What is a Bachelor's Degree?

A bachelor's degree is the highest level of undergraduate degree and can typically be completed in approximately four years, depending on the institution. Bachelor's degrees cover a particular discipline of your choosing and include coursework consisting of a mixture of required general education courses, program-specific courses and electives. In considering various career paths and the educational requirements for each, you may have been asking: What is a bachelor’s degree? We have the answers. On this page we’ll cover the different types of bachelor’s degrees, how a bachelor’s degree differs from other academic degrees, the benefits of a bachelor’s degree and the typical prerequisites for enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program.  

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Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

Awarded in majors related to business, technology, healthcare, liberal arts and more, bachelor’s degrees can be conferred in many different fields of study. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 2 million of them were conferred by postsecondary institutions in the United States in the 2019-2020 academic year, in more than 30 fields of study ranging from agricultural and natural resources to visual and performing arts.

But despite this broad range of academic pursuits, there are only 3 common types of bachelor’s degrees. In most cases, you’ll choose a major (the primary subject focus of your degree) and that will determine your degree type.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Coursework for the BA degree tends to focus on critical thinking, communication and holistic learning. Numerous BA majors fall under the academic areas of humanities, social sciences and communications, journalism or media.

Bachelor of Science (BS)

BS degree coursework often focuses on logic, reasoning and quantitative skills, with more courses in subjects related to math, science and technology. The academic areas of BS majors include natural sciences, healthcare, mathematics and technology and engineering.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

To earn the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree, students learn about the history, skills, methodology and industries associated with the artistic field of their choice. BFA degree majors include visual and performing arts, film and writing.

 

When mapping out your academic plan, the type of bachelor’s degree you pursue – BA, BS or BFA – is often not as critical as you might think. What’s more important is that you choose the major that aligns with your personal and professional goals. If you’re struggling to find the right fit, speaking to a college admissions representative can be helpful here.

How is a Bachelor's Degree Different from Other Degrees?

A bachelor's degree differs from other degrees in a few ways. Bachelor’s and associate degrees are both undergraduate degrees that help you gain a deeper understanding of a particular subject. An associate degree, however, usually only requires two years of study and is more foundational. A bachelor's degree is the highest degree you can earn at the undergraduate level.

A bachelor's degree is also different from a master's degree or doctorate, which are both graduate degrees. To pursue a master's degree, you must first successfully complete a bachelor's degree.

Benefits of a Bachelor's Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree can afford several potential advantages that would not likely be available to you without earning a degree. Some of these may include improved employment opportunities, the possibility of higher pay and progress toward the ability to pursue a graduate degree, such as a master’s degree. 

Improved Employment Opportunities

Depending on the role, earning a bachelor’s degree may help you pursue more opportunities in the workforce. If you look at postings for jobs today, you’ll see many list a bachelor’s degree as a minimum education requirement. Still, with this kind of degree on your resume, you may find you have a greater chance of catching a recruiter’s eye. 

Possibility of Higher Pay

Positions requiring a bachelor’s degree typically pay more than those requiring only a high school education. Employment statistics confirm that individuals who’ve earned a bachelor’s degree tend to earn a higher income and are less likely to be unemployed than those with only a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers aged 25 and over with only a high school diploma had lower median weekly earnings and an unemployment rate of 6.2%, while individuals with a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of nearly 65% higher on average,  and an unemployment rate of only 3.5% in 2021.

Progress Toward a Graduate Degree

To further increase their earning and career advancement potential in a competitive job market, some students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree ultimately decide to pursue a master’s degree. Master’s degree program entrance requirements will vary depending on the school and the specific area of study, but one prerequisite is universal – the completion of a bachelor’s in a relevant subject.

Prerequisites for a Bachelor’s Degree

To enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, most schools have basic minimum requirements that you must meet. Many of these are based on standardized benchmarks like test scores and grade point averages. Here are some typical requirements:

  • GPA: Many programs will require you to have earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) in high school, such as a 2.5 or 3.0.
  • GED or high school diploma: You will have to show that you’ve completed a high school-level education, meaning you’ve graduated with a diploma, earned a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) or passed the HiSet (High School Equivalency Test), indicating that you have the same skills and knowledge as a high school graduate.
  • Standardized test scores: Tests like the SAT and ACT are typically taken by junior or senior-year high school students and have long been a staple of the college application process. Schools set their minimum scores at different levels, depending on the level of selectivity in their admissions policies.
  • Recommendations and essays: Letters of recommendation from high school teachers or others who can speak to your positive qualities are sometimes required. The personal essay, in which you tell your story and indicate why you’re interested in enrolling in a particular program, has also become a common accompaniment to most college applications. 

Bachelor's Degree FAQs


Is a bachelor's degree worth it?

We think so! The time and money spent earning your degree can be a wise investment in your future. Having a bachelor's degree on your resume might allow you to consider a wider range of job opportunities, since certain opportunities require at least this level of education.


Is it hard to earn a bachelor's degree?

Different people might have different opinions on whether earning a bachelor's degree is challenging or not. The experience of earning a bachelor's degree depends on a variety of factors, but students who study regularly and put themselves in a position to succeed often find earning a bachelor's degree to be very manageable.

Beyond your study habits, picking a major that genuinely interests you can help make a bachelor's degree program more enjoyable.


Are bachelor's degrees expensive?

The cost of a bachelor's degree can vary based on the program and school you choose. Ask if you may qualify for financial aid or scholarships that can help you manage your tuition costs. You may also be able to reduce the number of courses needed by applying any qualifying transfer credits you’ve earned at previous institutions. For more information on the cost of a bachelor's degree at DeVry, visit our Tuition Assistance and Financial Aid page.


Can you earn a bachelor's degree online?

You can absolutely earn a bachelor's degree online. At DeVry, we've offered online education options for more than 20 years and provide students with all the resources they need to complete their bachelor's degree programs. If you want to know more about what a bachelor's degree is and get a better sense of the benefits they provide, take some time to explore our online bachelor's degree programs.