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A bachelor's degree is a diploma awarded at the successful completion of an undergraduate academic program. Students usually need about four years of study to complete it, though this can vary depending on the school attended. There are a number of types of degrees that can be earned in a range of academic fields, and many students continue with a postgraduate program afterward.
Purpose and Function of a Bachelor's Degree
One of the most common types of academic degree, a bachelor's degree is often the first degrees a student receives in his or her academic career. The bachelor's is sometimes awarded with additional study after a student first earns an associate's degree, which only takes about two years, though many students simply work on a four-year degree instead. As of 2012, more than 30% of people in the US held a bachelor's.
A four-year degree demonstrates that a student has a general and broad education with a focus on a particular subject area, such as history or biology. This degree is expected in many career fields; often, job listings will including a bachelor's as a requirement for the position, although the exact field of study isn't always important. Advanced study may be needed for other academic or technical professions.
Getting a Degree
Bachelor's degree programs usually require the completion of approximately 120 to 150 credits or hours in classes. Although it can vary from one college to another, a typical course usually counts as three credits or hours toward a degree. Depending on the school, a certain number of these credits must be earned in different areas; for example, some core courses in math and writing may be required, while a significant number of credits must usually be earned in the student's area of major study. In some cases, a college might require that students take several classes in different departments to give them exposure to a wide variety of fields, and many students take
In most US and Canadian colleges, a student must declare a major area of study. A major is an area of concentration, and courses in this field usually make up 25% or more of the total credits earned toward the degree. Other countries also include areas of concentration for degrees, often called a "course" rather than a major.
Some schools have a very stringent set of requirements for particular majors, and students in these fields must take all of the assigned classes in a specific order. It is also sometimes possible to earn a "double major," which is a concentration in two different areas of study. Many students also declare a minor, usually consisting of a number classes in one discipline or an academic specialization, often related to the academic major.
Types of Degrees
There are several types of bachelor's degrees available to students, including the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). The BS degree is geared towards those who want to branch out into subjects like medicine, biology, and psychology, while the BA is given to those who complete coursework in humanities and the arts. Some other popular bachelor's degrees include the Bachelor of Applied Science, the Bachelor of Economics, and the Bachelor of Fine Arts. Once a student has earned a bachelor's degree, he or she may decide to continue his or her education and study toward earning a master’s degree or a doctorate.
History of the Bachelor's Degree
The name for the degree stems refers to an early meaning of "bachelor" as a "young apprentice." It is also known as a "baccalaureate" in many countries. This term seems to have originally referred to a degree awarded to students when they became qualified to study with others and begin student-teaching. Since this term was first used in Europe, it has spread to many countries and can refer to very different levels of education.
Undergraduate degrees are also called by various names in different countries. In Japan, for instance, the bachelor's degree program is a six-year course of study referred to as gakushi. The Commonwealth of Independent States, former member countries of the Soviet Union, refers to it as the bakalavr. These similar programs sometimes allow students to receive their education in one country and transfer it over to a new one as an equivalent degree.