How To Get a Bachelor's Degree in 6 Steps (With Benefits)

Updated February 3, 2023

Education is an important first step for many types of careers. Bachelor's degrees are a common choice among people in all industries looking to further their education to pursue a career or earn more money in their existing career. Understanding the structure of a bachelor's degree and how to earn one can prepare you for a successful undergraduate experience. 

In this article, we review what a bachelor's degree is, list types you can get, explain how to get a bachelor's degree and how it can benefit you, share jobs you can get after graduating and discuss the potential cost of this educational option.

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What is a bachelor's degree?

A bachelor's degree is an undergraduate academic degree that colleges and universities award students who complete programs in a specific area of study. Bachelor's degree programs usually require general education credits in a variety of subjects plus several subject-specific classes in the major you select. It typically takes four years to earn a bachelor's degree, although you may complete a bachelor's program more quickly if you already have college credit from:

  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses

  • Dual credit classes

  • An associate degree

Read more: What Is a Bachelor's Degree or Equivalent?

Types of bachelor's degrees

There are three main types of bachelor's degrees:

Bachelor of Arts

A Bachelor of Arts degree, or B.A., emphasizes liberal arts and humanities, although you can still major in subjects related to science, art and math. When earning a Bachelor of Arts degree, you can expect a wide range of general education courses in the liberal arts to provide strong fundamentals for applying specific academic knowledge. Example majors for a Bachelor of Arts include:

  • Literature

  • Biology

  • Computer science

  • Gender studies

  • Languages

  • Media and communications

  • Political science

Bachelor of Science

A Bachelor of Science degree, or B.S., is a program with highly technical coursework. Students in Bachelor of Science programs may have fewer general education courses, instead focusing on major-specific classes, including lectures and lab sessions. Majors might include:

  • Chemistry

  • Engineering

  • Game design

  • Pre-medicine

  • Psychology

  • Statistics

  • Mathematics

  • Physics

Related: How To Choose Between a B.A. and B.S. Degree

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts, or B.F.A., involves completing coursework to pursue careers in visual arts, fine arts or performing arts. Bachelor of Fine Arts students often take studio or performance classes that emphasize practicing musical, theatrical or design skills. You can choose programs in:

  • Acting

  • Creative writing

  • Playwriting

  • Visual arts

  • Architecture

  • Musical theater

  • Painting

  • Stage production

  • Photography

Read more: Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees: Majors and Specialty Areas

How to get a bachelor's degree

While the steps to complete a bachelor's degree may vary depending on the program, they usually involve these key actions and requirements:

1. Earn a high-school diploma or equivalent

The main educational prerequisite for earning a college degree is earning a high-school diploma or an equivalent like a GED certificate. Some colleges have minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements for admission, so it's important to earn good grades throughout high school. If you plan to attend college directly after high school, you may select a school and program prior to graduation.

Related: GED vs. High School Diploma: What's the Difference?

2. Take standardized tests

Along with an average or above-average GPA and a high-school diploma, many schools require you to take standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT), to apply. Some require students to score higher than a certain minimum standardized test scores to apply, similar to GPA requirements. Some colleges or programs might require taking an additional standardized test to verify proficiency in specific areas such as English as a second language studies.

Related: 9 Types of Student Assessments (With FAQs)

3. Select an area of study or program

Selecting a program can help you decide what classes to take during your first year. You can change your major and program, so if you're unsure which program to pursue, you can select a general major or declare yourself undecided. Consider classes from your past create lasting interest. If humanities and social sciences interest you, you may choose a Bachelor of Arts. If you prefer the technical details of science or math, you might consider a Bachelor of Science in a particular subject.

Related: How To Find the Right Major in College

4. Apply to colleges

Once you decide what you want to study, start researching schools that might offer relevant programs. Once you decide where to apply, you can prepare your applications. There are a few key components to most college applications:

  • Application form: This includes your basic contact information, your GPA and your standardized test scores. Most of the forms across colleges require similar information.

  • Personal essay: Many colleges require you to write a personal essay to tell admissions officers about your attributes and why you might be a suitable candidate for their school. These might be basic questions about you or you may describe how you handle different scenarios.

  • Recommendation letters: Universities often request letters of recommendation from professors, mentors or employers to learn more about your academic, professional and personal qualities.

5. Earn an associate degree

Before earning a bachelor's, you might consider completing an associate degree. You can pursue a two-year associate program at a community college as a way to earn general education credits, then transfer those credits to a university bachelor's degree program to finish specialized coursework. This can be especially helpful if you want more time to decide what type of bachelor's program to pursue or you're looking for a more affordable educational option.

Some programs even have an associate to bachelor's track where you automatically earn an associate degree once you complete a certain number of credits, then have the option to continue to a bachelor's degree. 

Related: What Is an Associate Degree? (Plus Types and Career Options)

6. Complete the required coursework

To earn your bachelor's degree, complete all the coursework requirements for your school and major. Classes can progress in detail and difficulty each year in the program as you develop your knowledge. Sometimes, you might complete experiential or out-of-class learning or internships to graduate. Some degrees may require a capstone course or thesis to complete their coursework. Review the course requirements for your major and make a plan for when to complete introductory and advanced courses.

Related: Your Guide to Types of College Degrees

Advantages of having a bachelor's degree

Completing a bachelor's degree may have several personal and professional benefits:

  • More job opportunities: Many jobs have a minimum education requirement of a bachelor's degree. By earning a bachelor's degree, you may qualify for more jobs in your field.

  • Specialized career preparation: When earning a bachelor's degree, you can take courses about specialized career topics and skills. The classes may help you prepare for the unique duties and responsibilities of your target career.

  • Higher pay: Having a bachelor's degree may increase your earning potential or help you qualify for higher-paying jobs. Some employers may pay a premium for candidates with a bachelor's compared to those without one.

  • Networking opportunities: Between professors and other professionals you may meet during a program, earning a bachelor's degree is a great way to network. The people you network with in your classes may know of job opportunities or companies where you might start a career.

  • Personal growth: Earning a bachelor's degree can help you develop skills like multitasking, critical thinking and problem-solving. The skills, knowledge and social experience you accumulate during college may increase your self-esteem and give you the confidence to achieve ambitious career goals.

Related: Is a Bachelor's Degree Worth It? Costs and Alternatives

Jobs you can get with a bachelor's degree

Completing a bachelor's degree can qualify you for entry-level jobs in most industries and prepare you to pursue mid-and high-level jobs later in your career. Many of these positions may list a bachelor's degree as a minimum educational requirement to apply. 

While there's a large variety of jobs you can get with this type of degree, here are some specific ones you might pursue:

  • Marketing specialist

  • Software engineer

  • Research analyst

  • Teacher

  • Project manager

  • Administrator

Related: 20 of the Highest-Paying Bachelor's Degree Jobs

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How much does a bachelor's degree cost?

The cost of earning a bachelor's degree can vary depending on a few factors:

  • Location: Schools in your state of residence often provide discounts, while out-of-state schools may charge additional fees.

  • Type: Private universities or for-profit colleges may have higher tuition than some public state schools.

  • Length: Some schools charge per credit rather than for degree, so taking more classes can make your degree more expensive.

  • Housing: If you live on-campus, you may pay additional dorm and meal plan fees plus tuition.

  • Scholarships: Many colleges offer scholarships and grants to students to assist with tuition costs, including housing stipends and full-ride scholarships that cover the entire cost of tuition. You can earn scholarships for academic performance, test scores and extracurriculars.

When applying for college, research each school's tuition and scholarship opportunities. Many students apply for student loans or government aid to fund their college experience.

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