According to 2015 census data, one in three American adults holds a bachelor's degree. A college education is increasingly necessary to compete for professional opportunities. Earning a degree can boost self-confidence and encourage personal growth, too.
The introduction of online bachelor's degrees revolutionized education in the 21st century and made college more accessible than ever before. Now students can pursue a college degree no matter how far they live from campus. Online learning also offers extensive flexibility, making it ideal for working adults and all learners with demanding schedules.
What Is a Bachelor's Degree?
The popularity of a college education is on the rise. In 2019, 39% of 25- to 29-year-olds had attained a bachelor's degree, compared to just 29% in 2000. Bachelor's programs take about four years to complete and come in several different formats.
Bachelor of Arts
The most commonly pursued type of undergraduate degree, the bachelor of arts is a flexible program that allows students to take a variety of courses. BA students can major in the liberal arts or sciences with coursework largely focusing on theoretical concepts and applications. Popular majors include communication, political science, and mathematics.
Bachelor of Science
In comparison to the BA's focus on theoretical concepts, the bachelor of science tends to focus more on technical and practical elements. BS programs offer fewer opportunities for study of topics outside the major, which can be attractive to career-focused individuals. Popular BS majors include business, nursing, and engineering.
Bachelor of Fine Arts
The bachelor of fine arts is a professional degree awarded for visual, fine, and performing arts disciplines like theatre, music, and dance. The BFA offers a more focused education than the more generalized BA, with fewer opportunities to explore outside the major. Students take a large number of hands-on, collaborative studio courses to develop skills.
Bachelor of Applied Arts
The bachelor of applied arts is a vocational degree designed to provide students with specific career knowledge and skills. The BAA requires core study of the humanities and sciences, but does not offer the same broad liberal arts education of a BA. Potential areas of study include business, culinary arts, and pre-professional education.
Bachelor of Applied Science
Like the BAA degree, a bachelor of applied science program aims to equip students with specific vocational skills and knowledge. BAS students commonly hold an associate of applied science and want to advance in their current field. The BAS is interdisciplinary in nature, offering areas of emphasis like entrepreneurship, management, and technology.
Bachelor of Business Administration
A bachelor of business administration provides students with a broad understanding of how businesses operate and function. Compared to a BA or BS with a business administration major, a BBA degree tends to require fewer liberal arts, finance, and mathematics courses. BBA students develop skills in sales, marketing, and management.
Why Get a Bachelor's Degree Online?
Online learning is an increasingly popular option for college students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 35% of all undergraduates took at least one distance education course in 2018.
Prospective students may worry that online degrees appear less impressive to employers than on-campus degrees. Though perceptions vary by company, many employers are simply more concerned with what school someone earned their degree from, rather than how they earned it. This makes it vital for learners to pursue their online bachelor's degree from an accredited, reputable institution.
According to a 2018 national survey of HR leaders conducted by Northeastern University, 61% of respondents agreed that online credentials were generally equivalent to or of higher quality than those earned in person.
As you can see, pursuing an online bachelor's degree can make a positive difference in your career. Studying online offers other benefits, too — namely flexibility and affordability.
A traditional college degree requires students to build their schedule around regular in-person meetings on campus. Many online bachelor's degrees offer much greater flexibility. In the commonly-used asynchronous learning format, students login to view virtual lectures and complete assignments on their own schedule. Course materials are available 24/7.
Online programs can also accommodate various pacing needs. Students who want to take fewer classes at a time can study part time. Students interested in graduating quickly can study full time. Those with transferable college credits may want to consider accelerated or degree-completion program options.
Choosing to earn a bachelor's degree online can save you a significant amount of money over the course of your college studies. Students who learn remotely don't need to worry about weekly commutes or a major relocation. Online learners also save money by avoiding campus-based fees and expenses like meal plans.
Some universities offer outright tuition discounts to online learners. Students from out of state may be charged resident tuition rates, for example.
Finally, the flexibility afforded by many online bachelor's degrees enables some students to retain their current jobs while studying. This steady income can dramatically reduce out-of-pocket costs and post-graduation debt.
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
The following sections offer a general guide to choosing, applying to, and completing a typical online bachelor's degree. Note that your exact experience may vary by school and program selection.
Choosing a Program
Choosing the right online bachelor's degree requires a bit of soul searching. Ideally, your degree should accommodate both your existing skills and your future career interests.
Because their choices are not limited by distance or location, prospective online students may need to sift through dozens of potential colleges and universities. Before applying, learners should carefully examine all of their options to find the right fit.
A few factors that may influence your selection of the right school include:
- Cost of attendance
- Academic reputation
- School size
- Availability of desired programs
- Services for online students
Most bachelor's programs require students to complete a similar 120-credit curriculum in order to graduate.
- Program Length
- Bachelor's programs typically take four years to complete when studying full time. Part-time students take longer. Learners with prior college credit or an associate degree may complete an accelerated degree completion program in 1-2 years.
- Bachelor's degrees require a combination of courses covering general education, major-specific, and elective topics. Regardless of major, all undergraduates take a general education core covering literature, writing, history, math, and science. Students' major core and electives vary by program and personal interests.
- Because most undergraduates spend much of their first two years focused on general education courses, a major can be declared anytime before the end of their sophomore year. Depending on school selection and career goals, learners may opt for a double major or dual-degree program. Many universities offer concentration tracks within a major.
- In-Person Requirements
- Some online bachelor's degrees require in-person commitments for laboratory courses, clinical experiences, internships, and/or portfolio development. These components may take place on campus or at a site in the student's local area.
Accreditation for Distance Education
Accreditation is a form of quality assurance that determines whether a school's academics meet certain rigorous standards. In addition to determining the value of your education, accreditation can impact your ability to transfer credits and obtain financial aid.
You can search for accredited online institutions via the Distance Education Accrediting Commission directory.
Bachelor's programs commonly start each fall. You should plan to apply between summer and fall of the year before you plan to enroll. Schools often begin sending out acceptance letters in December. Alternatively, some online schools offer rolling admissions, meaning you can apply at any time throughout the year.
Over 900 colleges use the Common App. This standardized application makes it easy to submit information to multiple schools.
Typical admission requirements for a bachelor's degree include:
- High school diploma or GED certificate
- Completion of a satisfactory college preparatory curriculum
- Minimum high school GPA
- ACT or SAT scores
- Supplemental documentation (essays, letters of recommendation, etc.)
How Much Will an Online Bachelor's Degree Cost?
Undergraduate tuition costs vary by school type. According to the NCES data for 2017-2018, annual tuition for public institutions cost $17,797 while annual tuition for private institutions cost $46,014.
Private schools charge all students the same tuition rates regardless of state residency. Public universities typically charge more for out-of-state students, but many schools offer significant discounts if nonresident learners enroll online. This means you may be able to pay in-state rates no matter where you live.
Whether you earn your bachelor's degree online or on campus, higher education often requires a large financial investment. Various types of financial aid can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Students should prioritize grants and scholarships, as these forms of aid do not require repayment after graduation. Grants and scholarships may be awarded based on merit and/or financial need.
Many students also take out loans to cover their education costs. Loans require repayment, though policies regarding repayment and interest accrual can vary greatly from one lender to another.
Learn more about your aid options by visiting the links below.
Salary and Career Outlook
Completing an online bachelor's degree can make a significant impact on your earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bachelor's degree-holders earned a median salary of $77,920 in 2020. That same year, high school graduates earned a median salary of just $39,070.
Some careers obtainable with a bachelor's can even lead to a six-figure income. The BLS lists the following median salaries for several popular business, technology, and engineering jobs:
Beyond these higher-income fields, a bachelor's degree can satisfy entry-level requirements for careers in other rewarding areas like art, education, communications and media, healthcare, and science. For career advancement, graduates may consider pursuing additional education like a second bachelor's, graduate certificate, or master's degree.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get a bachelor's degree online?
Schools offer remote learning options designed to accommodate a variety of schedules and career interests. Accredited online bachelor's degrees are available in liberal arts, science, and technical disciplines.
How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree online?
When studying full time, an undergraduate student typically takes four years to complete a bachelor's degree online. Part-time learners take longer, while students with prior transfer credits often graduate more quickly.
How much does it cost to get an online bachelor's degree?
According to NCES data for 2017-2018, annual tuition for public institutions cost $17,797 and annual tuition for private institutions cost $46,014. Exact out-of-pocket cost varies by school, program, state of residency, and financial aid.
Are online bachelor degree programs accredited?
Some online schools called "diploma mills" offer illegitimate degrees for a fee. Before applying to any online bachelor's program, make sure the institution offering the program holds current, reputable regional or national accreditation.
Feature Image: martin-dm / E+ / GettyImages
Helping you prepare and gain the most out of your educational experience.