerated bachelor’s degree programs take classes year-round.
Many colleges and universities allow students to transfer about 60 credits from an accredited community college program or an associate degree. Most bachelor’s degree programs require core general education classes, electives as well as upper level classes in a student’s major.
A Bachelor of Arts degree, typically requires students to take the majority of their classes in the arts, such as humanities, social sciences, fine arts or music, whereas a Bachelor of Science degree typically requires students to take the majority of their classes in the sciences, such as physical sciences, life sciences or mathematical sciences.
Popular subject areas for a bachelor’s degree include:
- Art and Design
- Business Administration
- Computer Information Systems
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Environmental Science
- Healthcare Management
- Health Sciences
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Public Administration
- Social work
- Tourism and Hospitality
- Web design
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the largest numbers of bachelor’s degree conferred are in the areas shown below:
Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree
The cost of a bachelor’s degree depends on several factors such as:
Private or public college
Traditional degree or online degree
In state tuition or out-of-state tuition (public colleges)
The amount of time spent to obtain a degree
Additional expenses such as room, board, textbooks, etc.
Average cost of college: 2012 – 2013
|Public four-year college||Private four-year college|
|Tuition and fees||$8,655||$29,056|
|Room, board, books, etc.||$13,606||$14,233|
|Net price (after scholarships, grants, aid)||$5,750||$15,680|