The Bachelor’s Degree 101: Learn the Career Value & More!
What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
A bachelor’s degree is a type of academic diploma awarded to undergraduate students who fulfill a set of graduation requirements at a college or university. An undergraduate student is someone who has not yet obtained a bachelor’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree is sometimes called an undergraduate degree as a result. In general, the expected overall study time needed to obtain a bachelor’s degree is about four years.
Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree
Every course completed at a college or university provides a student with credit hours. In most cases, colleges and universities require students to obtain a certain number of credit hours to earn bachelor’s degrees. The credit hours needed for a bachelor’s degree vary depending on the school, but students normally must complete between 110 and 150 credit hours. However, these credit hours typically must be distributed in a certain manner among various academic disciplines.
The most critical portion of a bachelor’s degree is the “major” listed on the degree. A student’s major is his/her primary area of academic emphasis during undergraduate study. The academic field of a student’s major often makes up more than 25 percent of a student’s total credit hours during a bachelor’s degree program. In addition to unique course requirements that may be listed for a particular major, a student must complete other general education requirements. For example, a college may demand that a student complete a certain number of courses in history, art/literature and laboratory science regardless of his/her major.
A student may choose to also complete a “minor” in addition to a major. A minor is essentially a lighter version of a major with fewer course requirements. A minor usually consists of about 12 to 20 credit hours in a particular discipline as opposed to the 35+ credit hours that may needed for a major. In addition to a minor, students may choose to pursue double majors. A double major simply means that a student fulfilled all requirements needed for two separate majors during undergraduate study.
Types of Bachelor’s Degrees
Students typically receive either a Bachelor of Arts, or B.A., or they receive a Bachelor of Science, or B.S., degree. Generally, a B.S. degree is more competitive in the job market because it contains additional requirements in math and/or science not needed for a B.A. degree. The degree that a student obtains frequently depends on his/her major, though. Majors such as history, fine arts and business often result in B.A. degrees while majors such as chemistry, computer science and physics often result in B.S. degrees. In addition to the highly common B.A. and B.S., students at some schools may receive degrees such as the Bachelor’s of Applied Science, Bachelor’s of Fine Arts or Bachelor’s of Economics.
What is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth?
Reports by the U.S. Census Bureau from 2012 predict that, on average, high school graduates will make about $1.371 million over a 40-year period while bachelor’s degree holders will make about $2.422 million over a 40-year period. Not all majors are made equal, though, as majors for more in-demand fields such as engineering and medicine often net the most earnings for graduates.
Numerous career options are available to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees. Among the most common career paths taken by bachelor’s degree holders are business and finance, legal fields, education and health professions. Ideally, though, a bachelor’s degree can allow a graduate to enter a job position that leads to a progressive, successful career.