In 2017, a report stated that six million jobs are now subject to what’s known as degree inflation. This means that more and more companies want applicants to have bachelor’s degrees, even for jobs that don’t call for this kind of education. While the private sector industry sorts out this challenge, employees face the fact that a bachelor’s degree is often a requirement for a good career. Bachelor’s degrees are expensive and take at least four years to complete. However, they open many doors to earning potential.
What is a bachelor’s degree?
A bachelor’s degree is a certification that represents four years of study at a college. Occasionally, programs allow this degree to be completed in three years. Some particularly rigorous programs take as long as five years to finish.
In the U.S., these programs usually involve several different classes, so students receive a well-rounded education in many subjects. At the same time, students earning bachelor’s degrees usually focus on one or two subjects, their major or majors, and receive a deep education in them.
While receiving a bachelor’s degree, you generally have a professor called a faculty advisor, who helps you direct your efforts so your education helps you advance your career, your pursuit of higher degrees or both.
A bachelor’s degree program requires that you learn many different subjects, because it is meant to prepare you for a variety of jobs, not just work in your chosen major. This is why bachelor’s programs often have math requirements, computer science requirements and other components that come in handy in the modern workforce.
When you complete the program, you either get a Bachelor of Arts (BA or AB) or Bachelor of Science (BS or SB). However, these degrees have other titles as well.
During your study, you might also enter an honors program, which demands high grades and an independent report – called a thesis – or some other project. These advanced programs allow you to graduate with a designation such as Magna Cum Laude, which means “with great honor,” or Summa Cum Laude, which means “with highest honor.”
The bachelor’s degree is difficult and time-consuming, but it allows you entry into a variety of lucrative and fulfilling careers.
Discover the Program Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree
Different schools have different requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Generally, however, you must complete 120 credit hours’ worth of classes. Classes are worth a number of credit hours based on how many hours a week spent in school. Thus, an hour-long class held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is worth three credits.
You often need to take up to five of these classes per semester for four years to reach the total. During your high school years, you might take advanced courses and tests – like the Advanced Placement (AP) exams – that give you college credit toward this degree.
In addition, schools usually require that you pick a major, which is a program of concentrated study in one subject, with advanced classes to give you deep learning. Schools have a mix of other class requirements to ensure that you get a basic education in a variety of important subjects.
Finally, most schools have some kind of minimum grade point average (GPA) that you have to maintain. Many schools require a 2.0 GPA, which is a C letter grade.
As you get closer to graduation, there may be a degree application you are required to file with your school’s registrar. There are specific deadlines for paperwork with your school. Have a conversation about this with your faculty advisor and make sure you know exactly what’s expected.
Find Out Where to Get a Bachelor’s Degree
Various colleges and universities have bachelor’s degree programs. More and more students every day receive their bachelor’s degrees through online programs as well. Some companies still favor bachelor’s degrees obtained from physically attending an institution. However, this is changing.
There is a greater recognition that students learn in different ways. In addition, many older universities now offer online courses along with their other programs, which is convincing more employers of the value of online learning.
There is still a preference for non-profit schools over profit-making programs. This stigma has been created by negative publicity and court cases involving for-profit programs. If you are considering a for-profit school, it’s wise to spend significant time assessing its reputation.
Find out as much as you can about the actual faculty members who teach there. Are they well-respected in their industry? Do they have advanced degrees and training? Search through a professional social network to find the companies you would like to work for someday. Do these companies have employees who have degrees from the college you’re considering? Can you find evidence that your prospective school has a relationship – joint projects, apprenticeships or shared conferences – with the companies you want to enter?
In addition, try to find groups of alumni from this school. Send out a few emails asking questions about where they found employment and the degree to which they use their education. You cannot do too much research on the institution from which you’ll get your bachelor’s degree. It represents a tremendous investment, so invest wisely.
Related article: Learn How to Choose the Right Master’s Degree
Learn How to Apply for a Bachelor’s Degree
The actual application process to enter a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university is pretty straightforward, although it can involve a great deal of paperwork. Schools generally require you to fill out a multi-page form that includes several personal essays.
Institutions also require transcripts from your high school and recommendations from peers who have worked with you in your studies or job and are not relatives.
Before you start, contact the admissions department of the school and get the form. Talk to someone at the institution who oversees the process so that you make sure you understand the deadlines and what forms are needed. Make this initial contact as soon as possible. Find out everything you have to do, read through the application to see what’s in it and then strategize.
When having a recommendation written for a competitive school, try to find the most accomplished person who knows you. However, you’re trying to sell your own unique qualities to the institution. Make sure you find someone who has worked closely with you, someone who knows your strengths and your personality, to write a letter as well. They may have to send the recommendations separately and will need all the right contact information for your school.
Ask for recommendations immediately after contacting your school for the forms. The initial conversation with the administrator and the conversations with those who will write recommendations should come early in the process.
After that, obtain the transcripts from your school. The last thing to do is actually fill out the form. If you have already read through it, you’ve probably already been thinking about how to write your essays. If you started early enough, you’ve given yourself plenty of time to avoid stress and mistakes.
Why Should You Choose to Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree?
As expensive as it is, this degree increases the chances of employers giving you job opportunities in your career that you wouldn’t get otherwise. But you shouldn’t just see a bachelor’s degree as a ticket to a good job.
Because this kind of degree involves extensive study, it gives you a chance to really broaden your education. You learn about your own field, of course, but you also learn about a great many other areas of study in science and the humanities.
A solid education in a bachelor’s program challenges the way you think about your life and about the world around you. It challenges you with books, arguments and concepts that are harder to grasp than anything you have dealt with before.
When you finish, you will be wiser and have more mental toughness and flexibility than you did before. This benefit doesn’t seem like it helps you get your next job immediately, but over the course of your career, it aids you in making decisions and grappling with challenges.
A bachelor’s degree isn’t everything. Plenty of employees in the workforce obtain associate’s degrees or certificates for the work they do. But a bachelor’s makes one extremely well-qualified for many of the most interesting and fulfilling jobs out in the marketplace.
It’s also the first step to acquiring higher degrees if students want to stay in academia. Getting a bachelor’s degree is hard, but it’s rewarding, fun and exciting.
Related Article: Learn How to Choose the Right Associate’s Degree