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    Everything You Need to Know About Undergraduate Degrees

    Zach Skillings By Zach Skillings
    Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger
    Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: June 25th, 2024
    Undergraduate student on her college campus smiles at the camera while holding her books

    When people think of college, the term “bachelor’s degree” is often one of the first things that comes to mind. While there are certainly other learning options when it comes to higher education, obtaining a bachelor’s (or undergraduate degree, as commonly referred to) from a four-year college or university remains one of the most popular choices. If you’re considering getting your bachelor’s and want to learn more, we’ve got you covered.

    Definition of bachelor’s degree

    A bachelor’s is an undergraduate degree offered by four-year colleges and universities, including private, public, and online schools. Most bachelor’s degree programs require four years of full-time study to complete. However, some students complete their program in less time, while others take longer to finish. 

    If you enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll receive a general education with a focus on one specific major (field of study). This means you’ll have the chance to explore various subjects, but the majority of your time will be dedicated toward your major. Because bachelor’s degrees are available in an extremely wide range of fields, you can major in pretty much anything you want (depending on the school you attend). You can even double major if you’re interested in studying multiple fields. 

    Bachelor’s degrees often equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a variety of careers. Due to their educational background, bachelor’s degree holders usually have access to a wide range of opportunities in the job market. Many students choose to obtain their bachelor’s to expand their job prospects and become qualified candidates for in-demand careers. 

    Also see: What is a three-year bachelor’s degree?

    Types of bachelor’s degrees 

    Bachelor’s degrees come in several different forms. Each degree type offers unique opportunities regarding areas of study and potential career paths. Below we’ll outline the various types of bachelor’s degrees.

    Bachelor of Arts (BA)

    One of the most popular bachelor’s degrees is the Bachelor of Arts (BA), which focuses on the humanities, arts, and sciences. BA programs emphasize a liberal arts curriculum that covers a broad array of subjects.  This means that while students still choose a major, they take fewer credits directly related to their major. Instead, students are expected to earn credits by taking a wide range of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and foreign languages. BA programs are great for students hoping to explore a variety of subjects. Upon graduation, some students go on to pursue careers in government, education, arts organizations, media, and communications. Meanwhile, others choose to pursue an advanced degree in order to become qualified to enter a different industry. 

    Bachelor of Science (BS)

    Another popular undergraduate degree choice, Bachelor of Science (BS) programs emphasize science and technical skills such as math, engineering, and natural science. BS degree programs usually focus more strictly on subject matter directly related to the student’s specific field of study. As a result, BS students are required to take more credits directly associated with their major in order to master the technical and practical facets of their field. This means they have less opportunities to explore topics outside of their major. Upon graduation, students pursue careers in a wide variety of fields including computer science, environmental science, medicine, and forensics. Others choose to continue their education at a higher level. 

    Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)

    The Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA) is a vocation-oriented degree, meaning that students learn practical skills they can use in a specific field. While BAs focus on providing theoretical knowledge, BAAs emphasize hands-on learning to prepare students for a particular career path. For instance, students may pursue BAAs in fields such as advertising, photojournalism, or interior design. BAAs are rarely awarded in the United States and are much more common in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. 

    Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

    Similar to BAAs, Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) programs prepare students for specific careers through hands-on learning. The key difference is that BAS students receive training in science-related fields. For example, students may pursue a BAS in fields such as computer science, engineering, or construction management. A BAS is a great option for students who want to launch their career in a specific industry immediately after graduation. 

    Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

    Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs emphasize artistic training in fields such as film, photography, dance, and theater. Students gain theoretical knowledge of these art forms, as well as the practical skills needed to establish a creative career. Graduates typically go on to pursue careers as filmmakers, actors, dancers, and musicians. Some graduates choose to earn advanced degrees and become professors. 

    Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

    The Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) trains students in foundational business topics such as finance, accounting, marketing, and management. Some BBA programs offer the opportunity to specialize in specific fields such as entrepreneurship, human resource management, or hospitality management. Some graduates pursue business-related careers immediately following graduation, while others enroll in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

    Undergraduate degree requirements 

    Most bachelor’s and undergraduate degree programs require students to complete around 120 credits, which usually takes four years of full-time study. Students typically take general education courses and introductory, major-related courses during their first year. Most students declare a major in their first or second year, but some wait as late as their third year. During their final two years of study, students typically focus on advanced major courses. 

    In addition to coursework, some undergraduate degree programs require students to participate in internships or practicums to gain hands-on experience in their field. Bachelor’s degree programs often culminate with a capstone course or research project. Some degrees may require a thesis project. 

    Admission Requirements 

    Bachelor’s degree programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma, associate degree,  or GED.  Additionally, students usually need to meet minimum GPA requirements for admission. Standardized test scores (such as SAT and ACT scores) and letters of recommendation from teachers and supervisors may also need to be submitted for consideration. 

    There may be additional requirements depending on the specific program. For instance, science programs may have prerequisite math and science courses, while BFA programs may require applicants to submit a portfolio of work. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the application requirements of the bachelor’s program you’re considering. 

    Benefits of a Bachelor’s Degree

    There are a number of reasons to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps the biggest reason is that you can increase your future earnings potential with a bachelor’s degree. According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings of bachelor’s degree holders is $74,464. Meanwhile, the median annual earnings of high school graduates with no college education is $44,356. With a bachelor’s degree, you’re more likely to expand your career options and achieve job security. Not to mention, there are numerous personal and social benefits of attending a four-year college while working towards your bachelor’s. 

    How much does a bachelor’s degree cost?

    The cost of a bachelor’s degree varies based on the type of school you attend (public or private) and where your school is located (in-state or out-of-state). For instance, students at in-state public schools pay less tuition than students at out-of-state public schools. Meanwhile, students at private schools pay the highest tuition amounts. According to Education Data, the average annual cost of attending a public in-state university is $26,027. Alternatively, the average annual cost of attending a private nonprofit university is $54,840. 

    See also: How to pay for college (A step-by-step guide)

    How do you fund a bachelor’s degree?

    While bachelor’s degrees certainly aren’t cheap, there are ways to make your college education more affordable. The first step is to fill out the FAFSA by the due date for your state. Based on your FAFSA, you may be eligible for need-based financial aid. From there, you can apply for scholarships and student loans to help cover the cost of your tuition. 

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    Is a bachelor’s degree worth it?

    Despite the high cost of tuition, many find that going to college and earning a bachelor’s degree is very much worth it. If you enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll receive a meaningful education and broaden your academic and social horizons. Most importantly, a bachelor’s degree opens up many doors in the job market and can be your ticket to a rewarding career. However, if your current financial situation doesn’t allow for it or you do not want to pursue a college degree, there are other options.

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Bachelor’s degree programs usually require four years of full-time study 
    • Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits to earn a degree
    • Students need a high school diploma, GED, or associate degree to begin a bachelor’s degree program 
    • Earnings increase dramatically when comparing the median salaries of high school diploma and bachelor degree earners
    • Earning a bachelor’s degree is costly (especially at private colleges/universities), but funding is available 
    • There are other options besides a bachelor’s degree, including bootcamps, apprenticeships, trade schools, and the United State Military

    Frequently asked questions about bachelor’s degrees

    What are the four main types of college degrees?

    Associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees are the four main types of degrees Both associate and bachelor’s degrees are considered undergraduate degrees, and master’s and doctoral degrees as both considered graduate degrees.

    Can you earn a bachelor's degree online?

    Yes, and more and more schools offer this option. Do your research and learn whether online or in-person classes are right for you.

    Do community colleges offer bachelor's degrees?

    What is a better degree BA or BS?

    It depends on your personal goals. Simply put, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree focuses on the humanities/social sciences while a Bachelor of Science (BS) emphasizes science and math. Choosing to earn a BS and a BA  is very much related to your intended career and/or future educational plans.

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