What Is a Bachelor Degree?

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On the path to educational, professional, and personal success, college is considered by many to be an essential investment.

College offers unique opportunities for academic achievement and today’s degrees are more career and goal-specific than those in the past. Since a college education provides the opportunity to attain several different types of academic degrees, it is a student’s responsibility to choose the program which best suits his or her financial situation, long term aspirations, and future employment options

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Many students elect to pursue a bachelor degree to do just that. A bachelor degree typically is a 4-year degree within an area of academic study. Some academic studies in the United States, like certain engineering degrees, may take up to five years to complete. However, most bachelor degree holders attained their degree within eight semesters, the equivalent of four academic years.

Colleges that provide a bachelor degree (alongside other degree programs) are called baccalaureate colleges. These colleges house different academic majors within departments that hire professors and graduate assistants to teach bachelor degree students in a particular field. Most contemporary colleges will include academic programs in departments focused on business, the social sciences, the humanities, the fine and performing arts, engineering, the natural sciences, computer and information technology, nursing, and many other departments. Bachelor degree students declare the major they want to study, English for example, and are then asked to take a specific number of classes in English defined by the English department.

At the same time, the college itself will require the student to take classes in other fields. These courses are known as general education requirements. General education requirements help the student attain knowledge and proficiency in different disciplines outside their major. Baccalaureate colleges try to create a well-rounded student who is knowledgeable about general information while being proficient in their discipline. Taking the English major example, a student would not be intellectually benefited if they only took English courses for eight semesters. They will be required by their college to take classes in mathematics, history, the natural sciences, computer science, and others so the student can be professionally and intellectually competitive and proficient in the contemporary world.

It’s important to recognize that the bachelor degree is one of many different types of degrees that a student can achieve at the undergraduate level. The undergraduate level of U.S. education typically consists of academic programs that accept students who apply with only their high school education or equivalent as their educational background. This is in contrast with graduate school, which requires the applicant have an undergraduate education. However, not all students who are in an undergraduate program are in a bachelor program. One such example is associate programs. Associate programs are typically 2-year programs in an academic field. Like a bachelor degree program, an associate degree program will have major and general education requirements. However, the student only has a four-semester or two academic year timetable to complete these programs. Another type of undergraduate program is a certificate program. Certificate programs are less than two academic years, mainly because they are almost entirely focused on their specific program with no general education requirements. Certificate programs are usually pre-professional in nature, meaning they only provide specific training for a particular skill, like medical coding. Attaining a medical coding certificate would mean the student is proficient in medical coding. Most associate degree and certificate programs are offered at public community colleges and technical or career schools.

Although certificates themselves are immense benefits and help many students elevate to professional status, certificates are within a very limited number of fields. Associate degrees are found in numerous academic disciplines and can help students attain some professional skills. In addition, baccalaureate colleges will accept associate degree holders as transfer students. This is because the associate degree to a baccalaureate consists of relevant credits that equal half of the credits necessary for a bachelor degree. Although not every associate degree holder decides to go onto a baccalaureate college, many students do transfer from local community colleges to a baccalaureate college to supplement their associate degree by attaining a bachelor degree.

After a student attains their bachelor degree, they may enter the professional world or seek further academic achievement through graduate school. Graduate school is split between master degrees and 6-year programs, like doctorates, a law degree, and a medical school graduate degree. Master’s degrees are typically two-year programs that supplement a bachelor degree with specific research and professional skills that are needed in a specific job sector. A 6-year degree is a highly specialized degree where the student can become fully licensed to work in a particular profession. Some professions require a 6-year degree, like doctors and lawyers, while other professions find people with a master degree highly employable, like a professional with a business administration master degree.

For many people, a bachelor degree is the highest level of academic achievement. For others, a bachelor degree is a step toward a higher professional level, like a doctor or lawyer. Nevertheless, a bachelor degree is a coveted piece of academic achievement for students across the United States. It stands as the highest level of undergraduate education attainment and a key stepping stone toward professional success.


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