What is a bachelor’s degree?
July 28, 2020 • 7 minute read
A bachelor’s degree is a four-year (on average) program of university study that is comprehensive in nature and grants exposure to general study topics as part of a pursuit of mastery in a specific major program. 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). Degree program 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 post-secondary degree has become normalized in the U.S. The last census (2015) noted that one in three adults held a bachelor’s degree. On-the-job training is still essential for most positions.
With unemployment rates reaching historic highs of over 14 percent in April 2020 job candidates need to stand out, and a degree will often do that. Adults in this position are often employed full time, many are raising families, and the notion of returning to college may seem overwhelming or even impossible.
But as the old adage goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. One pathway to obtaining a degree without jeopardizing existing responsibilities in life is the direct pursuit of an online bachelor’s degree. Whether seated in a college classroom or in your living room with a laptop computer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics earning a bachelor’s degree is more likely to lead higher weekly earnings and lower unemployment rates compared with persons who have only a high school diploma.
In fact, employees who hold bachelor’s degrees have median earnings of $1,248/week, while those with a high school diploma have median earnings of $746week, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a difference of $502/week.
When to seek a bachelor’s degree
If you’re trying to decide whether you should pursue a bachelor’s degree, historically termed “college degree,” consider the following:
- Is it required for your career, or is it/will it be required for advancement potential in your field?
- Have you already earned more than 60 semester college credits or hold at least one associate degree?
- It remains the standard for entry into many professional careers.
- It’s the first step to obtaining a graduate degree.
The bottom line — if you’re career oriented and desire to earn an income in the range identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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 to acquire 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 earned through a four-year university or college, though transfer credits from a community college or through high school advanced placement (AP) or concurrent coursework may be included as part of a degree plan.
If you’ve graduated high school or earned your GED and plan to enter the workforce immediately, an associate degree may be more easily obtainable and 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 great place to start down a path to a career through vocational training or toward completing the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.
Many adults, or non-traditional students, are entering four-year institutions, so an associate degree earned by a traditional student could potentially channel into a four-year degree down the road.
If a student sees a bachelor’s degree in their immediate future, and their intended career outcome requires a four-year degree or higher, they should check into admission requirements to an institution of higher education immediately out of high school.
Here are five reasons pursuing a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial:
- You want to maximize your earnings potential. Employees with a bachelor’s degree earn quite a bit more, on average, over a lifetime, earning about $800,000 more than workers with an associate degree, according to the Education Occupations Lifetime Earnings Report.
- You want to pursue for more management and leadership positions. Management positions typically require a bachelor’s degree. In the past, years of experience may have qualified an individual for consideration.
- You want to beat the competition in emerging fields (like cybersecurity) to get hired. In any emerging field, there’s always an opportunity to be the first to strike. If you earn a bachelor’s degree in your field, you may find that you have more opportunities than if you didn’t have the degree.
- You’re unhappy in your current work and career. Sometimes, a person just 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.
- 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 you’ll likely have critical thinking embedded into your classes, thus developing coursework dedicated to a higher level of thinking and leadership. Employers recognize that.
Types of bachelor’s degrees offered at University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix takes pride in offering busy, working adults the opportunity to take advantage of a flexible program, customizable with your schedule and set up with actionable steps. The University currently offers a wide variety of bachelor’s degree programs aimed to help you reach your full potential and remain educationally inspired, regardless of any current time constraints.
- Business: The UOPX business degree curriculum focuses on finance, marketing, accounting and other business practices; legal, ethical and regulatory considerations; business communication; management strategies; and statistical analysis. You can specialize in a number of areas, as well.
- Communications: The BS in Communication will lead you in the direction of studying fields related to asset production. The focus is on building a strong foundation for effective, persuasive and ethical communication. Potential career outcomes include editor, copywriter, communications specialist, and media relations specialist
- Criminal Justice: UOPX’s on-campus or online Criminal Justice degree programs can help prepare you to work in careers including probation officers, correctional treatment specialists, child protective services, compliance officers, and administrative or management positions within the criminal justice fields.
- Education:Areas of emphasis in UOPX’s education programs include early childhood education and elementary teacher education.
- Healthcare: UOPX’s BS in healthcare administration focuses on the business side of healthcare. The curriculum meets Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) standards and the degree has been named an Approved Education Partner (AEP). You’ll also choose from an elective area in either Health Administration, Lifespan Management, Retail Health Management or Health Information Systems. This may be the degree for you desire a career as a health manager, office manager (GM), practice administrator or program manager.
- Nursing: Are you a nurse looking to advance? Transfer your associate degree in nursing (ADN), or earn your RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). UOPX’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- Psychology: Choose from a focus in either applied or industrial psychology to learn more about communication, relationships and learning, cognitive development and more. Career outcomes include compliance coordinator, communication specialists, marketing research coordinator, human resources specialist and organizational development specialist.
- Behavioral Sciences: Earn a BS in social work to prepare for state licensure with coursework that aligns with Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) standards. If your interest is in community-based support for those involved with or affected by the criminal justice system, pursue the BS in correctional program support services.
- Sciences: Whether you choose to work in the public or private sector, a curriculum focused on contemporary issues such as global change, environmental management, water, and energy will give you a solid educational foundation. General science courses include biology, chemistry, and geology. You’ll also learn the current trends in environmental science including toxicology, sustainability, law and ethics — all qualities needed to leave the world a better place for future generations.
- $14,600/year at public institutions
- $41,100/year at private nonprofit institutions
- $22,700/year at private for-profit institutionsTechnology: Options for the BS in information technology include IT with elective options for an area of emphasis; IT with an advanced certificate in cybersecurity taking courses that align with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®); or IT with an advanced software developer certificate.
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. Many working adults choose to take classes online and at a more leisurely pace, therefore taking longer. However, some students enroll in accelerated online programs that take only two years. This path is intense, requiring full-time status year-round for those two years.
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) posted the following average costs based on the 2017-2018 school year based on tuition, fees, room and board for full-time undergraduate students living off campus with family:
University of Phoenix offers online bachelor’s degree programs for $398/credit hour, or $1,194 per three-credit hour course. For a program consisting of 120 hours, the cost would average to a tuition cost of $47,760.
There may be additional cost in the form of a resource or other fee for each course. UOPX provides a chart to give students an idea of tuition and cost estimates for programs that attract non-traditional students or those who prioritize virtual attendance and are seeking an online higher education option.
How to choose a bachelor’s degree program
Some very important attributes to consider when choosing a bachelor’s degree program include:
- Self-evaluation to determine your ultimate career goals
- Your skill sets and interests
- Researching viable degree options that match said career interests
- Selecting a college or university that meets your needs.
- Due diligence in addressing these attributes is crucial to the ongoing success of your continued education.
Popular online bachelor’s degrees
With a variety of degrees and majors available, the achievement of earning an online bachelor’s degree many once thought was impossible to get without jeopardizing current responsibilities is now realistic.
Earning a degree online doesn’t mean you go it alone. Accredited institutions of higher education offer support services and courses. At UOPX, courses are taught by instructors with years of on-the-job experience and have an advanced degree, and the programs are intended to be flexible and budget-friendly.
Some admission requirements are standard for all students. However, some degree program admission requirements will vary. To enter a bachelor’s degree program at University of Phoenix, a student typically must:
- Have earned a high school diploma or GED
- Be at least 16 years of age
- Meet work experience requirements or have access to an organizational environment
- Be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. or hold an approved, valid visa
- Not have been expelled from a previous institution
- Complete all admission forms
- Submit official test scores and transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
- Meet any state/territory-specific requirements
Is a bachelor’s degree in your future? Don’t hesitate to reach out for information about program options, admission requirements and financial aid at phoenix.edu.