Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

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What is an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program?

An online bachelor’s degree is a postsecondary degree earned by students who complete an undergraduate program. Typically, bachelor programs take 4 years to complete. Bachelor’s degrees are also sometimes called baccalaureate degrees. Other names are ‘undergraduate degrees’, ‘4-year degrees’ and ‘college degrees’. Many students pursue a bachelor’s degree after high school. But others enroll in college after earning an associate degree. These are “bachelor completion programs” and may take 2 years of full-time study.

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree online is gaining in popularity. Recent NCES statistics show  5,954,121 students took some or all courses online. One reason is distance learning allows you to attend class from anywhere. You need a computer and a reliable internet connection. So many students pursue a bachelor’s degree while holding a job.

Types of Online Bachelor’s Degrees

The three most popular types of bachelor’s degrees are:

Bachelor’s of Arts Bachelor’s of ScienceBachelor of Fine Arts
A Bachelor of Arts degree covers majors from the humanities and liberal arts. Some examples are English, art history, education, modern languages and communication.A Bachelor of Science degree covers majors from STEM fields. This includes sciences, technology (computer science), engineering and mathematics (analytics).A BFA is a professional bachelor’s degree. The goal of a BFA program is for its graduates to go on to pursue professional careers in the creative arts world.
Many BA programs consist of fewer credits that tie to your major. In this way, they are expansive and offer some freedom to explore a wide range of topics.Many BS programs consist of a set of core credits that tie to your major. Rather than exploring subjects outside your major (BA), they target it.Some BFA degree majors include fine arts like photography, graphics, sculpture and painting. While others are in performing arts like dance, acting, theatre and music.

Popular Bachelor’s Degrees to Earn

At last check, 1,956,032 people earned bachelor’s degrees. While these degrees cover the spectrum of majors, there are a few bachelor’s degrees significantly more popular than others.

10 of the most popular bachelor’s degree majors are:

  1. Business Degrees
  2. Nursing Degrees 
  3. Biology Degrees
  4. Engineering Degrees
  5. Social Work Degrees
  6. Psychology Degrees
  7. Communications Degrees
  8. English Degrees
  9. Criminal Justice Degrees
  10. Liberal Arts Degrees

 Business Degrees

Business degrees cover the skills and knowledge one needs to succeed as a manager. Many programs cover lots of functional areas that ready a person to run day to day operations. Classes usually cover management theories, finance, accounting, human resources and marketing.

They might then apply concepts to a specific industry. Like sports management. Earning a business degree online may ready you to enter many fields. Students often pursue a concentration if they have a specific job in mind. Administration, entrepreneurship and data analytics are a few.

 Nursing Degrees

Nursing degrees at the college level usually lead to a BSN degree. There are also RN to BSN programs for students who have a diploma or associate degree. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is one way to prepare for the NCLEX-RN exams.

Passing the National Council Licensure Examination may enable you to get a state RN license. When searching for online nursing schools, you should check accreditation.

 Biology Degrees

Biology degrees study the science of living organisms. Classes may cover a wide range of processes and topics from natural sciences. Like ecology, evolution and sustainability.

Earning a biology degree may ready you to pursue many possible careers, such as,  Bioinformatics, forensic science, pharmaceutical research and food safety are a few.

Engineering Degrees

ABET-accredited engineering degrees cover a wide range of applications and industries. Four of the common branches are Mechanical, Chemical, Civil and Electrical engineering.

But there are many others too. Like aerospace engineering and management. Most cover innovation, emerging technologies, safety and specific topics in your chosen area. Earning an engineering degree online may ready you to become an engineer. Engineers craft solutions to real world problems. They do this with the help of math, science and technology.

Social Work Degrees

Social work degrees usually lead to a Bachelor of Science in Social Work. At this level, you may learn to help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.
A BSW degree is the most common need for entry-level administrative positions.

This includes direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. Earning your BSW online, you might complete your practice work in your community. Plus, if you study for your master’s you may be able to enter as an advanced standing student.

What are the requirements to earn a bachelor’s degree?

Many bachelor’s degree programs span about 40 courses. This equals about 120 semester hour credits. Other colleges use a quarter system rather than a semester system. For these, you’ll need to finish at least 180 quarter credits to earn an accredited bachelor’s degree.

The breakdown of these credits varies from one college to the next. Usually they include general education courses and topics for one’s major area of study. Apart from courses, many programs have internships. This is a hands-on component where students get credit for experience.

Bachelor’s Degree Admission Requirements

If you are seeking admission to a bachelor’s degree program, you need to meet the college’s criteria. These include standards such as:

  • Be a high school graduate
  • Have completed the General Educational Development (GED) test
  • If you are a transfer student, it should be from another accredited college or university
  • Be good academic standing (varies)
  • Meet the college’s GPA requirements

The GPA you need at each college varies. There are many accredited online colleges that accept low GPAs. Instead they might weigh life or military experience.

When applying to an online college, some schools ask for an application fee. Others waive the application fee which helps to cut costs. You might also need to submit things like:\

  • Essay or statement of goals
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
  • Test scores (SAT, ACT)

Worried about writing? Some online colleges skip the essay. These schools may want to interview you. Or take a deeper look at your outside school activities, test scores and references.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Online?

A full-time student may need four years to earn a bachelor’s degree online. Full-time status means taking 12 semester units per term in most schools.

But there are many ways to speed this process up or slow it down. These often tie into enrollment status:

  • Three-quarter time: 9-11 credit hours per semester
  • Half time: 6-8 credit hours per semester
  • Less than half time: 1-5 credit hours per semester

Statistics show that 60% of students take 6 years to earn their undergrad degree at a public college. Figures are 66% at private non-profit institutions and 21% at private for-profit schools.

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Are Online Bachelor’s Degrees Cheaper?

An online bachelor’s degree may be cheaper than if you attend school in person. Students who pursue their degree online may save on room and board as well as travel. Savings like this can bring the cost of attendance down. But there are a few other factors to inform yourself about. Hint – check the tuition page of each school and use your spreadsheet skills.

For example, does the college offer a flat tuition rate or different cost structures? Some colleges have two prices. One for residents, the other for out-of-state students. In general, rates for out-of-state tuition is higher. That stated, some online colleges want to attract students and do extend in-state tuition. Or, charge less per credit if you pursue your degree online.

Another thing to assess is whether the school provides credit for past learning or (military) experience. This goes for if you have an accredited associate degree. Any credits that transfer equal fewer you have to pay for.

The Value of an Accredited Online Bachelor’s Degree

Many students wonder whether it matters to enroll in an accredited online college. Understanding the value of accreditation can give you a clear sense of why it does. Both to employers and to other colleges you might apply to. An accredited college degree meets specific educational standards. These standards refer to one of two things. The institution (school) or the program (bachelor’s degree). Only accredited schools can have accredited programs though.

At the institutional level, accreditation may be regional or national. National accreditors often cover vocational colleges.

Regional accreditors are location specific. There are six regional accreditors that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes. Regional accreditors  are most common type of accreditation.

Earning your online bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited school may enable you to:

  • Transfer credits from an associate degree (if earned at another accredited school)
  • Apply to grad school
  • Apply for federal financial aid
  • Pursue post-degree licensure and/or certification
  • Enter a career field with a recognized degree

At the program level, accreditation measures other things. Like whether a program prepares students with the skills for their chosen career. This is important in fields where professionals need a license. Like education, engineering, nursing, and so on. It may also enhance the value of say, a bachelor’s degree in business. Accredited programs often have their finger on the pulse of ethics and trends. So, you won’t usually study out-of-date theory and the like.

Lifetime Earnings with a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree increases lifetime earnings. Having one, you are likely to earn more than people with an associate degree or high school diploma.

High School DiplomaAssociate DegreeBachelor’s Degree
Median Weekly Earnings$730$862$1,173
Median Annual Earnings$37,960$44,824$56,304
Median Lifetime Earnings (based on 45 years worked)$1,708,200$2,017,080$2,533,680

Source

Types of Financial Aid Available for Online Bachelor’s Students

Financial aid can come from federal, state, school, and private sources.

Data shows 85% of first-time, full-time undergraduates at 4-year colleges got financial aid. Some of the various routes students can use to fund their education are:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Loans

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs with a Bachelor’s Degree?

Bachelor’s degrees may result in significant career advancement and pay increases. It is the most common postsecondary education for all occupations.

A college degree is also the standard for entry into many professional careers. Many of these areas have much faster than average job growth and lucrative wages

In fact, you need a bachelor’s degree for about 21% of all jobs on the market today. This includes many computer, management, and engineering occupations. Also, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels.

Most of the top highest paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree paid average 2018 salaries of $80,000 plus. They are:

  1. Medical and health services managers
  2. Management analysts
  3. Software developers, applications
  4. Financial managers
  5. Registered nurses

1. Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers take care of the business side in health care. Settings include hospitals, nursing homes, and medical practices.

Their job is to plan, direct, and put into use policies and practices. This can include setting budgets and directing resources. Also, things like managing staff, projects and patient care services.

Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree. But master’s degrees are common and may lead to higher salaries.

Average Annual Salary: $99,730

Job Growth: 18% (Much faster than Average)

2. Management Analysts

Management analysts go by the name ‘management consultants’. As advisors, they suggest ways to make a business more profitable. So, they may problem solve, cut costs and confer with other managers.

Most management analysts have at least a bachelor’s degree. Common fields of study include business, operations, accounting, finance, marketing, and IT.

Many also pursue a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) credential. This may improve job prospects.

Others want to only assess the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service. These pros may want to land a job as a cost estimator.

Average Annual Salary: $105,590
Job Growth: 21% (Much Faster than Average)

3. Software Developers

Software developers create applications and/or systems. These run on computers, tablets and other devices.

They also test, maintain and problem solve. Those who take a software project from start to finish work as IT managers.

Software developers usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Though others earn a degree in software engineering.

They need strong programming skills and an understanding of industry computer needs. So, when working in a bank, it may help to understand finance.

Average Annual Salary: $152,760

Job Growth: 14% (Much Faster than Average)

4. Financial Managers

Financial managers are in charge of the financial health of a business. Small or large, they produce financial reports and forecasts. Many also direct investments and goals so they have a hand in tactics and plans.

Financial managers usually have a bachelor’s degree. Most also have about 5 years of experience. For instance, they may be accountants, financial analysts or securities sales agents.

Many also study to earn a master’s degree. Common areas are business administration, finance, accounting, or economics.

Average Annual Salary: $127,990

Job Growth: 16% (Much Faster than Average)

5. Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide patient care. Many work as part of a team of a healthcare team. They often educate patients and the public about health conditions.

Some of their duties include observing patients and recording medical histories. RNs also administer medicines and help perform diagnostic tests.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a very common path to become an RN. A BSN or higher degree may allow an RN to pursue other nursing jobs too. This includes administrative, research, consulting, and teaching.

Average Annual Salary: $71,730

Job Growth: 12% (Much Faster than Average)

Continuing Your Education

For many students, there are next steps after earning a bachelor’s degree. Depending on your goals and career field you might continue with one or all of the following:

  • A master’s degree
  • Professional licensure
  • Professional certification

Online Master’s Degrees

In some career fields today, one needs a master’s degree to pursue an entry level job. Or to climb the ladder and pay scale.

If you are in the corporate world, for example, you might consider online MBA programs. Many top executives have a master’s degree in business administration. There are also master’s programs that help to ready you for professional licensure. One example are online Nurse Practitioner programs. These may help RNs widen career options with higher salaries.

Professional Licensure

A professional license is a need in many fields outside health care too. Substance abuse counselors are one example. Most need to pass a state exam and continue their education every year.

Professional Certifications

A professional certification shows you ‘know your stuff’. Usually it refers to a specific method.

While not a degree, a certification is a useful add on to any resume. One example – IT Certifications. These measure your tech skills and may improve your marketability to employers.

Whatever is next for you, start by understanding the online college admissions process. Studying online may help you make the most of your time and money!

© Education Connection 2019. All Rights Reserved.

EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.