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:
- Is it required for your career or for advancement in your field?
- 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.
- A bachelor’s remains the standard for entry into many professional careers.
- 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.