What is a Bachelor’s Degree?

College majors prepare students for real-world settings as they become professionals. Recent data reveal that nearly 45 million Americans at least 25 years old—or 20.2% of the said age group—are now capable of contributing to society, having earned a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree is required for many careers and is also a springboard for graduate degrees and professional programs, such as Law and Medicine. Often a four-year program, bachelor’s degrees develop students’ intellect and skills, and provide them with broad knowledge of the world—from the perspective of someone who has had formal education and training in a specific field.

Quick Summarization
The right program major plays a crucial role in your future. Designed to offer in-depth, more focused education through concentrations, bachelor’s programs also promote a sense of social responsibility. These qualities lead to personal fulfillment, make them informed citizens, and prepare them for success in the global economy!

What Is A Bachelor's Degree - fact

Bachelor’s Degree Program Courses

During the first two years of studies, students must meet general education requirements with courses like English composition, mathematics, foreign language, history, natural or physical science, social science, and humanities. These liberal arts courses provide students with broad learning in multiple disciplines and a foundation for intellectual and personal development. 

Then, in the last two years of the program, students enroll in advanced major courses depending on their chosen specialization/concentration. For example, business management majors take courses designed to develop their business-specific knowledge and skills in accounting, finance, and management courses. 

Internships, also known as on-the-job training or practicum, may be required depending on the program. Students in healthcare-related programs typically have clinical hours in a practical setting, while students in other majors have internships with external companies, too. 

Capstone projects are also common requirements for graduation. These may take the form of a thesis, albeit not as intensive as at a graduate and post-graduate level, or a research project with real-world applications. 

The number of credits earned for graduation varies depending on the school’s academic calendar and the number of credits allowed for transfer. Students must generally earn 180 credits in a quarter system or 120 credits in a semester system.

Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

These are the common types offered in colleges and universities. 

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs emphasize the arts and sciences, including humanities resulting in a well-rounded education. Majors include business management, literature, and archeology underlined by general education requirements. 
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) programs emphasize technical and scientific skills necessary for work readiness. Students then take more advanced major courses and less general education courses and engage in more technical or laboratory activities. 
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA) programs aren’t common in the US, but these are also widely accepted. Students acquire more vocation training and practical skills in their specific study area. 
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) programs cover niche areas of study, such as renewable energy technology, international business, and culinary leadership. Students are provided with hands-on training in job-related skills in the classroom and, thus, make them job-ready graduates. 
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs enable students to pursue professional careers as artists, such as dancers, musicians, or actors. Students learn both the theory and techniques of their chosen art form. 

Other types of bachelor’s degrees are: 

• B.Arch. – Bachelor of Architecture
• BBA – Bachelor of Business Administration
• BE – Bachelor of Engineering
• B.Ed. – Bachelor of Education
• BIT – Bachelor of Information Technology
• BSN – Bachelor of Science in Nursing
• BSW – Bachelor of Social Work

What You Can Do With A Bachelor’s Degree

The advantage of having a bachelor’s degree is concretely represented in surveys examining the earning power of higher education. In a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2020 report, the employment rate for people with higher levels of educational attainment was higher than for those with a high school diploma or its equivalent. The 25- to 34-year-old cohort with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 86%, but it was only 74% for the latter. 

Even with more competitive markets, recent graduates (2019) enjoyed a spike in their salaries compared to their 2018 counterparts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Summer 2020 salary survey found that the former’s final average starting salary was $53,889. In contrast, the class of 2018’s salary was $50,944, or a 5.8% increase from their 2019 counterparts. 

The difference in salaries between college graduates and high school graduates is significant, too. In 2019, recent college graduates in the 22-27 age cohort earned a median annual income of $44,000, while high school graduates in the same age cohort earned $30,000 a year. 

The higher-earning capacity can offset the tuition and other fees incurred in acquiring a bachelor’s degree, too. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the average tuition in private institutions was $35,087 and $9,687 in public schools. These costs can be substantially reduced through scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans.  

But the economic advantage is not the only reason a young person should consider a bachelor’s degree. It’s the learning and human growth that occurs in a person who fully engages with the opportunity being offered. Dr. Hunter Rawlings president of the American Association of American Universities, puts it perfectly: “Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.”

Quick Tips for Choosing Your College Major

Here are 6 of the most helpful tips to guide you when choosing your college major.

Choosing your college major is an important decision every college student should not take lightly. Think of your college major as the door towards your future workforce and will help you get that fulfilling career and the high-paying job you’ve been eyeing on. 

Find your passion.

Your college major can influence your college experience. A lot of college students join clubs and organizations related to their majors. Along the way, they find new friends and peers within their field of study.

The college major you choose will also shape your post-graduate life as well. Your college major can considerably affect your life during and after your college years. Thus, it’s imperative to choose a field that you are most passionate about. 

When picking a major, think about colleges and universities. 

Once you have set your heart on a particular major, the next thing to consider is how that major is delivered at your target school. For instance, is your college of choice known for successfully producing graduates in their desired field? Or does the school offer the major you’re interested in?

One good source to check about college programs in the US News rankings. You can see a rundown of the top schools in finance, engineering, marketing, and other fields of study. 

Seek career advice. 

Yes, your friends and family can play a huge role in determining what major is right for you. However, nothing still beats understanding what surrounds a college major by talking with industry experts and professionals.

Based on a 2017 survey of incoming college students seeking professional advice on what program to major in, 84% said their advice from professionals had helped them in their major choices. In the end, family and friends should take a step back and let their children choose the major they are most interested in. 

In your college applications, declare a major. 

Admissions experts say that by declaring your major when you apply for college, it is easier for them to understand you as a candidate and how you can contribute to the incoming class.

Your goal is to let the admissions officer read and understand how good an asset you will be in the program. But if you haven’t decided what major to enroll in during applications, think of something you think you are interested in. After all, you can still change your major later. 

Find out how far (at the undergrad level) your chosen major will take you.

The majority of jobs will accept anybody with a bachelor’s degree. But there are professional roles that need additional training. Aspiring lawyers and doctors, for example, should be aware that college is just the start. So, while you are in your pre-med or prelaw program, you should know that more degrees are needed to practice in these fields.

According to experts, before you declare a college major, look into your end goals first and understand if there’s a need to get a graduate or professional degree to get them the job they dreamt of. 

Decide on a useful minor to pair with your major. 

A college major makes up a big portion of the courses you will take. But a minor is something not to take leniently, as this is another useful venue to learn other skills. A major and minor combination can strengthen your skills across many disciplines and prepare you to work in several industries.

Consider that these minors are interdisciplinary links that connect you to another discipline. This will further expand your knowledge about various disciplines and how you think about working with people, life, creativity, and how this creativity can manifest differently.

Online Bachelor’s Degree vs. On-Campus Learning

Colleges and universities offer students a choice between on-campus and online programs. While online programs used to be unpopular, they are now considered viable alternatives to on-campus education. In recent years, distance education soared in popularity.

Fall 2019 data showed more than 7.3 million students took online college classes. This arrangement works best for non-traditional students, including working professionals, stay-at-home parents, and military personnel.

Most colleges and universities offering online degree programs also don’t make a differentiation between their on-campus and online offerings. This is true regarding the instructors in the programs, the quality of instruction, and the rigorous curriculum. Even the diplomas for on-campus and online graduates are the same.

On-campus programs, however, are still popular among students. They enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interactions and a full college experience. 

Contemplating whether you take the online or on-campus route depends on your learning style, goals, and your commitments outside of school! 

Online Bachelor’s Degree: Why It Works And What To Watch Out For

The biggest advantage of online learning is flexibility and high education quality. For example, you can join group discussions, complete assigned readings, watch lectures, and even take tests without leaving your house or favorite library spot.

An online class can significantly minimize the expensive and time-consuming commutes and other auxiliary expenses like parking passes or textbooks. Online learning will fit your schedule perfectly.

As with the credentials, you will still get the same on your records as a conventional degree. Employers have thought of online degrees as part of an established and well-rounded candidacy in recent years. However, be aware that not all online programs are the same.

Before enrollment, check that your chosen program is 200% online or simply a hybrid—meaning, you will still be required to attend on-campus activities occasionally that may strain your schedules. Check also whether your chosen program is synchronous or asynchronous. 

An asynchronous program means that you can attend your classes at your own pace no matter the time or whether your classmates and instructors are online simultaneously. Conversely, synchronous learning means you must join in synchronized activities with other students—like joining a video conference or watching a live lecture broadcast. 

Finally, choose the college or university that offers the program you want to enroll in. In online learning, not-for-profit institutions have lots of online enrollment, and for a good reason. Most, if not all of them, have extensive years of experience in creating and administering online programs. 

ON-CAMPUS Learning: Where it Works and Doesn’t

Over the past two decades, the rise of online learning has multiplied. But this did not change the fact that many students still obtain their bachelor’s degrees on-campus. The National Center for Education Statistics said in the fall of 2020, out of the 19.4 college students who attended colleges and universities, 73% were enrolled in any distance education course.

While only 27% of this figure are on-campus students, this is still a relatively high percentage considering the hundreds of available online programs. 

The advantages of traditional on-campus education are very well-known: from seamless in-class discussion to a highly controllable learning environment to the physical and social interaction you get from your classmates and instructor. However, there are also drawbacks to this mode of learning. Collectively, they have fueled the long-term increase of online education. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you find the most suitable bachelor’s degree to study? 

What do you do next after finishing high school? Go to college, of course. But just like everybody else, any incoming first-year college student feels so overwhelmed because of the many exciting and challenging things ahead. While you can heed the advice from people who wish you well, nobody can decide on the bachelor’s degree you should enroll in. So how do you find the best bachelor’s degree for you?

Find out what the most popular college majors are. Knowing what the most popular college majors are will give you an idea of the options you can have. The National Center for Education Statistics said that the largest college majors include the social sciences, business, biomedical and biological sciences, psychology, and engineering. 

If you choose a business degree, you can pursue a career in practically any industry. You can apply to critical roles in the country’s biggest workforces. Since business majors are flexible, you can combine disciplines (like marketing and analytics) to keep things exciting and dynamic. 

Psychology and healthcare degrees give you a chance to make a huge difference to others by offering your help and services in your community. Both will also lead you to financially rewarding careers like clinical and counseling psychology or a registered nurse. For a psychology major, you can secure a job in business that deals with maximizing interpersonal relationships. 

Know your skills. As an incoming college student, you should assess your capacities and the skills necessary for your potential career and bachelor’s program. When you observe the usual job requirements of careers, you can easily evaluate whether those careers match your strengths. You can also recognize the skills you need to hone over time. 

Are you the expressive type or more of a technical one?

Whether you are inclined to work instinctively or focus more on hard data greatly affects your career aptitudes. For instance, if you’re a student in the healthcare field with solid technical skills, but you lack interpersonal skills, a nursing role might not be good for you. Nurses are compassionate. They have amazing communication skills, coupled with emotional stability. If that’s the case, you can excel as a medical researcher or scientist, looking out for the latest medical advancements. 

Conversely, those expressive students who wish to study for a business degree may not be interested in profit projections and spreadsheets. So instead of going for a traditional business degree major in finance or accounting, try to look for marketing or business programs with creative aspects such as branding strategy or graphic design. 

The classes included in the major. Before choosing a bachelor’s program, check whether the program has classes in the specific area that you need the most for your career. Go for a program that has courses to complement your present skill set and will help you maximize your full potential for the degree. Say you are an aspiring graphic designer. You need to ensure that the art programs offered include coding classes because most careers in graphic design these days need computer literacy. 

Go for a program that you believe will have classes useful to you in the long run. 

What’s the next step after a bachelor’s degree? 

Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs can decide to: 

  • Pursue a master’s degree 
  • Take a gap year 
  • Seek an internship or apprenticeship 
  • Seek full-time or part-time employment
Why pursue a bachelor’s degree after an associate degree?

In today’s job market, having a steady career path is not enough to guarantee your future. You should give yourself an edge above your contemporaries, and the best way is to work toward having a bachelor’s degree after completing your associate’s level requirements. But is it necessary? Here are some reasons.

It helps grow your professional network. The relationships you build while in school will benefit you in the end. Business social networks and technology have continued to evolve. People are increasingly getting connected. Who knows, the person sitting next to you might be the one that can recommend you for your dream career. 

Learn to learn. Getting a bachelor’s degree is not just about gobbling up all the necessary information. It is about being a lifelong learner. When you pursue a field of expertise, you also gain a better understanding of yourself, like discovering how to properly research, prioritize information, know your preferred environment, and develop your point of view based on facts you collected. 

Better Pay. This is probably the most obvious why pursuing a bachelor’s degree is necessary: financial security. On average, those who hold a bachelor’s degree bring roughly $59,124 every year, while those with an associate degree have an annual salary of about $41,496. A bachelor’s degree guarantees that the pay (and pay raises) throughout your career will be worth the college cost. 

Longer Life Expectancy. When you are equipped with more education, you are expected to lead a better quality of life. A study reported that 3.6 years of additional education is (equivalent to that of an undergraduate university degree) relates to one-third lower chances of coronary heart disease. Because of the self-discipline you acquired during your bachelor’s degree years. This means you can handle a healthy routine in practically all aspects of your life. 

Key Takeaway

Completing a bachelor’s degree is a notable accomplishment. While many people still ask whether it is worth the effort and cost, the fact remains that holding a degree will give you an advantage over those who don’t!

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Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor