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The bachelor's degree is the most commonly awarded undergraduate degree and is required of students who seek to enter graduate-level research programs and study for higher degrees. Most bachelor's degree programs are designed to require 4 academic years of full-time study. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, bachelor's degrees in architecture (B.Arch.) and some engineering specialties require at least 5 years of full-time study. As with the associate degree, some students at the bachelor's degree level are also enrolled part-time. The time taken to complete a bachelor's degree program is thus often longer than 4 years, with 5.5 years being the current average.  The range may be due to additional credits mandated by some engineering programs, or also due in part to the large number of part-time adult learners.

Bachelor's Degree Careers
The Career Cornerstone Center provides extensive career path and planning information for fields in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computing, and medicine.  Select a section to find out more about bachelor's programs in each area.

Bachelor's Degree Titles
While the nature of the major concentration generally determines the specific title of the bachelor's degree to be earned, degree titles can be confusing. Selection of the degree name is done by the institution through its academic policies. Majors in the humanities, social sciences, philosophy, religious studies, and interdisciplinary or cultural area studies frequently receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A. or A.B.). Programs in mathematics, the physical sciences, engineering, and some professional fields may receive a B.A., although most receive a Bachelor of Science (B.S. or S.B.), or a degree with the specific name of the subject studied (such as business administration--B.B.A., education--B.Ed., or nursing--B.S.N., etc.).

Degree Statistics
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Education data, between academic years 2003Ė04 and 2013Ė14, the total number of postsecondary degrees awarded increased at all degree levels: associate's degrees by 51 percent (from 665,000 to 1.0 million), bachelor's degrees by 34 percent (from 1.4 million to 1.9 million), master's degrees by 34 percent (from 564,000 to 754,000), and doctor's degrees by 41 percent (from 126,000 to 178,000).

Bachelor's Degree Statistics
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2016, more than one-third of the adult population in the United States has a bachelorís degree or higher marking the first time in decades of data. Other highlights from "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2016" include:

  • The Asian and non-Hispanic white populations were more likely to hold a bachelorís degree or higher, 55.9 percent and 37.3 percent, respectively, when compared with the black population at 23.3 percent and the Hispanic population at 16.4 percent in 2016.
  • Of the U.S. population 25 years and older, 89.1 percent had completed high school (or equivalent) or more education in 2016. A decade earlier, in 2006, 85.5 percent had completed high school or more education.
  • In 2016, average earnings for males age 25 and older whose highest educational attainment was high school were $41,942. By comparison, average earnings among females in this category in 2016 were $26,832.
  • In 2016, average earnings for males age 25 and older with a bachelorís degree were $79,927. By comparison, average earnings for females in this category in 2016 were $50,856.
  • Bachelorís degree attainment varied by citizenship and nativity. The native born were more likely than the foreign-born to have a bachelorís degree or higher (33.6 percent vs 32.4 percent). Among the foreign-born, 38.4 percent of naturalized citizens had a bachelorís degree or higher, compared with 26.5 percent of noncitizens:

Accreditation
Several government-approved organizations evaluate and accredit schools. The approval of these organizations signals that a school meets basic academic and financial standards. There are seven accrediting organizations approved by the U.S. Department of Education, one for each of seven regions.

Beyond broad school accreditation, specific programs are also accredited. Professional and industry associations or organizations -- such as ABET for the engineering and computer science fields -- also accredit programs that train professionals for specific occupations. Click here for more information about academic program accreditation.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
 


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