For a long time, a bachelor’s degree has been set as one of the requirements for most occupations. Given the way it guarantees safe professional prospects for graduating students, this degree is recognized as the cornerstone of higher education (Degree Query, n.d.). These explain why the talk about its merit never seems to go away. Yet, many students still ask, “What is a bachelor’s degree?” This implies that they have a hard time figuring out what to do with a college education, with others even switching majors.
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree is a serious life decision. As such, it can take much of your time, energy, and money. This is why it is important that you understand what this degree means and where college will take you after. Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning one, this article has summed up everything you need to know about an undergraduate degree—its definition, various types, admission requirements, and more.
The bachelor’s degree definition refers to a typical postsecondary education that provides students with a broad selection of scholastic, professional, and civic opportunities. In this four-year degree program, students learn about a certain subject like biology, math, or marketing. It prepares students to be skillful and knowledgeable enough for their future careers. Most students take this degree right after graduating from high school, while others take an associate degree first before taking it.
A bachelor’s degree can make graduates eligible for highly sought-after occupations. Graduates who earned this degree can also continue their education by taking graduate study (The Best Schools, 2021).
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
There is no such thing as an easy college degree. Whatever degree you choose to take in college, you have to work hard to finish it (Milliman, 2021).
Many students who have the right and enough resources graduate as bachelor’s degree holders, a clear sign that earning this degree is definitely attainable.
A bachelor’s degree is truly a worthwhile investment as it is still the most reliable way to enhance your job prospects and salary potential. It also makes you a standout candidate during job applications. As a matter of fact, employers prefer degree holders to fill entry-level roles. In the 2020 unemployment rate survey of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, results show that the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders is only 2.7%, which is remarkably less than the 5.2% for high school graduates. At the same time, many graduates with this degree can increase their average weekly income from $692 after high school to $1,156 after graduating from college (Bachelor’s Degree Center, n.d.).
Moreover, a bachelor’s degree can let you experience new things, learn from them, and live a better quality of life. According to College Board’s 2019 report on higher education trends, earning a bachelor’s degree is linked to a healthier and more socially active living. (Lesley University, n.d.).
Depending on interests and career goals, students can pick a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of science, or a bachelor of fine arts degree program. The bachelor’s degree list below outlines the most common types of bachelor’s degrees in college, as well as their main focus.
BA degrees are among the most famous bachelor’s degrees. These degrees center on the humanities, arts, and sciences and offer majors in business, literature, history, and more. They also mandate general education prerequisites in different subject areas like English and math.
The usual timeframe to complete a full-time BA degree is four years, but it may also vary by major.
BS degrees are equally popular as BA ones. These degrees revolve around teaching students about science and technical skills, such as math, biology, and engineering. They are likely to require more courses equivalent to a taken major. Unlike a BA, a BS does not have that many general education courses. It may also cover more technical or lab skills courses, mostly for the hard sciences.
BAA degrees are usually offered in Canada and New Zealand, but they are also offered in the U.S. These degrees are more centered on vocational courses. For instance, students may take a BAA in studio arts or criminal justice. Graduates with these degrees normally work already after graduating.
BAS degrees are often extremely technical, traversing on courses, such as culinary leadership or renewable energy technology. These degrees are likely to offer focused, technical pedagogy.
A BAS also takes four years to complete.
BFA degrees highlight artistic instruction, giving prominence to areas, such as graphic design, dance, and photography. These degrees teach the theories behind art forms, as well as the application of skills and techniques.
A BFA hones future artists and creative professionals. Graduates with these degrees can enter the show business, music, and dance industries. Others also opt to take advanced degrees to teach in postsecondary education.
Admission requirements for a bachelor’s degree are often a high school diploma or equivalent and GPA. Applicants may also be requested to present standardized test scores and recommendation letters (The Best Schools, 2021). Depending on the specialization, some programs will ask for additional prerequisites.
Many bachelor’s degrees are composed of approximately 120 credits. Traditionally, students take general education classes and preparatory, major-related classes in the first year. Some students, however, only decide what major to take in their second or third year. Then, in their last two years, they specialize in sophisticated major courses.
Other bachelor’s degree requirements may involve taking internships or practicums and a top course or research project. Some also require a thesis.
The College Board notes that the average tuition for a bachelor’s degree student at public or private, nonprofit four-year institutes is at $12,710 for the 2019-2020 school year (GetEducated, n.d.). Still, the full cost of a bachelor’s degree depends on certain considerations, such as residence and learning style. For instance, many public schools offer discounted in-state tuition. Some schools also permit online students to pay in-state tuition (The Best Schools, 2021).
Loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study assistance programs help students lessen their degree expenses.
When choosing a major, students weigh in on elements that would affect their future employment. These elements include job availability, financial earnings, and potential benefits. Some of the most in-demand bachelor’s degree majors today are Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine, Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.
Source: NCES, 2019
The popularity of taking a bachelor’s degree online is now on the rise. With this arrangement, students can learn at their own pace without compromising their personal lives and career goals.
In many cases, virtual learning is also cheaper than on-campus study. Aside from the in-state tuition that online students pay for, housing and commuting expenses also help them save a lot.
SmartAsset’s latest study lists down the most desired jobs for college graduates. The study compares 131 occupations based on median salary change from 2018 to 2019, employment change from 2018 to 2019, and expected employment change from 2019 to 2029.
Bachelor’s degree jobs are usually more excluded from unemployment compared to others. These jobs may also be even more excluded from economic challenges as demand for them is always at a peak (Horan, 2021). The case on how COVID-19 has caused massive job loss and, surprisingly, extraordinary opportunities are reflected in the 2020 online article “The Covid-19 crisis as a career shock: Implications for careers and vocational behavior.” Penned by Joe Akkermans et al. and published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, the article starts off by defining “career shock.” This term means an unmanageable and phenomenal event that is, at least to some extent, caused by circumstances outside the central individual’s control and that leads to a thorough thought process regarding one’s career.
The article notes that even if COVID-19 has been perceived as a major negative career shock today, it may also result in positive career shocks. “Indeed, there have been widespread reports about how some companies who might have been reluctant to allow employees to work from home are now discovering the added advantages, including the adoption of new forms of technology, to cater to more flexible work arrangements.” This occurrence may dispute some dismissive impressions on those who prefer to telecommute. “Another potentially positive outcome of COVID-19 relates to the necessity to upgrade skills and competencies—particularly with respect to the use of technology. For example, whereas the move to online learning technologies can be unsettling for some academics who are more accustomed to and comfortable with the non-online classroom, there have been growing reports about how academics have been upgrading their technological skills with the sudden demand to switch from in-class to online delivery and often in a matter of days’, if not weeks’ notice.”
Other sectors are also learning to cope with the pandemic. “Similarly, other workers whose organizations have moved to provide much-needed medical supplies are also developing new skill sets and finding new meaning in their work. The ‘silver lining’ of these trends may, therefore, be that some individuals who may have otherwise been reluctant to engage in proactive skill development and career behaviors have augmented both their short- and long-term career sustainability by effectively dealing with the current changes in work demands.”
While a bachelor’s degree has already been proven to exhibit one’s competence, skill sets, and drive for success, you may come across skeptical information about the real value of earning it. Some believe that industries are already swamped with degree holders, while others think that technology is currently making degrees not that essential anymore (Franklin University, n.d).
For sure, companies that employ undergraduates are now consistently increasing. However, there is more to a bachelor’s degree than just getting a job and high pay—it is the individual growth and life fulfillment that can help you become a better person and appreciate the world even more. Former American Association of American Universities president Dr. Hunter Rawlings III may have the best answer to the question “What is a bachelor’s degree?”: “Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.” (Premium Schools, n.d.).