Can I Get My Bachelor's Degree Online?
If you’re dreaming of advancing your education while balancing a career and family obligations, you may be wondering, “Can I get my bachelor’s degree online?” You’re not alone. More and more students are turning to online bachelor’s degree programs to advance their education.
A bachelor’s degree is traditionally a four-year undergraduate degree made up of 120 credits, or about 40 college courses. An online bachelor’s degree program can help you fit your learning into a busy schedule while working toward this key credential.
In 2018, 20.5% of students enrolled in four-year degree programs took at least one college class online, and 14% were enrolled exclusively in online college degree programs, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Ready to learn how to get a bachelor’s degree online? Before starting your undergraduate degree, it’s important to understand what a bachelor’s degree is, what your options are and how a four-year degree can help your career.
What Is a Bachelor’s Degree?
A bachelor’s degree is a type of undergraduate degree that provides in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular area of study, or major. Designed as a four-year degree, bachelor’s degrees typically include a foundation of general education courses that are supplemented by major-specific courses.
Whether you’re starting a new career or advancing in a current role, an online bachelor's degree can help you stand out in the competitive job market.
What degrees can you get completely online?
No matter what your career interests are, there’s an online bachelor’s degree that can help you get there.
An online Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, often described as a liberal arts degree, is designed to give you general knowledge on a subject and help you develop key critical thinking and communication skills.
- Online bachelor’s degree options for BA majors include:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Communication
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Human Services
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
An online Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is focused on teaching the technical skills you need to succeed in a variety of careers.
Online bachelor’s degree options for BS majors include:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies
- Online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
Ready to get a bachelor’s degree that supports your career path? The first step is choosing the online bachelor's degree that's right for you.
How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s Degree
Whether you have a specific major in mind or want to complete an undergraduate degree you started previously, it's important to research all your degree options before applying, said Amanda Jennings, an admission counselor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
You can start by thinking about the type of work you enjoy doing and the work environment you’d like to be in on a day-to-day basis.
It's also important to find out if your chosen career path requires any specific educational credentials or licensure to work in the field and to make sure your chosen online bachelor’s degree meets these requirements, Jennings said.
Some jobs may require a specific type of bachelor’s degree or a specific major, for example, while licensing organizations may require a degree from an accredited bachelor’s degree program.
Applying to an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program
Once you’ve determined the degree you hope to earn, it’s time to apply. While admission processes can vary among institutions, most require an application and high school transcript.
If you’ve completed any prior college coursework, you'll need those transcripts to determine if that credit can be transferred to your new degree, saving you time and money.
At SNHU, an admission counselor walks you through this process from start to finish, even helping you register for your first courses.
Common Questions About Online Bachelor’s Degrees
After researching and applying to an online bachelor's degree program, you may still have questions about what it will take to complete your degree.
SNHU admission counselor Stephanie Ratliff said she typically hears questions from online bachelor’s degree students around two common themes: time and money.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s degree online?
A bachelor’s degree is typically considered a four-year degree. But if you’re earning an online bachelor’s degree, the time to complete your program can vary.
At SNHU, online bachelor’s degree students typically take one to two courses per term. With six 8-week terms throughout the year, you can complete as many as 12 courses annually.
An online degree program offers far more flexibility than on campus degrees, said Ratliff. This allows you to fit your learning around your career, family and other obligations and can help you earn your degree faster. But courses can still take up as many as 15 hours of work each week, so it’s important to consider how much time you can put towards your degree when signing up for classes.
“Online courses are flexible because we’re never going to tell them when they have to be on their computer or how many times they need to be logging in,” Ratliff said. “But I usually tell students, start with one class, get your feet wet, gauge the workload and see how things feel.”
If you’ve completed some college before, you could complete your degree even faster by transferring prior credits to your online bachelor's degree. At SNHU, for example, students can transfer up to 90 credits toward an undergraduate degree. With a full transfer load, you could complete your degree in as few as 5 terms, or 10 courses.
Past professional experience could also help you move through your degree faster, allowing you to earn college credit for work experience and prior knowledge. Industry-specific credentials, professional certifications, law enforcement training and even an assessment of a work portfolio could all help you earn college credit and reduce the courses needed to complete your degree.
Are online degrees cheaper?
The cost of a bachelor’s degree can vary significantly. Earning an online bachelor’s degree can often help you save money compared to an on campus degree, because you’ll save on student housing costs, meal plans and other fees for on campus services.
But it’s important to remember that even as an online student, you’ll likely have additional costs on top of your tuition. Textbooks, online learning resources, software and specific technology may be needed to help you complete your courses and earn your degree.
If you’re planning on getting started with a bachelor’s degree program, be sure to ask about financial aid and scholarship options. Students earning undergraduate degrees are eligible for the Federal Stafford loan program and the Federal Work-Study program. Private loans and scholarships from your university or a third-party organization may also be available.
You may even qualify for tuition assistance benefits from your current employer, especially if your degree will help you advance in your career.
What Bachelor’s Degrees Are in Demand?
Online bachelor’s degrees across many industries are in demand, including in business, science, healthcare, technology and many other fields. In today’s competitive job market, earning an online bachelor’s degree can help you stand out and boost your long term earning potential.
Bachelor’s degrees are the most common type of college degree. According to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau report, more than 33% of adults over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree.
Four-year degrees are also increasingly in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for bachelor’s degree holders will grow 7.7% by 2028 - faster than jobs for workers without a college degree.
Bachelor’s degree holders also earn significantly more than workers without a four-year degree. According to BLS data, bachelor’s degree holders earned 40% more per week in 2019 than workers with an associate degree, and 67% more per week than workers without any college degree at all.
Unemployment rates are also lower for workers with a bachelor's degree, at just 2.2% in 2019. That same year, associate degree holders saw 2.7% unemployment rates and workers without a college degree saw 3.7% unemployment rates.
Earning a bachelor’s degree can also help you prepare for a master’s degree program, certificate program or professional credential, which can help you advance your career even further.
Is an Online Bachelor’s Degree Right for You?
No matter what career path you hope to follow, earning a bachelor’s degree can give you a leg up when applying for new jobs or seeking a promotion. If you’ve been working in your field without a degree, earning a four-year degree can help you turn your professional experience into a marketable credential, boosting your long term career and earning potential.
Still wondering if an online bachelor’s degree is right for you? Take some time to consider your goals and how you want your to career to grow, said Jennings.
“One fear of a lot of students is that they don’t want to start something they’re not 100% sure about,” Jennings said. “But focus on why you want to go back to school. Finding that why can help you determine if a bachelor’s degree is the right idea for you.”
Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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