How Long to Get a Bachelor's? Traditional vs. Online

man studying on laptop wearing headphones

A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate academic degree students earn at colleges and universities. Before graduating, students in bachelor’s degree programs take classes related to a major, an academic subject they choose to focus on. Graduates can proudly include their Bachelor’s degree on their resume when they apply for jobs in an economy that increasingly requires four-year degrees to be considered for employment. 

There’s no wrong way to get a Bachelor’s degree. You can choose on-campus learning, online classes, or a mixture of both depending on your personal preferences and lifestyle. Here are a few things to consider as you weigh the benefits of obtaining your Bachelor’s degree with the time it will take to complete the educational requirements. 

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Bachelor's Degree?

Completing a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of study, and students must usually complete 120 semester credits worth of courses with a portion related directly to the chosen major. Choosing your major is an opportunity to take ownership of your education and focus on what really motivates and interests you. Alongside the classes related to your major, you’ll need to complete a few required courses in basic subjects like math, science, and language, and that’s a necessary step along the way to focusing on the topic (or topics!) that really interest you. 

Did you know that you’re not limited to just one major?

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could even choose to double-major during your time in college. Yet, double majors will require extra time and commitment, so they should only be attempted if you reasonably believe yourself to be capable of completing both majors. A risk that many double-majors take is spreading themselves too thin; by focusing on two majors, you might find yourself unable to truly give each major the attention and effort they both require. 

Most students decide to choose one major when pursuing their Bachelor’s degree. If you find yourself interested in more of an academic challenge but don’t want to double-major, consider choosing a minor, which often only requires an additional 18 credits at Ashford. An academic minor is a discipline that typically accompanies a major. While not required, it’s generally advised that if you pursue a minor, it should academically complement your major and align with your career goals. A student pursuing a major in Early Childhood Education, for example, might choose a minor in Educational Psychology, since both fields complement the other. A Social and Criminal Justice major might choose Law Enforcement Administration as their minor, arming them with the knowledge they need to pursue a career in law enforcement. But choosing which major or minor to pursue is entirely up to you. If you want to pursue completely different majors and minors, go for it. As long as you’re interested in both subjects, you should endeavor to complete whatever you believe yourself capable of achieving.

Certain degree programs may not be available in all states. 

major and minor credits transfer amounts

With the demands of today’s fast-paced world, many people are intimidated by the length of time it takes to complete a Bachelor’s degree. Still more people are under the impression that Bachelor’s degrees can only be completed at “traditional” colleges, complete with the in-person classes, on-campus living, and social life people typically associate with college. But the world of higher education is transforming, and the definition of “traditional college” is morphing into an entirely new educational ecosystem. An increasing number of people are choosing to earn their bachelor’s degrees through other means, like online programs and community colleges, which can be affordable alternatives to more traditional four-year programs. 

Why Online Classes Are Convenient

According to the Online Learning Consortium, nearly 6 million students enrolled in online courses last year. One in four college students takes at least one online education course these days, and the number is growing. Choosing to earn your bachelor’s online may still take the four years a bachelor’s usually takes to complete, but classes are usually taken one at a time and last between five and six weeks, allowing for students to focus on one course as they juggle other life priorities along with their school schedule.  

The cost of attendance at traditional universities has been continually rising year after year, often making tuition hard to predict throughout the application process. Plus, with more and more students flooding traditional campuses, popular classes required for completing a bachelor’s can become crowded, which leads to other problems. You may be waitlisted for enrolling in a class you really need to get into, or you may never get in at all and have to wait until next semester to try again, extending your time to graduation and possibly costing additional funds. If you do get in, you may be disappointed to discover that the sheer number of people in the class makes it so you don’t get the personal attention you deserve. Taking classes online is a way to get into the classes you really need or want to take, and to get the academic attention that will let you get the most out of the subjects you’re learning. 

Online learning takes place in virtual classrooms, where students access discussion boards and written assignments, while having the ability to communicate with instructors and fellow students through phones, tablets, and desktop computers.

Students who attend four-year universities have the benefit of physical access to instructors and advisors—but online learning isn’t without its personal touches as well. Through Ashford University’s online programs, you stay connected to faculty, classmates, writing assistants, and all the career services specialists who can help you achieve your goal of earning your degree. Many online institutions also have mentoring programs that help you adjust to the online learning environment.

How to Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree Faster

If you’re still not feeling completely comfortable with spending four whole years getting your bachelor’s, not to worry. There are options for that, too.

Ask your school about non-traditional credits—work and life experience you can apply to your bachelor’s degree.

If you’ve already completed coursework through other institutions, you may be sitting on credits that can transfer over to your current program. These are deemed as “traditional credits.” Just talk to your institution’s registrar’s office to see if any credits you’ve already earned can be applied to your current program. You might be surprised at how much progress toward your bachelor’s you’ve already made. Even if you’ve never attended any college classes, you may have other experience that can translate to credits. Non-traditional credits you can apply to your bachelor’s degree include military training, certain professional work experience, and national testing programs. 

You may have a few more questions before beginning your application to a bachelor’s program, such as if you qualify for financial aid or scholarships. If so, our FAQ page should help clarify a few things.

How You Learn is Up to You

There’s no wrong way to earn your bachelor’s degree. Whether you decide to enroll in a university and attend classes on campus, or take online classes from the comfort of your own home—or a cozy cafe with WiFi—choosing to complete a bachelor’s in an academic field that interests you and prepares you for a career is an admirable decision. If you’re ready to take on the challenge of higher education, contact an advisor and start along your road to graduation! 

Most-requested Bachelor's degrees at Ashford University

 

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Written by Ashford University staff

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