A bachelor's degree is a common higher education choice that offers prospective students a wide range of professional, social, and academic opportunities.
A bachelor's is a four-year degree program where learners study a specific subject, such as economics, biology, or communications. These degrees equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue various careers. Many students enroll in bachelor's programs directly after high school. However, some students prefer to spend time working before attending college, while others choose to earn an associate degree before attending a bachelor's program.
Depending on the specialty, a bachelor's degree can expand job prospects and qualify graduates for in-demand careers. Graduates with a bachelor's degree can also pursue graduate study.
This guide covers important information for anyone interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree, including types of degrees, common admission requirements, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Types of Bachelor's Degrees
The bachelor's degree definition can vary by area of study. Prospective students can choose from various types of bachelor's degrees, depending on their interests and career goals, such as a bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, or bachelor of fine arts. The following sections outline different types of bachelor's degrees and what they focus on.
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Among the most popular bachelor's degrees, BA degrees focus on the humanities, arts, and sciences, offering majors in areas such as literature, business, and archaeology. A BA also includes general education requirements in various subject areas, such as math, history, and English, providing students with a well-rounded education.
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete and prepare students for careers in a variety of industries, depending on the major. Graduates can also pursue advanced study through a graduate program.
Bachelor of Science (BS)
Another one of the most popular types of bachelor's degrees, BS programs focus on science and technical skills, such as natural science, math, and engineering. BS degrees tend to require more courses related to a student's major and not as many general education courses as BA degrees.
A BS may also include more lab or technical skills courses, especially for hard sciences like chemistry. Graduates can pursue careers or graduate study.
Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
Colleges in countries like Canada and New Zealand are more likely to offer BAA degrees than schools in the United States, but the degree exists in the U.S. as well. These programs focus more on vocational studies, meaning practical skills that graduates can use in a specific field. For example, students may pursue BAAs in areas like criminal justice or studio arts. Graduates typically enter the workforce rather than pursuing graduate study.
Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
BAS degrees are typically highly technical, covering niche areas like culinary leadership or renewable energy technology. A BAS program usually provides focused, technical training designed to prepare students for specific careers immediately after graduation. Like other types of bachelor's degrees, BAS programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
BFA programs emphasize artistic training, focusing on areas like dance, film, photography, and theater. In addition to studying the theories behind these art forms, students practice techniques and skills, preparing to become artistic and creative professionals. Graduates can pursue careers as actors, dancers, musicians, and other artists, depending on their majors. Some graduates continue on to earn advanced degrees and become professors.
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
This four-year undergraduate degree trains students in foundational business topics, like finance, accounting, marketing, or management. Some programs offer specializations like entrepreneurship, human resource management, or hospitality management. Graduates may immediately pursue business-related careers or enroll in a master of business administration (MBA) program. An MBA can lead to leadership and executive positions.
Bachelor's degrees typically require applicants to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Many colleges also set minimum GPA requirements for admission — usually a 2.5 or 3.0. Candidates may also need to submit standardized test scores, such as SAT or ACT scores, and letters of recommendation from teachers and supervisors.
Some programs have additional requirements, depending on the area of study. For example, a science program may have prerequisite math and science courses, while BFA programs may require applicants to submit a portfolio of work. If you're researching how to earn a bachelor's degree, be sure to take these specialty requirements into account.
Most bachelor's degrees comprise around 120 credits. Students usually take general education courses and introductory, major-related courses during the first year. However, some degree-seekers do not decide on a major until their sophomore or junior years. During their last two years, students typically focus on advanced major courses.
Some bachelor's degree programs require students to participate in internships or practicums, which give students field experience. For example, aspiring nurses and other healthcare workers often must complete a practicum or a certain number of clinical hours in a practical setting.
Bachelor's programs often culminate with a capstone course or research project. Some undergraduate degrees require a thesis, although not to the extent of a master's or doctoral thesis.
Cost of a Bachelor's Degree
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, students at public, four-year institutions paid an average of $19,488 in tuition and fees during the 2015-2016 school year, while private school students paid an average of $41,468. The cost of a bachelor's degree also varies with factors like location and learning format. For example, many public schools offer tuition discounts for in-state students, and some schools allow online students to pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live.
Students have a variety of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of a degree, such as loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Read more about financial aid here.
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
Many colleges and universities offer online bachelor's degrees. These programs allow students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
Online learning is also often more affordable than on-campus learning. For example, many programs offer in-state tuition rates to all online students regardless of where they live. Plus, online students often save on many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. You can find a list of the best online colleges here.
How to Choose an Online Bachelor's Degree?
When researching how to get a bachelor's degree, students should consider delivery format. Some online programs offer synchronous courses, which require set meeting times, while others use asynchronous courses, which do not require students to log on at specified times. Learners seeking more flexibility should choose asynchronous programs.
Prospective students should also consider factors like cost, program length, and available concentrations before deciding on a program to ensure they choose the right fit for their needs and goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Bachelor's Degrees Hard?
Bachelor's degrees require a significant time investment and they cover a lot of material, but many people graduate with bachelor's degrees each year, so a bachelor's degree is certainly attainable.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor's Degree?
Bachelor's degrees typically take four years of full-time study to complete, but some universities offer accelerated programs that can be completed faster.
Is a Bachelor's Degree Worth It?
Graduates with a bachelor's degree generally earn higher annual incomes than those with just a high school diploma or associate degree, making them a worthwhile investment.
Can You Get a Bachelor's Degree Online?
Yes, many colleges and universities offer fully or partially online bachelor's degrees.
Is an Online Bachelor's Degree Worth It?
Accredited online bachelor's degrees feature the same rigorous coursework and recognition as on-campus bachelor's degrees. Online learning also typically provides more flexibility and affordability than on-campus learning.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree?
Graduates with a bachelor's degree can pursue a variety of careers, depending on their areas of study. They can also pursue further study through a graduate program.