How Long is a Bachelor’s Degree?

how long is a bachelor's degree

Aspiring students are often uncertain as to what degree to pursue. They can choose from an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Despite all the options, the bachelor’s degree seems to be the most chosen degree level. This might be because so many occupations and jobs require a bachelor’s degree, or it might be because it doesn’t take eight or more years to complete.

Bachelor’s degrees are very popular. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that the number of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees increased by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020. Continue reading to learn more about the popular bachelor’s degree.

How Long is a Bachelor’s Degree?

“How Long is a Bachelor’s Degree?” is probably one of the most often asked questions of individuals contemplating pursuing this degree. The time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree can depend on a couple of things. Bachelor’s degrees usually are 120-credit programs. In other words, the student must complete around 120 credits to earn the degree.

Schools may also vary in how they determine requirements. Some schools may use semester hours, while others use quarter hours. A program that requires 180 quarter hours has the same requirement as one that requires 120 semester hours because 180 quarter hours is the same as 120 semester hours. It’s important to not be confused by these two numbers.

Most bachelor’s degree programs require the student to complete certain prerequisite courses or general education courses. Having to complete these courses can account for some of the time it takes to complete the bachelor’s degree program. To save time, many students complete as many of these courses as possible prior to starting the bachelor’s degree program.

Another option available to students is completing some of these courses online. These things can all affect how long it takes to finish the bachelor’s degree program, but four years is usually how long it takes to earn the degree.

Prior CreditsTime to Completion
04 years at 15 credits/semester
153.5 years
602-2.5 years
901.5 years

Different Pathways to a Bachelor’s Degree

The good news for students is that there are different pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree. Have you completed some courses already? Do some of your life experiences fit into your career goals or your degree major? Some schools will allow you to get some credits for things you’ve done in life.

Credit for work or life experience

For instance, an individual pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field may get credit for some work experience if the individual has been working in a healthcare position. If you’ve been working in a business setting for quite some time and want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business, you may be able to get credit for your work.

Another pathway to a bachelor’s degree is by transferring credits. If you’ve completed an associate degree, you may be able to transfer some of those credits into the bachelor’s degree program. The number of credits you’ll be allowed to transfer depends on the school.

Transfer credits

However, some colleges may allow you to transfer from 60 to 90 credits. If the credits are coming from a community college, you may be able to transfer up to 60 credits. If the credits are coming from a four-year university, you may be able to transfer up to 90 credits. Transferring credits can shave a lot of time off your program.

Online learning

Another pathway toward earning a bachelor’s degree is through distance learning. Online programs are becoming more and more popular because they offer students a convenient and flexible way to earn a degree without having to attend school on campus every day. When you’re earning your bachelor’s degree online, you can continue to work and do your assignments in your spare time.

Are Bachelor’s Degrees Always Four Years?

Bachelor’s degree programs generally take four to five years for full-time students. As stated above, certain factors can affect the time it takes to earn the degree. Transferring credits is one way to decrease the time it takes. When choosing a bachelor’s degree, pay attention to how many credits they’ll allow you to transfer.

Online programs or courses can allow you to complete the program in less than four years. They can also allow you to relax and complete it in more than four years. You may be in a program that requires certain courses. If you find that you can’t take certain courses at the same time, you may want to take some of the courses online just to speed things along.

How to Choose the Right Bachelor’s Degree

Once you’ve decided you want to earn a bachelor’s degree, your next concern may be what type of bachelor’s degree you wish to pursue. There are a few different types of bachelor’s degrees, but the two main kinds are Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Arts (BA).

The Bachelor of Arts degree is a liberal arts degree that allows students to take courses beyond what is required to complete the program. Common BA majors include sociology, anthropology, journalism, history, liberal studies, and religious studies, among others.

Bachelor of Art programs typically focuses on soft skills like interpersonal communication, empathy, and cultural awareness to name a few. It’s rich in the liberal arts. This degree is often chosen by students interested in pursuing a graduate degree.

The Bachelor of Science is a degree for students who want a specialized education. The BS program provides students with the skills and knowledge required for their specific major. Much of the curriculum is based on the major chosen. BS are interdisciplinary programs that focus more on scientific and technical topics like business administration, engineering, or math to name a few.

Although graduates of this degree may choose to advance their education, this degree is most often chosen by students who want to join the workforce right after graduation. A simpler way to put it is that BS programs focus more on math and science, while BA programs focus on arts and humanities.

BS students also typically have more technical electives. There are some majors that can be earned in both the BS and BA programs. Choosing the right bachelor’s degree program is all about knowing what the student wants to do after completing the program.

Is an Online Degree the Right Choice?

Online education has really risen in popularity in recent years. When online education first started years ago, it was only offered at certain schools with very limited options in programs. That’s changed significantly since then. The number of students taking online bachelor’s degree programs increased by 186 percent from 2019 to 2020 according to the NCES. However, as great as online degrees can be, they’re not for everyone. There are both pros and cons to online education.

Some pros of online education include:

  • Flexibility – This is probably the largest pro of online learning. Online education offers you the flexibility to study and complete assignments at a time that’s convenient to you, not the school. You can continue to work or meet other obligations while still earning the degree.
  • No Commuting – Gas prices go up and then come down again. Online students can work from home, so they don’t have the worry about gas prices or time spent driving to and from the campus. Online students can save time and money.
  • More Balance – When you’re attending college on campus, you’re using up a lot of your time each day, which means less time spent with your family and friends. With online education, you can balance your time by scheduling your schoolwork around your family rather than instead of your family.
  • Earlier Graduation – If you’re a dedicated student with lots of extra time, you can earn the degree in less time than if you were attending college on campus.
  • Option to Customize – Not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way. When you’re enrolled in an online program, you get to determine your schedule and customize it to what works best for you.
  • 24/7 Assistance – Students in online programs state that it’s very easy to get help when you need it.
  • Access to Support – What many people don’t realize is that online students have access to most of the same resources as on-campus students. These may include counseling sessions, online tutoring, financial aid assistance, technological help, and even accommodations for disabilities.
  • Cheaper Tuition – While some schools charge the same tuition rates for on-campus or online programs, others may not. Many colleges charge more for out-of-state tuition. You may not have to pay more when you’re learning online regardless of where you live.

Some cons of online education include:

  • Lack of In-Person Interaction – Although you may be able to see your instructor via streaming, you won’t have the opportunity to interact with other students like you would in college.
  • Limitation on Majors – Despite many colleges offering online degrees today, there are still many fields or programs that are not offered online.
  • Motivation Issues – Some people are self-motivated, but others may not be that lucky. If you’re an individual who has trouble motivating yourself to study without an instructor there, online education may not be the right choice.
  • Too Much Autonomy – Although online students do enjoy the flexibility of online education and no pressure, some students need to be on a schedule so they can meet their deadlines.
  • Lack of Technology – Without technology, online education would not be possible. To be successful in your online studies, you’ll need to have a newer model computer or laptop with sufficient memory, a printer, an email address, and high-speed internet.
  • Not for Every Major – Somethings you can learn by just watching another on the screen. Other things may not be that easy to learn online. You may need to be in the same room with other students and the instructor to really catch on to what you need to do. Cooking and sewing are good examples of things that are easier to learn when you can see and feel how others are doing them.

Benefits of Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

  • Better Job Opportunities – Many occupations require a bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree puts you in a position to find more and better jobs than if you have an associate’s degree or no degree at all.
  • Various Programs – Because the bachelor’s degree is such a popular degree, you will find almost every major you could want.
  • Learning Options – Unless you’re choosing a rare field of study, you’ll find bachelor’s degree programs offered both on-campus, online, and hybrid.
  • Better Job Security – Layoffs happen a lot in different industries. When you have a bachelor’s degree, your job may be safer if you have the degree.
  • Higher Earnings – People with bachelor’s degrees generally earn higher wages than those without a degree.
  • Personal Growth – People with a bachelor’s degree tend to feel better about themselves and have more confidence both personally and professionally.
  • Pathway to Higher Education – Once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree, you will find it easier to advance your education if this is what you want to do.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Today

Getting started with a bachelor’s degree is easier than you think. In fact, we have a list of the Easiest Bachelor’s Degrees, and a lot of other options in our online degree hub. Simply request information and get ready for your new life!