Online Bachelor's Degree
Bachelor's degrees are earned through colleges and universities and usually take four years to complete. Yet, programs can vary between two and six years, depending on the type and location of the program. Online bachelor's degrees from accredited online schools usually offer the same credentials as campus-based programs, but with increased flexibility in studies and school choice.
- Is an Online Bachelor's Degree Worth It?
- Why Get a Bachelor's Degree Online?
- How to Overcome Barriers to an Online Degree.
- Top 20 Most Popular Bachelor's Degree Programs.
- Search for Schools.
Earning a bachelor's degree allows you to gain vertical knowledge and understanding of a subject. On a practical level, earning a bachelor's degree, whether on-campus or though online schools, can improve your career options. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2013 demonstrates that, on average, the higher the degree, the higher the weekly earnings and the lower the percentage of unemployment. Here's how the data breaks down:
- High school diploma: $651/week, 7.5 percent unemployment
- Associate degree: $777/week, 5.4 percent unemployment
- Bachelor degree: $1,108/week, 4.0 percent unemployment
Below is a full image from the BLS about how your job may improve as you continue to earn a degree.
There are many reasons why a student may want to earn a bachelor's degree online; some students are looking to augment their current careers, while others are trying to position themselves better for their first job. Getting your bachelor's degree online can also help you juggle other life obligations while going to school.
"Depending on the university, I think most adult students would be surprised at the makeup of a typical college classroom these days. At many universities, the average age of a student is well into the mid-20s," says Rodney Robbins, Manager of Student Services at Middle Tennessee State University. "For those students who can't imagine themselves in the classroom amongst younger counterparts, online options exist."
Overcoming Barriers to a Bachelor's Degree
When students have a full-time life, with career and family filling up their schedule, taking the time out to attend college can definitely be a challenge, says Robbins. Here are some of the typical roadblocks faced by students considering a bachelor's degree, and how online programs may help to give them a leg up:
Feeling too overwhelmed to begin: "Courses are available that allow students to attend college at home and on their own schedule (online), or online with a few meetings for those who need to feel a connection to the instructor (hybrid courses)," says Robbins. In addition, he points out that some colleges offer a prior learning assessment so that students can earn college credit for previous knowledge gained throughout their lifetime.
Thinking you're "too old" to go back to school: The typical college classroom is changing, says Robbins: "Most faculty really enjoy having seasoned students in their classes. It always seems to add a perspective that can't be gained by a class of 18-year-olds." Student services support may also be available in the form of non-traditional student groups and academic coaching,.
Worrying about paying for it: A bachelor's degree can be a good investment, but often an expensive one. Robbins says students should keep in mind that federal grants and loan programs are available for any student, regardless of age. "If a student has the need, they can be helped. In addition, I've seen many departments offering major-specific scholarships, and even scholarships aimed directly at adult students," he says. Check with your academic advisers for more financial aid information.
Once you can get past what's holding you back, you can be on your way toward choosing the right bachelor's degree program for you.
Wondering what to study? Take a look at the 20 most popular bachelor's degree programs, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This list includes the number of bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions for the school year 2012-2013 (the last year for which statistics are available), as well as the types of jobs available to graduates holding these degrees. You'll also find what the growth projections and expected annual pay are for select jobs.
- Business - 360,823 degrees awarded
As they have since 1980, colleges and universities awarded more degrees in business than in any other discipline. That makes sense because a business degree sets students up for a profession in any number of industries, from banking and commerce to management and consulting. Employment in some of these jobs is expected to grow in the coming years; budget analysts, for instance, may see job opportunities grow by up to 9 percent, and management analysts will see job growth of 10 to 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Health Professions and Related Sciences - 181,144 degrees awarded
Bachelor's degrees in health-related professions have been among the highest-ranking degree programs for decades. Graduates with these degrees may qualify for a range of high-paying and growing jobs as medical technologists and health services managers, which pay from $50,000 to more than $75,000 a year, according to the BLS.
- Social Sciences and History - 177,778 degrees awarded
College graduates with bachelor's degrees in social sciences and history often find rewarding work with government agencies and private research groups. Market research jobs pay from $50,000 to $75,000, and the projected growth rate for jobs like that is expected to be 30 percent or more in the coming years, according to the BLS.
- Psychology - 114,450 degrees awarded
Students who have studied psychology as undergraduates often go on to graduate school to study how to become a therapist. But an undergraduate degree in psychology is also useful for those going into human resources or business management. Human resource managers made a mean annual wage of $114,140 in 2014, the BLS reports, and BLS data shows that the U.S. will be adding up to 50,000 more jobs in that field in the coming years.
- Education - 104,647 degrees awarded
A bachelor's in education can lead to any number of jobs, from teaching to instructional design to school administration. Elementary school teachers were paid a mean annual wage of $56,830 in 2014, the BLS says. Administrators make more, typically, but many also have a graduate degree.
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences - 100,319 degrees awarded
Demand for biological technicians, for which the BLS reports mean annual wages of $44,610, is expected to be strong in the coming years, with the number of jobs growing by up to 20 percent. The demand for biomedical engineers will be even higher, with the BLS reporting a mean annual wage of $91,760.
- Visual and Performing Arts - 97,796 degrees awarded
Students graduating with a degree in this field can find work in any number of professions, from art director to performer. Art director jobs will grow modestly, the BLS reports: from 0 to 9 percent in the coming years. However, the BLS reports that th mean annual wage for this job in 2014 was $97,850. You may also be qualified for work as a film editor, graphic designer, producer or director.
- Engineering - 85,980 degrees awarded
Students earning a bachelor's in engineering can move into a wide variety of jobs, some of which may require some specialization. These include civil engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering and mechanical engineering. Demand for some of these professions, including petroleum engineers, is expected to be strong in coming years, the BLS says. The mean annual wage reported by the BLS in 2014 was $147,520.
- Communication, Journalism and Related Programs - 84,817 degrees awarded
Bachelor's degree holders in communication and journalism often become editors, writers, designers and public relations specialists. The demand for reporters and correspondents is declining, but the demand for public relations and fundraising managers is strong, with growth in this field expected to grow 10 to 20 percent in coming years, the BLS reports.
- Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Firefighting - 60,269 degrees awarded
A degree in this area often leads to work with government agencies, although private security experts are increasingly in demand, according to the BLS. Emergency management directors earned a mean annual wage of $69,810 in 2014, although the BLS predicts jobs in this area will grow from 0 percent to 9 percent by 2022.
- English Languages, Literatures and Linguistics - 52,424 degrees awarded
Students graduating with a degree in English often find work as teachers, writers and editors. Writers and editors will be in moderate to low demand in the coming years. Editors made mean annual wages of $64,140 in 2014, the BLS reports.
- Computer and Information Sciences - 50,962 degrees awarded
A variety of jobs in this field will see strong growth in coming years, the BLS states. Computer systems analysts, for example, will see job growth of 20 to 30 percent, the BLS reports, with wages at $87,320 in 2014.
- Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies - 47,654 degrees awarded
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in multidisciplinary studies often enter the job hunt with a wide variety of options. That's thanks to their exposure to the broad number of subjects they studied in college. For example, students whose multidisciplinary approach included classes in business and writing might become a business journalist. Those who studied writing and computers may find work as a technical writer, for which the mean annual wage was $71,950 in 2014.
- Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities - 46,761 degrees awarded
A liberal arts degree often leads students to jobs as teachers, particularly at elementary schools where teachers have to teach a broad range of topics. Many with liberal arts degrees find work in other fields, too, including research and administration.
- Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies - 42,714 degrees awarded
Graduates in these fields find work as recreation workers, athletic trainers, coaches, scouts, and exercise physiologists. Exercise physiologists made an mean wage of $49,040 in 2014.
- Agriculture and Natural Resources - 33,593 degrees awarded
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in agriculture or natural resources often find jobs with government agencies, as well as in the farm and garden industry. The demand is growing for such jobs as conservation scientist and agricultural engineer. Landscape architects are expected to be in especially high demand, the BLS reports, with wages at $69,530 in 2014.
- Public Administration and Social Services - 31,950 degrees awarded
Students with these degrees often enter government positions, where they can help run agencies or help city and state municipalities deliver programs to taxpayers. The demand for social and community service managers is expected to grow from 20 to 29 percent in the coming years, and the mean annual wage for this job was $67,730 in 2014.
- Physical Sciences and Science Technologies - 28,050 degrees awarded
Students who want to be geographers or geoscientists often earn their bachelor's in physical sciences and science technologies. But those degrees can lead to a number of other jobs in the field of laboratory sciences. Demand for many of those jobs is growing, according to the BLS.
- Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences - 23,934 degrees awarded
These students can enter the workforce in any number of ways, as dietitians, teachers, program managers for a public health agency and other positions. One potential job is as a food scientist, a role that is expected to be increasing in demand in the coming years and which paid a mean wage of $66,870 in 2014, the BLS states.
- Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics - 21,673 degrees awarded
Students holding a bachelor's in foreign languages may find jobs as teachers, interpreters, translators, editors and writers. The demand for interpreters and translators, in particular, is expected to grow 30 percent or more in coming years, the BLS says, and these workers were paid a mean annual wage of $49,320 in 2014.
- National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_322.10.asp?current=yes
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm?pay=&education=Bachelor%26rsquo%3Bs+degree&training=&newjobs=&growth=&submit=GO
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm#00-0000
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_311.60.asp
- Rodney Robbins, manager of student services, Middle Tennessee State University, interviewed via email by author, 9/15/2014