The United States hit an educational milestone in 2011: According to the Census Bureau, that year marked the first time that more than 30 percent of adults age 25 or older in the U.S. had a bachelor's degree.
For those who don't yet have a degree, now might be the perfect time to explore all the available options. Schools with bachelor's degree programs offer a variety of learning choices, including part-time options and online coursework, making this level of education more accessible than ever
How to get your bachelor's degree
In the past, earning a bachelor's degree may have meant putting your life on hold and living on or near a campus for several years. However, today's schools offer online and hybrid degree programs in addition to their on-campus courses. These options allow busy students the opportunity to study at convenient times and around their family and work obligations.
Bachelor's degrees are conferred by both private and public colleges and universities. Many students looking for more budget-friendly education options might wonder whether they can earn a bachelor's degree at a community college. The answer is no, though students can typically fill core curriculum and prerequisite requirements at a community college before transferring to a four-year institution.
Although a bachelor's degree is often called a four-year degree, it may take anywhere from three to six years or more to earn, depending on the degree an dhow much time a student has to devote to it. According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the median time for 2008 college graduates to earn their degree was a little more than four years: 52 months.
What are some bachelor's degree programs that result in higher income?
Bachelor's degree jobs can be found in virtually any field, although students may find they get a higher return on investment with some degree programs.
A 2011 study completed by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found the following degree areas were most likely to result in jobs with the highest median earnings.
- Petroleum engineering
- Pharmaceutical sciences and administration
- Mathematics and computer science
- Aerospace engineering
- Chemical engineering
These fields may result in high incomes, but money isn't the only reason to get a bachelor's degree. Many occupations in the field of health care, computer science and business require a four-year degree for entry-level positions, so getting one can also open more doors when it comes to career possibilities.
Even in occupations for which a bachelor's degree isn't required, many professionals prefer to gain the expertise provided by a four year degree. For example, even though nurses only need a specialized diploma or associate degree, a 2013 analysis from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration found 44.6 percent of nurses had at least a bachelor's degree.
Deciding how much education is enough
Before enrolling in any program, students should have a firm grasp of their career goals and the education needed to meet those goals.
Once they know what field they'd like to enter, the next step is to contact schools with bachelor's degree programs. College admissions representatives can provide information regarding the degree requirements and often can connect students with a career counselor as well.
This counselor can review job opportunities in the field as well as discuss the possibilities of advanced education. While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for entry level positions, students may benefit from a graduate degree depending on their goals. For example, some state and professional certifications may only be available to those with master's degrees.
Requesting information from several different schools can be an easy, no-obligation way to learn more about bachelor's degree jobs and programs from both traditional and online colleges.
- Census Bureau Releases National-Level Data on Education Levels, Bachelor's Degree Attainment Tops 30 Percent for the First Time. U.S. Department of Commerce: Feb. 24, 2012,http://www.commerce.gov/blog/2012/02/24/census-bureau-releases-national-level-data-education-levels-bachelors-degree-attainm
- Fast Facts: Time to Degree. National Center for Education Statistics,http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=569
- "New Report on the Economic Value of 171 College Majors Links College Majors to Earnings," Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, May 24, 2011,https://georgetown.app.box.com/s/omooxnult5yvuctf0ftl
- "The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education," Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Workforce Analysis, April 2013, page 21,http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/nursingworkforce/nursingworkforcefullreport.pdf