Choosing a career is one thing; finding out which academic path will get you there is another. It doesn’t have to be difficult though; there are many resources available to help you out, including your school’s career advisor and this guide.
If you are considering completing a four-year bachelor’s degree program after earning your high school diploma, whether you are looking for a 100% on-campus program or if you want online options for flexible learning or a 100% online, distance learning program, this article can help you determine which type is right for you. You will find loads of information in this guide to help you learn about the types of bachelor degrees available to students, how much they cost, the fields of study (arts and sciences) and what kind of jobs you can get with each major, the number of years to complete a program, how to decide between popular colleges and universities, on-campus programs and online degrees, degree completion programs, and more.
What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
A bachelor’s degree, also known as baccalaureate degree, is an undergraduate degree earned by completing a three- to seven-year course of study at a college or university, which you can either attend online, on campus, or in a combination both (hybrid programs). Undergraduate students enrolled in bachelor's programs and bachelor's degree holders have some of the best opportunities when it comes time to look for an internship or job.
In addition, a bachelor degrees is a step above an associate degree, which takes two years to complete, and a steppingstone to even higher-level studies and earning a graduate degree such as a professional degree, master’s degree, or doctorate. Some of the courses that students will study when pursuing a bachelor’s degree are liberal arts, general education, and electives that change depending on your major or the concentration you select. Online learners will attend online lectures, participate in discussion boards, and complete the same material in their online degrees that on-campus undergraduate programs require. The accessibility to a major may shift depending where you are in the United States, as might admission standards (though online programs require the same admission items as on-campus programs) and what is expected of students while they are in school completing their bachelor's degree programs. The number of online courses or online programs also changes from school to school. Some schools might offer degree completion programs, while others only offer basic bachelor's programs in nursing education, elementary education, information technology, business data analytics, criminal justice, and more. Generally, financial aid offerings are the same for on-campus and online learners.
Available full-time, online college degree programs provide studies in nearly any major you can think of, including:
- Liberal Arts
- Arts History
- Business including Business Analytics, Human Resources, Project Management, Business Administration, Etc.
- Business Management
- Engineering including Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Etc.
- Health Sciences including Nursing,
- Environmental Science
What Online Bachelor's College Major Should You Choose?
The main reason for choosing bachelor’s programs is that many employers require one. However, even if an employer doesn’t require it, if there is competition for a position, most will choose an applicant holding a bachelor’s degree over one who holds an associate's, whether they earned their bachelor's degree online or not.
There are many careers that require a bachelor’s degree and many bachelor’s degree types that can open the doors to numerous career possibilities, as obtaining your online bachelor’s degree will arm you with the knowledge and skills to take on numerous occupations.
Bachelor's degrees are the most popular of all online degree types, by far. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) calculates that between 2015 and 2016, around 1.9 million students earned a bachelor's degree, which is a 32% increase from 2005. Finding the right online bachelor's degree can help online learners save a ton on their bachelor's degree cost, even if financial aid can't provide as much help as you'd like.There are several different types of online degrees to choose from in various industries that can help to make you an expert in specific areas. In addition, having an online bachelor’s degree shows a lot about your character, in that you put your education first and went the extra mile to earn a rewarding degree and, if you have completed one of these programs, you'll possess valuable skills and knowledge that will appeal to many employers. Some employers don’t care what your degree is in, they just need intelligent people willing to do the work and go the extra mile. Having an online bachelor’s degree will appeal to all employers. But the best online bachelor's degree to earn is the one that will help you get into the career you want, whether that's a degree in criminal justice or a science degree.
Types of Online Bachelor Degrees
There are multiple types of online bachelor degrees that students can earn to qualify for a wide array of jobs. The following are some of the online bachelor degree types available:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
- Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
Why get an Online Bachelor’s Degree vs an Associate’s Degree?
There are many good reasons why getting an online bachelor’s degree is better than obtaining an online associate degree; here are five of them:
- An employer will almost always choose an applicant who holds an online bachelor’s degree over one that holds an online associate degree when there is competition for a position.
- During your studies, you will gain much more knowledge and skills with an online bachelor’s degree course than with an associate’s.
- With an online bachelor’s you can get right into a master’s, with an associate’s, you are years away.
- Those who hold an online bachelor’s degree hold more respect than those who hold an online associate degree.
- Online Bachelor’s degree holders are more likely to earn higher wages than online associate degree holders.
Typical Online Degree Requirements
To earn an online bachelor’s degree, colleges and universities may require from 120 to 180 college credits or semester hours, but the majority only require 120 credits, which you can earn by completing around 40 college classes. Therefore, it should take full-time students around four years to earn an online bachelor’s degree. However, if you already received your online associate degree, most colleges will allow you to transfer those 60 credits towards earning your bachelor’s degree, leaving you with only 60 more hours of study to go that should take around two years.
Please note, in order to obtain a four-year online bachelor’s degree, most colleges require that you study with them for at least half the time, or two years.
There are also accelerated online bachelor’s degree programs available that compress the same traditional course into shorter sessions, meaning you would have to work much faster to complete the program but you would earn your degree quicker than in the average college program.
What are some of the most popular online bachelor degrees?
According to the NCES, Over half of the 1.9 million bachelor's degrees awarded in 2015 to 2016, were concentrated in the following six areas:
- Business - 372,000 degrees
- Health Professions (Nursing) - 229,000 degrees
- Social Sciences & History - 161,000 degrees
- Psychology - 117,000 degrees
- Biology & Biomedical Sciences - 114,000 degrees
- Engineering - 107,000 degrees
The following online bachelor's degree fields of study accounted for the next highest level of percentages with 5% each:
- Visual & Performing Arts - 93,000 degrees
- Journalism, Communication, and Related - 92,600 degrees
- Education - 87,200 degrees
Thus, overall, 18% of the bachelor's degrees were awarded in STEM fields that totaled 355,000.
How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s Program?
Choosing an online bachelor’s degree program is not only the most important decision of your career but can also be the hardest one as well. This is mainly due to the fact that this decision will likely affect the rest of your career. Those who are fortunate enough to know what they want early in life don’t have this burden. However, you’re not alone if you’re feeling the pressure. Nearly 50% of students who are undecided also feel stressed about the decision. Still, even those who choose a major early may be part of the estimated 75% who change their major before graduating. Don’t let this scare you out of a rewarding career. It is ok to change your mind later if you feel you made the wrong choice.
The key is choosing an occupation that you will enjoy, despite any apparent lack in salary at the outset. Rather than basing your selection just on potential earnings, filling someone’s shoes, or taking on a challenge just to prove that you can do it, you should decide based on your own future happiness and satisfaction with the work you will spend so much time on. Making the right choice can mean the difference between staring at the clock anxiously waiting to go home every day or maintaining a healthy life/work balance that will help you enjoy both more.
What is an Online Bachelor of Arts Degree?
An online Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is an undergraduate program that can be completed in a number of sciences, liberal arts, or both.
- Average Cost to Get - $10,000 to $35,000
- Time to Completion - 4 years (Timeframes are trending toward a 5-6 year completion.)
- Public Relations Executive
- Customer Care Executive
- HR Executive
What is an Online Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree?
An Online Bachelor of Science (BS) degree focuses on science, mathematics, or technology degrees such as engineering, computer science, health sciences, and more.
- Average Cost to Get - $10,000 to $35,000
- Time to Completion - 3 to 5 years
- Computer Science
- Data Science
- Software Developer
- Software Engineer
What is an Online Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree?
A Online Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree is a professional education in performing or visual arts. These degrees tend to avoid the hard sciences all together except for general education courses and instead focus on music, art, and literature.
- Average Cost to Get - $40,000
- Time to Completion - 4 years
- Art and Design Studio
- Studio Critique
- History of Art
- Critical Theory in Art
- Global Art
- Community Arts Worker
- Higher Education Lecturer
- Exhibition Designer
- Fine Artist
- Graphic Designer
What is an Online Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Degree?
The Online Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree contains advanced technical training such as military training, in sciences and liberal arts. It was specifically designed for those who have accumulated college credits but never used them.
- Average Cost to Get - $52,000
- Time to Completion - 4 years
- Introduction to Applied Sciences
- Communication in Applied Sciences
- Business Foundations
- Creating a Safety Culture
- Foundations of Leadership
- Applied Sciences Capstone
- Creating Value with People
- Radiation Therapist
- Nuclear Technician
- Dental Hygienist
- Web Developer
- Air Traffic Controller
What is an Online Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree?
Originating in England, the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree is the degree you will have to earn in order to become an attorney.
- Average Cost to Get - $65,400
- Time to Completion - 3 or 4 years
- European Legal History
- Constitutional Law
- Civil and private laws
- Writing Skills
- Criminal Law
- Legal Secretary
- Licensed Conveyancer
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree?
An online bachelor’s degree is one of the most flexible educational options available to anyone looking to gain a foundation for a career. While there are options for online certificates, trade school, and associate degrees, many of these won’t give you access to future education or many of the huge variety of industries or areas of interest that are available to those with bachelor’s degrees.
An online bachelor’s degree will let you get into the work force right away, get you an internship at your dream job, or prepare you to earn a master’s or PhD. The options you can choose between for your major are practically endless. You could choose business, management, architecture, dance, fine art, marketing, marine or human biology, journalism or communication, psychology or social sciences, or many, many others.
An online bachelor’s degree is a four-year education that sets you on your future path. You can earn an online associate degree first if you want to save some money, as this can also be a very expensive option. However, with bachelor’s becoming more important and more expensive, the options to lower your educational costs have also increased. Federal, state, and school-specific scholarships and loans are available, as well as those meant for students who plan to go into specific careers. Associations and institutions also provide scholarships to minorities and the under-represented to try to improve their work force. No matter what degree you’re looking to achieve, you’ll have access to some financial help.
Most Popular Jobs and Careers for Online Bachelor’s Degrees
HR Executive $85,000
The executive director of human resources leads the human resource department for the company they work for. They have many responsibilities such as hiring, firing, and training staff; benefits plans, negotiating labor contracts; state and local law compliance; and more.
Customer Care Executive $67,800
Customer care executives handle customer inquiries, complaints, feedback, requests, and take care of any other issues they may have in a courteous, professional manner. They are there to keep the customers happy and satisfied with the products, services, and treatment obtained from their company.
Public Relations Executive $65,000
Public relations executives increase the value of brands while creating and maintaining relationships with their company’s clients. Their job involves: creating public relations programs, generating new accounts, protecting and maintaining existing accounts, proofreading materials to ensure company values are consistent, and engaging in social media platforms.
Completing an online bachelor's degree program is often a prerequisite for a job as a paralegal. However, while there are online associate and even bachelor's degree programs in Paralegal or Pre-Law, a student with a strong humanities background can often find a job with a law firm. Paralegals often spend their time doing a lot of writing and researching, though some also help with depositions and investigations.
Technical Writer $60,600
These writers can benefit tremendously from a bachelor's degree program. Some technical writers focus their knowledge with a major such as computer science or engineering and then take electives beyond their major that help hone their writing skill.
Bachelor's degree programs in journalism, communications, or English can help start a career as an editor. Editors can work for newspapers, magazines, or as independent contractors who help independent writers and publishers hone their manuscripts. While some editors tend to work with nonfiction, journalistic content, others edit fiction pieces.
Many reporters hone their skills while working for their college newspapers. Journalism majors also study editing, layout, and other forms of written communication. In their daily work, journalists seek out stories for their editors. Some may cover features while others might doggedly chase down politicians to get a quote or full interview. Journalists also work as authors and produce nonfiction books.
Staffing Coordinator $40,400
These professionals use their human resources or public administration undergraduate degrees to help companies fill their staffing needs. Some work for independent staffing agencies but many are employed in-house for larger manufacturing operations or even customer service concerns.
Risk managers $87,600
A risk manager often graduates from a college or university with a major in business management or accounting and is usually employed by a business to help provide them or other companies with risk consulting services that focus on material or financial risks. Some of their job duties may include: random employee checks to ensure they are following safety rules, carrying out audits, recommending safety policy changes for employee or consumer concerns, and more.
Software engineer $86,400
Software engineers usually graduate from a university with a Bachelor of Science (BS) undergraduate degree in the field of computer science or software engineering specifically. They work with designers, coders, and programmers to create, develop, alter, and enhance software and other programs. They will create designs using flowcharts and documents to illustrate the process to the designers, then hand the job over to the developers, which includes coders and programmers, to complete the project. They may need to earn a certificate in order to work with specific programs.
Service consultant $73,100
Service consultants assist their employers with various business duties. Although they don’t make decisions pertaining to the management of the business, they do analyze and advise management on what needs to be done in order to increase profits or be more successful.
A four-year bachelor degree with studies in a major such as early childhood education or K-12 education is mandatory for public school teachers, and private schools are far less likely to hire a teacher who hasn't completed a four-year degree program. Teachers must also pass other state-specific requirements including a background check, special examinations, and more. Check with your state board of education for their specific requirements.
Business Management -
Completing an on-campus or even an online bachelor degree program (bachelor of science or bachelor of arts) in a business management major is often enough to land a position in a business management training program with many corporations. A degree in management can also help graduates achieve a higher score on the GMAT and then move on to a master's degree or MBA when the time is right.
Marketing Executive $59,100
After graduating from a bachelors degree program in four years, it's far easier for students to land a job with a top marketing firm. A marketing major may also work on in-house marketing teams. A bachelor's degree from a reputable university will also help one secure enrollment with a top MBA program.
Financial Analyst $61,300
This is often an entry-level position for the investment banking world that you can earn after completing pertinent bachelor's degree programs. After one completes two years in an analyst position, they can take their bonus check and move on to complete an MBA in a similar major, such as business management. This job is very demanding, but it will result in great things for those who work hard.
Most states require an undergraduate degree program be completed for students to take the CPA examination and/or earn state licensure. Accountants work with an individual or business on tax matters, internal audits, and day-to-day operations, such as accounts payable and receivable. A degree that takes four years to complete can also help launch a career with the IRS.
Insurance underwriters assess risk for their companies so that the premiums and deductibles are set at an appropriate rate. Underwriters also assess risk and work for the mortgage industry, equity markets, and some debt security trading.
Project Manager $74,500
Every consulting firm needs project managers to ensure that their teams remain on track, are well-equipped, and that their logistical needs are met. Project managers also coordinate with the clients to help create a budget, determine the scope of the work, and manage the project's finances to ensure that it meets fiscal goals.
Legal secretary $55,300
Legal secretaries perform secretarial duties and provide legal support and services for attorneys at courts and law firms. Some of their main responsibilities are to file briefs, motions, pleadings, and memorandums while also typing and editing documents and communicating with clients and other legal parties.
Attorneys advise clients of their legal rights according to the law. They can also represent them in court by arguing their case during the trial. If they are arguing in defense of their client, they attempt to convince the judge and jury (if one is present) in a court of law that their client is not responsible, either criminally or civilly, of the charges against them.
Detectives typically work with the police. They can either focus on homicides or other specific types of crime. These positions are more common in large cities than small ones, as the budget and need for specialized detectives differs with population size. They may also be hired by insurance companies to determine settlements.
Bachelor’s Salaries by Career
|Occupation||Entry-Level Median Annual Salary||Mid-Career Median Annual Salary||Late-Career Median Annual Salary|
|Customer Care Specialist||$39,500||$42,300||$45,600|
|Public Relations Manager||$44,500||$72,300||$75,900|
Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)
Online Vs On-Campus?
In the past, most online degree programs were often administered by degree mills which were not accredited. Therefore, for years, students were skeptical and looked past the invitations of online schools. However, today, online college programs are encouraged as they provide a great alternative to attending a traditional on-campus program. Thus, more and more students are currently taking advantage of this convenient way to learn online. Unfortunately, even if you go the online route, you may still have to visit the college from time to time, to take certain exams or attend hands-on training internships. Hence, there are students who prefer doing it the old-fashioned way and still attend the campus while some go both ways and study half online and a half on campus which is known as “blended learning” or “hybrid” programs.
How long does it take?
Earning an online bachelor’s degree on campus will require 120 college credits. If you have already received your associate’s degree, you can most likely transfer those 60 credits, leaving you with a balance of 60 credit hours. Full-time study will usually mean taking 15 credit-hours per semester, meaning it should take you 4 years altogether to complete your degree. However, if you take less than 15 credits or attend part-time you may find yourself in school for a fifth year. Or you can complete an online program with the same courses but at a faster pace. How fast you earn your degree will depend on how much time you are willing to commit to your studies. This is one of the major advantages of attending college online: you can often complete the coursework as fast or as slow as you want to.
How much does an online bachelor’s degree cost?
Although the cost of an online bachelor’s degree can vary between online schools, they are usually cheaper than attending on campus when you factor in the cost of living on campus, travel expenses, and more. In addition, online schools give you a number of convenient payment options, making it easier to pay for your degree; such as the option to pay as you go and make monthly payments that are interest-free, or direct billing that isn’t due until after the first half of the semester. Technology fees are usually included in the price; however, you may incur traveling expenses for internships and labs, along with lab fees, assessment of the level of course placement, exam proctoring, books, and more, but you will also usually pay these fees and more for traditional programs.
No matter which way you decide to earn your degree, it will all pay off in the end. According to the Georgetown Education Center, over a lifetime a bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million.
Does the school have the college major(s) you’re considering?
The college and major you choose is very important to your education plan since it determines what degree you will graduate with, what you will specialize in, and the employment opportunities you will qualify for after graduation.
Unfortunately, some students don’t declare a major until their sophomore year and, therefore, miss out on the various programs most colleges provide that are only available to those with specific majors. Therefore, it is important to at least have some idea’s in mind when you are shopping around for possible colleges to attend.
This is why they offer many programs in high school to help you know what you want to major in before starting college.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
One thing you don’t want to do while studying in college is take courses that you don’t need. This can cost you valuable time that you could have spent on earning the credits needed to get your degree, not to mention all the money you will waste on paying for the extra courses.
Yet, it happens often where a four-year course gets extended to 5 or even 6 years. This is a problem that many students face, and the main reason is that students take unnecessary classes. If you don’t declare a major early on or you want to try out a few to make a final decision, this is practically unavoidable. However, a good college will have advisors and counselors to help you get past this and stay on the right track so that you will only take the courses that count towards earning your degree. To find out if the college you are considering has a good career planning program, do some research on how many students actually graduate on time and if you notice that the majority of students go over the four years expected to earn their degree, you might want to keep searching.
Other things that may prevent students from graduating on time are changes in their bachelor college majors, withdrawing from, switching, or skipping classes, problems with credit transfers, and more.
What kind of accreditation does the online program hold? How is it regarded?
One of the most important facets of your education is the accreditor of the school or college you attend and earn your degree from. Although rare, there are colleges that can be misleading about their accreditors, which is why you should include checking accreditors for each school you are considering for enrollment. Keep in mind that the value of your degree is only as good as the accreditor of the college that awarded it to you.
Amount: $50,000 (To 20 recipients)
Deadline: December 31
This scholarship program consists of a team of educators with more than 30 years’ experience assisting minority students to earn their high school diploma and start college.
- Must be a high school senior soon to graduate
- Have at least a 2.5 GPA and SAT: 980/ACT: 19 (math & verbal)
- Must commit to attending all Prep sessions of 5 Strong College (bi-monthly)
- Must live in the Atlanta area that includes DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, and Clayton Counties
Amount: Varies (10 Awards)
Deadline: December 15
The McConnell scholarship program awards 10 students residing in Kentucky, with outstanding leaders who are committed to leadership, scholarship, and service principles
- Minor at least in political science
- Must have graduated from a Kentucky high school
- Must reside in Kentucky
- Have at least a 3.5 GPA
Colorado Garden Show Scholarships
Amount: Full tuition and fees/books
Deadline: March 15
This scholarship program is made possible by the collected proceeds from the Colorado Fall Home Show and the Colorado Garden & Home Show to help provide financial aid to those enrolled in a horticulture or related program at Colorado College or University.
- Each award has its own requirements
Starbucks College Achievement Plan
Amount: Full Tuition
In connection with Arizona State University, Starbucks is offering a full tuition reimbursement program for students to pursue a degree of their choice in any area.
Must be a Starbucks employee enrolled in an online program offered by Arizona State University looking to obtain your first bachelor’s degree.
SOCAP International is a member-driven association that was founded in 1973. This group of managers, directors, specialists, and presidents represents a collaborative, dynamic community of top experts in customer-care who are committed to the engagement and advancement of customer care at all business levels.
Software Engineering, IEEE Computer Society Technical Council
The IEEE Computer Society Technical Council on Software Engineering (TCSE), works to improve software quality by increasing expert knowledge of tools, techniques, and empirical data while encouraging that principles and engineering methods be applied to the designing of computer software. TCSE cosponsors conferences and a variety of informal workshops each year, as well as designs and creates proposals to set standards for software engineering.
American Bar Association (ABA)
With over 400,000 members, the ABA is the biggest professional, voluntary association in the world. They provide continuing legal education, programs to help judges and lawyers with their work, law school accreditation, initiatives that will improve the legal system to benefit everyone, public information about the law, and more.
Choosing an Online Accredited College
Choosing a college that is accredited by a reputable organization is vital to the success of your career. When a college is accredited by a highly reputable association, it adds value to your degree that some employers recognize and may offer you higher wages. Therefore, you should check the accreditors of every college you are considering attending before applying.
There are many ways to find out if a college is accredited:
- Ask the college who their accreditor is
- A college that is not accredited cannot offer financial aid to students
- Look up the college in The U.S. Department of Education’s database
- Search the Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP)
- Check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database
Graduates: Finding Your Career
Most colleges and universities offer job placement assistance programs to help you find a job even before earning your degree. However, if your school’s job placement program doesn’t seem too promising there are other options to look into.
The Pathways program,provided by the United States Government, offers employment opportunities and federal internships for current college students, recent graduates, and for those who hold advanced degrees.
The U.S. State Department ‘Careers Representing America’ provides a “one-year career development program” for students who recently graduated a vocational or trade school, community college, university, or other.
You can also apply at an online job site specifically for recent college graduates
- Campus Career Center
- After College
Frequently Asked Questions
How will a bachelor’s degree help me?
A bachelor’s degree can help you in a myriad of ways. For one, no matter what you earn your degree in, it will make it easier for you to find a job. Even if it’s only a temp job, employers look for employees with degrees, no matter what the degree covers. It will also help you earn more in the work force. Those same employers who are looking for college graduates are willing to pay those graduates more in order to maintain an educated workforce.
Can I complete this degree 100% online?
This depends on the bachelor’s degree you choose. While there are some degrees that you cannot complete entirely online such as nursing education, which requires in-person clinical hours, and teacher education, which requires that you teach a class in person for a semester, there are plenty of degrees that you can complete entirely online. For example, most computer science learning happens in a virtual environment, so it is particularly easy to transfer to an online learning format. The same can be said for most humanities and liberal arts learning such as social sciences, English and literature, history, and more.
Is an online degree just as good as an in-person degree?
No matter what you’ve heard, an online degree is nearly always considered just as good as an in-person degree. In fact, student outcomes from both degree types are nearly equal. The only thing you really need to look out for is degree mills, which don’t offer a quality learning experience. You can steer clear of these by paying attention to accreditation. Any school worth attending will be accredited by a regional accrediting agency approved by CHEA and might have programmatic accreditation for some of it’s degree programs as well.
How much do bachelor’s degree holders make?
According to Payscale.com, bachelor’s degree holders make an average of around $65,000/year. Of course, this is an average, so you should take that into account. How much you make with this degree will depend on the career you enter, how much experience you have, other skills and certifications, and more. A graphic designer earns between $34k and $70k, while a software engineer can earn between $64k and $131k. But, if you consider that an associate degree earns graduates around $56,000/year on average, a bachelor’s definitely ups the ante.