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Study a Bachelor's Degree: A Guide to Bachelor's Degrees

Looking to do a bachelor's degree? Not sure where to start? Our handy guide tells you everything you need to know about bachelor's degrees.

Oct 9, 2022
  • Bachelor's Degree

Interested in studying a bachelor's degree? Maybe you're wondering about what bachelor's degree requirements you need, or asking yourself: How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree? What's the difference between bachelor of arts and bachelor of science? Is it all even worth it? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about bachelor's studies.

In this guide, we'll cover:

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What is a Bachelor's Degree?

First things first. What is a bachelor's degree? After students complete their compulsory primary and secondary education, tertiary education, or higher education, comes next. Colleges and universities offer undergraduate education, which commonly consists of associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as postgraduate education, which includes master’s and PhD or Doctoral degrees. Bachelor’s degree requirements include the prior completion of primary and secondary education. 

So what is a bachelor's degree with honours (Hons)? Well, some countries with British systems, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, distinguish between a non-honours and an honours (Hons) bachelor's degree. An honours degree typically indicates a continued year of study in the same field after the completion of an undergraduate degree during which you would complete a major research project. This is a bit tricky in other countries such as England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, where nearly all bachelor's degrees are honours degrees.

Students who complete a bachelor’s degree will be awarded an academic degree by college or university in a disciplinary subject. During a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely attend lectures and classes in-person, online, or in a hybrid of both. Your learning will be assessed through essays, exams, or coursework, and sometimes bachelor’s programs involve internships or industry-related projects.

What kind of Bachelor's program should I apply for?

There are several types of bachelor’s degrees to choose from. Interested in Law? Take a look at a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or a Bachelor of Criminal Justice (BCJ). Maybe a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) is a specialty you’re interested in. There are even several specialized degrees beyond a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng), such as a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (BSAE) or a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (BCE).

Among all these options, the most common types of degrees you’ll find are Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc) degrees. So what’s the difference between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees?

We’ll use the example of a Psychology major to get into some of the big differences below. As for the similarities, both a BA and a BS in Psychology would likely have similar levels of difficulty and program length, and both would give you the right qualifications to apply for graduate programs. 

💡  We’ll use the example of a Psychology major to get into some of the big differences below. As for the similarities, both a BA and a BS in Psychology would likely have similar levels of difficulty and program length, and both would give you the right qualifications to apply for graduate programs. 

What is a BA Degree?

You might be seeing the abbreviation ‘BA’ when looking for programs. Well, what is a BA degree? BA stands for Bachelor of Arts. It’s the most common degree type, but no, it doesn’t mean that you will only study art and it's not the same thing as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), which is a professional degree. There’s actually a huge variety of subjects taught in a BA degree, including the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Liberal Arts. Even field like Economics can be a major for a BA degree. 

The big difference to know is that BA degrees focus mainly on theoretical knowledge and emphasize the humanities and social sciences more than BS degrees. There are some rare exceptions. In some extremely traditional universities like Oxford, BA degrees are the only degree type awarded, even for all natural science majors!

💡  Here’s an example: A BA in Psychology would be more holistic and focused on critical thinking over research skills. You would take a diverse range of classes outside of general psychology, likely with the option to choose. A BA in Psychology might lead you to further education, such as a PhD, or even a job in a completely different field.

What is a BS Degree?

On the other hand, some may be asking themselves, what is a BS degree? BS or BSc stands for Bachelor of Science. This type of degree has a focus balanced between theoretical knowledge and practical research. Common BS degrees include majors in the field of Mathematics, Computer Science, Natural Sciences, and Engineering

This is not a strict limitation. You can also find BS degrees in other fields like Architecture or even Hospitality. Bachelor’s degree requirements for BS degrees would just include more classes related to math and science and a larger focus on logic and reasoning.

💡 Here’s an example: A BS in Psychology focuses more on quantitative skills and would emphasize research and analytics. A BS graduate of Psychology will likely pursue further education or land a career in the field of Psychology due to their more specific skill set.

What Can I Study in a Bachelor's Degree?

It might be easier to know what kind of degree you’d like to pursue after you have chosen a major or general discipline. Feel free to take our Quiz: What Should I Major In? if you need some help. 

The decision of which subject to study is a huge one, and a choice that should involve several factors. Here are some questions to help you choose the right fit for you. 

Goals 🏆

What are your career goals or life goals? Maybe you want a high-profile portfolio in Graphic Design or a thriving international career in Translation.

Strengths 💪

What are your personal strengths? If you’re a natural tech guru, consider Information Technology or Electrical Engineering.

Problem-solving 💭

Interested in problem-solving? Think about treating disease with Medicine, or tackle environmental issues like Climate Change with Environmental Science.

Teamwork 🤝

Do you enjoy working with others? If so, consider studying Education, Leadership, or Tourism & Hospitality.

Academic interests 📚

What do you genuinely enjoy studying? Perhaps you have a passion for Languages, History, or Political Science.

Organization 🗓️

While all students would benefit from organization, some subjects such as Management or Business would require extra skills in this area.

Hobbies 🎨

Involved in any extracurricular activities that you might enjoy studying? Consider subjects such as Fashion, Theater, or Sports Science.

Once you have chosen a major, the different degree types and the difference between bachelor of arts and bachelor of science will become more clear.

Think about yourself as a person now as well as the person you want to grow towards in the future. However, do keep in mind that while your chosen major and bachelor degree type are important to lead you towards a general career path, it won’t determine the rest of your life. You will certainly have space to grow in other areas and may even end up working in other fields entirely. Regardless, you’ll still want to be sure that your education will be relevant to you and your interests.

If you are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies such as a Master’s degree, an MBA degree, or a PhD, do some extra research about what admission to these types of programs might need. For example, some master’s degree programs might require you to have a BS degree, while others may accept both BS and BA degrees.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's Degree?

A bachelor’s degree will usually take around four years to complete. In total, the degree will equate to at least 120 US college credits, or around 180 to 240 ECTS credits. 

This timeline will vary depending on a few factors, including: which institution you go to, if you’ll study full time or part-time, the subject you’ll study, and if you have any credits from previous studies that could count towards fulfilling degree requirements. Students who have already taken university-level courses will not likely not need to take as many courses as others. If you decide to take classes during the summer break, you might also finish earlier than other students. 

Country differences are also a factor to consider if you’re asking yourself: How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree? For example, bachelor’s degrees at universities in the United States will take about four years and require that students take General Education courses alongside courses that align with their major. In Australia, a bachelor’s degree only takes three years unless students decide to continue for another year to earn a Bachelor’s Honours degree. To learn more about the differences in different countries, check out our country guides.

What are the Requirements to Study a Bachelor's?

How can you know if you’re even qualified to apply for a degree? Well, there are some general bachelor’s degree requirements that you’ll need to check on before you start to apply. The most important is that you will have completed your secondary school education and that you meet the minimum grade requirements (this may differ depending on the school you apply to) before starting your bachelor’s degree studies. 

Schools will likely ask for more information from you in the application, such as:

  • Personal essays
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT
  • An English language test such as TOEFL if you are not from a native-English speaking country

Most of these requirements require some level of preparation or study beforehand, such as with the SAT or ACT and the TOEFL exam. If you need letters of recommendation, you should also ask for these far in advance.

The personal essay is something that seems like it can be done quickly, but make no mistake, this task is more intimidating than it sounds! Most application essay prompts are intentionally broad so that students can write about what is most important to them in their own way. Spend a lot of time on the personal essay, as it is usually one of the only ways that admissions staff are able to get to know you on a more personal level.

Why get a Bachelor's degree?

Some students might be thinking, why bother studying a bachelor’s degree? Pursuing a bachelor’s degree is certainly a huge decision, and there are many benefits to achieving this degree that are both personal and career-oriented. 

Better career prospects and higher potential income

A bachelor’s degree will give you the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to launch a career in your chosen field. Even if you are able to get a job in your field of interest without a college degree, studies have shown that adults with a college degree will earn more than those without. The difference is larger for some subjects over others. For example, adults with careers in engineering, business, mathematics, computer science, physical sciences, and health sciences would benefit more from a degree in terms of higher income. 

Take a look at careers in the field you're interested in and the skills you need to land a job. If your future salary is a significant matter to you, find the average salary of careers in that field according to the degree level achieved. Keep in mind that where you live and other societal factors will play into your potential earnings.

Advance your career

If you already have a career, a bachelor’s degree may be a perfect way to advance in it. The skills you learn while on a job are certainly useful. However, professors bring a level of subject expertise that may be difficult to learn without a higher education. With a wider expanse of knowledge, you might be more eligible for certain managerial positions that oversee a broader array of skills. 

Networking is another advantage that will help advance your career. Your classmates and new friends will all become professionals in the future. They could help you meet and connect with potential employers, just as you might help them in the future! Your professors are also another source of knowledge that are already well-connected in particular industries. Professors provide office hours to their students for more informal discussions, and they might also provide research opportunities that could help you gain more practical expertise in your field. 

Make your way towards an even higher academic degree

If you’re interested in an extremely specialized career in a certain field, a bachelor’s degree is where you’ll need to start. Admittance to all Master’s and PhD programs as well as other specific degrees such as medical school and law school require that students have already attained a bachelor’s degree. 

Personal development and life experience

Though movies may depict university as a giant party every weekend, the effort put into university studies is no joke. Bachelor’s students must learn to balance their personal life with attending classes, studying, and managing social life, and many also must add on student jobs or internships. This challenge will help you learn both in and outside of the classroom to be a responsible adult. 

Competence in your subject area is not the only thing you'll learn. A bachelor’s degree will also teach you soft skills like time management, communication, and teamwork - all important skills that will help you succeed in other life endeavors. Learning how to work with people from diverse backgrounds and different mindsets is truly priceless. 

Working and living abroad

Achieving at least a bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite for work visas in other countries. So, if you’re interested in working abroad at some point, a bachelor’s degree is the way to go. Studying abroad for a bachelor’s degree is a great option for students who have a good idea of where they want to work or live. 

International students in many countries such as Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Germany are offered special visa schemes that allow them extra time to stay and find a job after graduation.

What is the Average Salary of a Bachelor's Graduate?

After asking, 'How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree?', students usually want to know all about what they can expect to earn after graduating. We'll give you some examples in some popular study countries for you to compare below. Keep in mind that these numbers are averages, so the reality could be lower or higher. What's very clear in all these countries regardless is that a bachelor’s degree will give graduates a huge step up from a secondary school diploma. 

United States: Average graduate starting salaries 🇺🇸

  • High school diploma average: $30,000
  • Bachelor’s degree average: $52,000
Field of studyAverage base salary
Computer Science$75,900
Social Sciences$61,173

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, NACE Salary Projections for Class of 2022

United Kingdom: Average graduate salaries 🇬🇧

  • Secondary school diploma average: £24,000
  • Bachelor’s degree average: £34,000
Field of studyAverage base salary
Computer Science£44,143
Electrical Engineering£29,000
Education Studies£22,500

Source: UK Department for Education; Study in the UK: Best Starting Salaries for Graduates, Popular University Subjects in the UK

Germany: Average graduate salaries 🇩🇪

  • Completed apprenticeship: € 43,471
  • Bachelor’s degree average: €54,210
Field of studyAverage base salary
Computer Science€68,241
Business and Economics€65,404

Source: Statista; Study in Germany

How Much Does Getting a Bachelor's Cost?

How much a Bachelor's degree will cost you depends on where you would like to study. Many countries have different tuition fees for domestic and international students. We’ll give some average tuition fees in the chart below to give you a general idea.

United States 🇺🇸

Public universities cost an average of $25,000-$35,000 in tuition and $30,000-$45,000 for private universities. Tuition may be less for US residents attending a public university in their home state. 

United Kingdom 🇬🇧

UK residents will pay between £1,820 and £9,250 yearly, and international students may pay between £10,000 - £61,000.

Germany 🇩🇪

Tuition for public universities is free for all students, and private universities cost an average of €26,000 in tuition.

Sweden 🇸🇪

Tuition for students from the EU/EEA, other Nordic countries, and Switzerland is free. Other students pay an average of €7,500 – €25,500 in tuition yearly.

France 🇫🇷

Tuition for students from the EU/EEA, Nordic countries, and Switzerland is free. Other students pay an average of €2,770 for public universities and between €3,000 - €20,000 for private universities yearly.

For those of you worried about the costs of studying abroad, there are plenty of scholarships out there to help you find your studies. Take a look at our free Scholarship Directory for a list of 440+ scholarships in 37 countries around the world. 

Depending on the bachelor's degree requirements of the country and your prior education, you might need to pay less than the average amount for a full bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that you will also need to factor in the cost of living in each country to more accurately budget for your bachelor studies. Our country guides have information about housing and living costs, tuition, and scholarships for every continent.

Can I do a Bachelor's Online?

Yes! Online learning for bachelor’s degrees has become way more common in the last few years. This is a great option for those who want to cut down on costs and study from the comfort of their own home. You can find distance learning programs in a huge variety of countries and programs using our search