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What is a bachelor’s degree?

At a glance

  • According to the U.S. Census (2021), 23.5% of adults 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree listed as their highest degree.
  • Most bachelor’s degrees are either in an area of the arts, leading to a Bachelor of Arts (BA); in the sciences, leading to a Bachelor of Science (BS); or in fine arts, leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). 
  • Admission requirements for most bachelor’s degree programs generally require completion of secondary studies, like a high school diploma or a GED, in conjunction with other specific admissions requirements aligned with the goals and objectives of that university. University of Phoenix comprises seven specialized, career-focused colleges, with over 100 degree and certificate options — more than 90% of which are in growing fields.

Going to college is something many people talk about, but what does it actually mean? For many people, it means seeking a bachelor’s degree: a four-year program that deepens their skills, expands their knowledge and prepares them for a variety of career paths.

Here, we explore the ins and outs of this degree.

Explore more than 100 online programs aligned to 300+ real-world careers. 

What is a bachelor’s degree?

A bachelor’s degree is typically a four-year program of university study that is comprehensive in nature and grants exposure to general study topics while in the pursuit of documented competency in a specific content area of study. The timeline for completion can vary, although four years is the common program length.

Most bachelor’s degrees are either in the arts, leading to a Bachelor of Arts (BA); in the sciences, leading to a Bachelor of Science (BS); or in fine arts, leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Degree requirements are tailored to expose students to supplementary fields or areas of study that relate to or support their chosen career path.

Pursuit of a postsecondary degree has increased in the United States over the past 10 years. An estimated 14.3% of adults had an advanced degree in 2021, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, up from 10.9% in 2011, according to the U.S. Census (2021). More specifically, 23.5% of adults age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree listed as their highest degree. That’s almost 1 out of 4 people of the surveyed population.

For adults without a bachelor’s degree, the economy can be a powerful motivator to return to school, even as adult students balance full-time work and family responsibilities. The unemployment rate reached a historic high of 14.7% in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the economy remains uncertain, many full-time employees might be wondering how they can better position themselves to weather unexpected changes in the market. Sometimes, the answer is going back to school.

One way to do so, especially for working adults, is an online bachelor’s degree program.

When to seek a bachelor’s degree

If you’re trying to decide whether you should pursue a bachelor’s degree, consider the following:

  1. Is it required for your career or for advancement in your field?
  2. Have you already earned more than 60 semester college credits or hold at least one associate degree? Sometimes these credits can be transferred and applied to a bachelor’s degree program to save you time and money.
  3. A bachelor’s remains the standard for entry into many professional careers.
  4. It’s the first step to entering graduate studies and obtaining a graduate degree.

The bottom line is that if you’re career-oriented and desire to earn a higher income, a bachelor’s degree is worth considering.

Associate vs. bachelor’s degree

One major difference between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree is the time involved in acquiring each. Associate degrees can typically be completed within two to three years and may be obtained through a community college. A bachelor’s degree is typically earned through a four-year university or college. Progress on a bachelor’s degree can benefit from transfer credits from a community college, through high school advanced placement exams, or concurrent coursework taken at another institution.

If you’ve graduated high school or earned a GED and plan to enter the workforce immediately, an associate degree may be a better short-term fit. Some vocations and trades do not require a four-year degree, making an associate degree appealing.

High school graduates may be unsure of what career path they want to pursue. In this case, an associate degree can be a good place to start your educational career by obtaining vocational training and earning credit that could be transferred toward the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.

If a student sees a bachelor’s degree is needed in their immediate future to reach their intended career outcomes , they should check into admission requirements at a college or university as they finish high school.   

Here are four reasons why pursuing a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial:

1.    You want to pursue more management and leadership positions. Management positions typically require a bachelor’s degree.

2.    You want to bolster your resumé. If you earn a bachelor’s degree in your field, especially if it’s an emerging field, you may find that including a new degree on your resumé will open up new opportunities for you as there are many employers who look for this education when hiring.

3.    You’re unhappy in your current work and career. Sometimes, a person wants to change career paths entirely, but they’re afraid of the cost of going back to school. Try to take a long-term view. Financial aid and scholarships may be available, and many schools have financial tools available to help limit costs.

4.    You enjoy learning and critical thinking. Education is a foundational element of life. Our curiosity to know and grow is a powerful part of who we are. With a bachelor’s degree, the classes likely have critical thinking embedded, thus the coursework is dedicated to a higher level of thinking and leadership. 

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How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree?

On average, it takes four to six years to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Working adults may choose to take classes online for a pace that fits better into their schedules.

Average cost of a bachelor’s degree

The cost of a bachelor’s degree varies widely and is based on several criteria, depending on the institution and type of student.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that the average cost for first-time, full-time undergraduate students can greatly differ depending on if the institution is private, public, nonprofit or private for-profit. Another factor is whether a student lives at home or on campus.

According to NCES, “In 2021–22, the average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time undergraduate students living on campus at 4-year institutions was higher at private nonprofit institutions ($55,800) than at private for-profit institutions ($32,900) and public institutions ($26,000).”

University of Phoenix is known for its fixed-tuition programs as well as flexibility for those with a busy lifestyle. Learn more about saving money with the Savings Explorer™ tool at University of Phoenix!

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How to choose a bachelor’s degree program

Some important factors to consider when choosing a bachelor’s degree program are:

  • Your ultimate career goals
  • Your skill sets and interests as well as the gaps in your education or knowledge
  • Viable degree options that align with your career interests
  • Your needs (e.g., location, cost, flexibility) and how a school must meet them

Popular online bachelor’s degrees

With a variety of degrees and majors now available online, earning a bachelor’s degree is more attainable. Online degrees are a popular option for those who need a flexible schedule to fit their busy lifestyle and a more cost-effective, budget-friendly opportunity.

For example, University of Phoenix (UOPX) offers more than 100 degree and certificate options with more than 90% of those aligned with growing fields. Here are just a few examples:

1.    Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

2.    Bachelor of Science in Business

3.    Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity

4.    Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

It’s important to know that earning a degree online doesn’t mean you need to go through the process alone. For example, UOPX offers support services along with courses, including student resources and career services.

Admission requirements

Some admission requirements are standard for all students, while other program admissions are more specific to the institution or the outcomes of a degree program. To enter a bachelor’s degree program at University of Phoenix, a student typically must:

1.    Have earned an acceptable high school diploma or a GED

2.    Be at least 16 years old at the time of application

3.    Be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. or hold an approved, valid visa

4.    Not have been expelled from a previous institution

5.    Complete all admission forms

6.    Submit official test scores and transcripts from all colleges and universities attended

7.    Meet any state/territory-specific requirements

Some programs may have additional program-specific admission requirements. If you’re interested in earning an online bachelor’s degree, learn more about program options, admission requirements and financial aid at

Bachelor’s degree offerings at University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix takes pride in offering busy, working adults the opportunity to earn certificates and degrees through flexible programs that are customizable to their schedule. UOPX offers a wide variety of bachelor’s degrees. Here are several programs to consider:

  • Business: The UOPX business degree curriculum focuses on accounting, management and other business practices. You can specialize in a number of areas, including marketing and financial planning.
  • Education: Areas of emphasis in UOPX’s education programs include early childhood education and elementary teacher education. Overall skills taught in these programs include professionalism, ethical practice, instructional practice and more.
  • Nursing: Are you a nurse looking to improve your skill set? Earn your RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you transfer an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can earn the BSN faster.
  • Technology: Options for a BS in Information Technology or a related field include data science, computer science, cybersecurity and more.
  • Healthcare: UOPX offers a BS in Health Administration and a BS in Health Management. A degree in health administration aims to teach skills such as compliance, finance, management and technology. A degree in health management not only provides you with management skills but also knowledge of leadership, information management, quality management and more.
  • Criminal justice: UOPX’s criminal justice degree programs can help prepare you to work in such careers as probation officer, correctional treatment specialist, child protective services, compliance officer, and administrative or management positions within the criminal justice fields.
  • Behavioral science: Develop a well-rounded foundation in the helping professions and gain valuable skills for careers in human services, social work, correctional services and more. The curriculum provides students with a problem-solving methodology to address personal, social and organizational issues.
  • Psychology: UOPX’s Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Media and Technology teaches how to apply psychological theories within a variety of industries such as business, education, social services and government using media and technology to influence behavior. Students gain skills to influence healthy technology-mediated relationships and learning. There’s also a Bachelor of Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology​ degree which equips students with skills to promote employee well-being and influence performance.
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A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.


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