Of the four different degree levels, the bachelor's degree was by far the most popular type awarded in the 2015-16 academic year — almost double the number of associate degrees. Between 2000-01 and 2015-16, the number of bachelor's degrees granted by postsecondary institutions increased from 1.2 million to 1.9 million — a huge jump in numbers. Of those awarded in 2015-16, over half of the bachelor's degrees were focused in six fields of study:

  • Business
  • Health professions
  • Social sciences and history
  • Psychology
  • Biological and biomedical sciences
  • Engineering

This increase is likely the result of more employers requiring bachelor's degrees for positions that only required high school diplomas or associate degrees in the past.

Another reason for the increase is the increased availability and flexibility of online bachelor's degree programs. Individuals can now earn bachelor's degrees through traditional campus-based schools, online programs, or hybrid programs.

5 Reasons to Earn a Bachelor's Degree

There are five major reasons why individuals may have the desire to pursue online bachelor's degree programs.

  1. Bachelor's degrees are becoming the minimum credential to land most jobs. Degrees earned at the bachelor's level can help qualify individuals to work in their industry of choice.

  2. Having a bachelor's degree increases an individual's earning potential and professional value. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with bachelor's degrees earn $2.3 million throughout their work life while those with only a high school diploma earn an average of $1.3 million during their working years.

  3. The education and skills learned through a rigorous degree program can give you the confidence to pursue workplace opportunities and to deal with challenges.

  4. Bachelor's degree holders may be more satisfied in their careers because they have an increased chance of finding a job that pays well, offers employer benefits, and provides opportunities for growth.

  5. Students interested in careers that typically require a higher-level master's or doctoral degree usually need to earn first a bachelor's degree before enrolling in graduate school.

Timeline of a Bachelor's Degree Program

A bachelor's degree usually takes four years to earn if a student attends school full-time. But whether someone is enrolled full-time or part-time, a bachelor's degree program usually consists of 120 semester credits, or around 40 college courses. While every online bachelor's degree program is unique, most follow the same general timeline.

First Year
In the first year, students usually focus on completing their general education courses. These courses may be related to English, math, science, social science and humanities.
Second Year
In the second year, students start taking courses that pertain to their particular major.
Third and Fourth Year
In years three and four, students usually dive deeply into major courses.They may also have options or requirements that involve internships or practicums.

Types of Bachelor's Degrees

There are several types of bachelor degree programs available, although most are aligned with either the liberal arts or the sciences. These are the most common ones:

Top Bachelor's Degree Programs

Rankings are important for students to consider when they're exploring different schools' bachelor's degree programs. How do students know which program might be best for them? The methodologies behind rankings typically take into account data points that prospective students usually care about, such as tuition and fees, acceptance rates, and other factors. All of these are used to determine the top bachelor's degree programs.


To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific degree being ranked.

1. Offer a bachelor's degree program, either on campus, online, or via hybrid format
2. Have awarded at least one bachelor's degree in 2015-16
3. Have reported data for all 19 ranking variables listed below

Based on those criteria, we ranked 1,371 colleges and universities in the United States on 19 criteria, using 2016-17 data from the National Center for Education Statistics:

  1. Program prominence, based on how many bachelor's degrees were awarded in 2016-17
  2. Ratio of undergraduate students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  4. Retention rate
  5. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  6. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
  7. Number of programs that are offered at the bachelor's degree level on campus
  8. Number of programs that are offered at the bachelor's degree level via distance education
  9. The availability of any tuition plans
    • Payment
    • Guaranteed
    • Prepaid
    • Other
  10. Services
    • Academic/Career
    • Placement for Completers
  11. Credit offerings
    • Dual
    • Life
    • AP
    • Military
  12. Three-year repayment rate for completers
RankingSchool NameIn State Avg. Undergrad Tuition% Receiving Financial AidRetention RateCareer CounselingPayment Plan
1University of Florida$4,47793%97%YesNo
2Ashford University$11,40091%23%YesYes
3Florida International University$4,72189%90%YesYes
4Northern Arizona University$9,73894%73%YesYes
5University of Central Florida$4,47890%90%YesNo
6Bellevue University$7,15289%77%YesYes
7Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus$17,41665%93%YesYes
8University of Memphis$7,68098%76%YesYes
9Grand Canyon University$16,39998%64%YesYes
10University of Phoenix-Arizona$9,55281%33%YesNo
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Financial Aid

Fortunately, there are several financial resources that can make obtaining a bachelor's degree more cost effective. Eligible students may apply for scholarships, grants, and educational loans to help pay for their courses, books, and/or living expenses. While most scholarships are merit based and awarded because of a student's academic or athletic achievements, the majority of grants are need based and distributed according to a student's financial situation or their family's financial situation. Education loans must be repaid with interest.

Why Accreditation Matters

It is vital for prospective bachelor's degree students to select an accredited program as those programs have been determined by an official accrediting agency to meet or exceed the minimum standards of quality. By pursuing an accredited bachelor's degree program, students may also be eligible for financial aid, transfer credits with ease, and appear more attractive to employers.

Fastest-Growing Careers with a Bachelor's Degree

If you want to choose a degree program that's aligned with the greatest potential job opportunities across the U.S., here are the occupations the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow the most in the 2016-26 time frame.
Financial Managers
Current Employment : 654,790
Projected Employment : 16%
Financial managers can be seen in workplaces like banks and insurance companies. Risk management and cash management, which are several of the main functions of financial managers are expected to be in high demand over the next decade, making financial management a fast-growing industry.
Current Employment : 81,660
Projected Employment : 9.3%
In most cases, fundraisers work for nonprofit organizations, raising money for a certain cause. Fundraisers are usually friendly professionals who enjoy working with others and are passionate about the work that they do. Since there is a continued need for nonprofits to raise money, this profession is expected to grow in the next 10 years.
Information Security Analysts
Current Employment : 125,570
Projected Employment : 31.6%
Information security analysts play a crucial role in protecting an organization's computer networks and systems. Most of these professionals work for computer companies, consulting firms, or financial companies. Demand for them is expected to rise significantly as they will be needed to design solutions to prevent hacking.
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists
Current Employment : 678,500
Projected Employment : 20.4%
Market research analysts and marketing specialists evaluate products and services to educate companies on consumer demand. Due to the fact that there will be an increased use of data and research across every industry, this is a fast-growing occupation.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Current Employment : 394,910
Projected Employment : 17.6%
While some medical and health services managers manage an entire facility, others are responsible for a specific clinical area or department. The high demand for these professionals is expected because of the aging baby boomer population.
Operations Research Analysts
Current Employment : 99,680
Projected Employment : 25.6%
Through advanced mathematical and analytical methods, operations research analysts assist organizations in identifying and solving problems so they can make better business decisions. As efficiency and cost savings becomes more important to companies, there will be an increased need for operations research analysts.
Personal Financial Advisors
Current Employment : 210,190
Projected Employment : 7%
The majority of personal financial advisors are self-employed or work in finance or insurance. The demand for personal financial advisors will likely increase as individuals live longer and recognize the importance of financial planning services.
Registered Nurses
Current Employment : 2,982,280
Projected Employment : 12.1%
Registered nurses can be seen working in a wide array of environments including hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, schools, and patient homes. An emphasis on preventative care, increasing rates of chronic conditions, and the aging baby boomer population are a few reasons why nursing is a high-growth industry.
Social and Community Service Managers
Current Employment : 156,460
Projected Employment : 13%
Social and community service managers organize and supervise social service programs and community organizations. The increased demand for substance abuse treatment and mental health services contribute to the growth of social and community service management.
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers
Current Employment : 1,406,870
Projected Employment : 25.6%
Applications software developers develop apps that make it easier and more efficient to complete certain tasks. Software development is a growing industry because of the increased dependence on computer software.

Highest-Paying Careers with a Bachelor's Degree

Want to maximize your investment in a bachelor's degree? These occupations pay the highest wages nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Civil Engineers
Mean Annual : $94,360
90th Percentile : $144,560
Most civil engineers split their time working in an office and working outdoors at construction sites. Civil engineers enjoy the best-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree because of the skills they've acquired to build or rebuild and repair important infrastructure such as bridges, roads and buildings.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Mean Annual : $156,390
90th Percentile : $208,000
Also known as IT managers, computer and information systems managers develop technology goals for organizations and play a major role in implementing technology to help meet those goals. Since IT managers must be innovative and stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving technology industry, they typically enjoy high pay.
Computer Systems Analysts
Mean Annual : $96,160
90th Percentile : $147,670
Computer systems analysts must understand the business needs supported by IT and design solutions to help organizations operate more efficiently. Due to the fact computer systems analysts can save organizations time and money, they are compensated highly.
Construction Managers
Mean Annual : $105,000
90th Percentile : $164,790
From start to finish, construction managers plan, coordinate, and supervise construction projects. Many of them have an office, but they tend to spend the majority of their time working out of a field office at a construction site. Their roles bring construction projects to life, making them important professionals who earn high wages.
Database Administrators and Architects
Mean Annual : $96,110
90th Percentile : $148,060
Through the use of specialized software, database administrators store and organize data. Most database administrators work in companies that provide computer design services or in industries that hold large databases. The increased data needs of all types of companies demand these professionals and they're highly paid as a result.
Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other
Mean Annual : $94,160
90th Percentile : $156,150
Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals on investment decisions. Most financial analysts work in an office setting for 40 hours a week or more. Because they can help both businesses and individuals make money, their services are in demand, making them one of the highest-paying bachelor's degree occupations.
Industrial Engineers
Mean Annual : $92,660
90th Percentile : $134,070
Industrial engineers are another one of the jobs that usually require a bachelor's degree. They implement efficient systems that integrate various resources to produce a product or provide a service. They are compensated highly because they save businesses money by finding ways to eliminate wastefulness.
Management Analysts
Mean Annual : $95,560
90th Percentile : $154,310
Often called management consultants, management analysts assist organizations in reducing costs and increasing revenues. Management analysts receive high compensation due to the fact that their goals are usually to help organizations become more profitable.
Marketing Managers
Mean Annual : $149,200
90th Percentile : $208,000
In order for an organization to succeed, marketing managers are required to help generate interest — from individual consumers and/or businesses — in specific products or services. Since most organizations would not be able to thrive without marketing, marketing managers enjoy high wages.
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers
Mean Annual : $111,620
90th Percentile : $164,590
Software developers who specialize in systems software create the underlying systems that run devices or control networks. They are necessary for organizations who depend heavily on technology. And as the technological underpinnings of businesses become ever more complex, these skilled professionals tend to be compensated highly.

What Comes After Bachelor's Degree

After a earning bachelor's degree, some individuals decide to further their education and pursue a master's degree. Others may need to earn a professional license or certification that is required for their particular occupation.

For instance, a registered nurse with a bachelor's of science in nursing is required to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure with the Board of Nursing in their state. Additionally, teachers must obtain a credential that allows them to teach either a certain subject matter or specific grade level.

Browse Bachelor's Programs by Subject

WorldWideLearn.com features online universities and colleges offering bachelor's degree programs in a number of disciplines. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Accounting & FinanceHuman Services
BusinessInformation Technology
Business AdministrationInterior Design
Business ManagementLiberal Arts & Humanities
Communication ArtsCulinary Management
Computer Information SystemsNursing
Computer NetworkingParalegal & Legal Studies
Computer SciencePolitical Science
Criminal JusticePsychology
EducationRetail Management
FinanceSocial Science
Game Software DevelopmentSoftware Development
Health Care ManagementTheology & Divinity
Health SciencesTourism & Hospitality
Human ResourcesVisual Communications
Web Development
Article Sources
Article Sources


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  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Is a College Degree the New High School Diploma, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/01/13/is-a-college-degree-the-new-high-school-diploma-heres-why-your-degrees-worth-is-stagnant/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e8b3ffb7aba9, Accessed August 2018
  • O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/, Accessed August 2018
  • Occupation Finder, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm?pay=&education=Bachelor%E2%80%99s+degree&training=&newjobs=&growth=Faster+than+average&submit=GO, accessed August 2018
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  • Undergraduate Degree Fields, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cta.asp, Accessed August 2018
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