Online Bachelor's Degrees
A bachelor's degree is an undergraduate degree awarded by universities and colleges and is the highest-level undergraduate education a student can earn. The bachelor's is also the most common degree earned in the U.S., with more than 1.6 million presented to students from 2009 to 2010 (NCES.ed.gov, 2012), more than twice the amount of any other degrees.
The amount of time needed to fulfill bachelor's program requirements varies, depending on a number of factors, including the school and program of choice. Full-time students may find they are able to complete the program in about four years. Students who choose distance learning may gain the flexibility either to accelerate course work or slow its pace, and may be able to complete a full program in three to five years.
Why earn a bachelor's degree?
Students pursue a bachelor's degree for a variety of reasons. Some individuals pursue the degree for increased employment opportunities, as a bachelor's is an entry-level requirement for many professions. Others may earn a bachelor's degree as part of a path to a graduate degree, such as a master's.
Earning a bachelor's degree may also increase the potential for higher lifetime earnings. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with a bachelor's degree are projected to earn an additional $1 million during their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma (Census.gov, 2011).
What are the advantages of earning a bachelor's degree online?
Bachelor's degree programs are increasingly being taken online. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES.ed.gov, 2011), as of the 2007-2008 academic year, nearly three-quarters of a million students were taking their entire bachelor's curriculum through distance learning.
Online programs can provide students with flexible class schedules, allowing students to earn a degree on their own time. Distance learning may also help working professionals and busy parents earn their degree during off-hours. Additionally, students who are in remote locations are able to attend classes without the cost of relocation or travel to a campus setting.
Some online bachelor's programs, however, may require on-site attendance, as not every aspect of the program can be completed online. Early childhood educators, for instance, may be required to complete either practical work experience or some on-campus attendance prior to graduation. Make sure to contact your prospective school of choice to determine on-site requirements.
Types of Online Bachelor's Degrees
A bachelor's program can encompass both specific, "directed" education and a broader-based, "liberal" education. In addition to the specific field of study, students may also be required to fulfill general elective courses that may include postsecondary-level curriculum in writing, mathematics, and sciences. The particular kind of program varies from school to school, but is typically broken up into three types:
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) - B.S. degrees are awarded to students in the technical fields, such as software engineering and environmental sciences. Instruction typically focuses on foundational education in a specific field of study, and course work usually covers more technical aspects of math and sciences.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) - Sometimes referred to as the "liberal arts," a B.A. degree encompasses a greater variety of classes outside of the particular focus. B.A. majors cover more "classical" disciplines, such as history or literature, as well as the other humanities. Some B.A. degree programs may mandate students to complete a foreign language requirement.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) - These degrees are typically awarded to students majoring in the performing or visual arts, such as cinematography, visual communications or theater. B.F.A. programs can provide students with both the theoretical and the practical aspects of the fine arts. Some programs may require students to produce a play, movie or a piece of art either as a capstone project or as a practical example of the skills they have learned.
National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts: "Degrees conferred by sex and race, 2012, http://nces.ed/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts: "Learning at a distance," 2011, http://nces.ed/pubs2012/2012154.pdf
U.S. Census Bureau, "Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a Bachelor's Degree: 2011," October 2012, Tiffany Julian, http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acsbr11-04.pdf