How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree online? Explore variables that affect how long it takes to get a degree and the benefits of online programs.
Women working on laptop

Working adults thinking about going back to school or prospective students weighing their higher education options often wonder about online programs. Common questions they ask include “How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree online?” and “What are the benefits of online degrees?” By finding answers to these questions, people considering this popular type of education can best determine if it’s right for them.

What Affects How Long It Takes to Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?

Like their on-campus counterparts, online bachelor’s degree programs require students to meet general education course requirements, as well as specialized course requirements in their major. In general, this involves completing around 120 credit hours. Typically, at least 36 of those credit hours come from upper-level coursework in one’s major.   

While online degrees have course requirements similar to those of traditional degrees, the structure of online degree programs differs. Online programs are designed to accommodate busy schedules. They also may include accelerated course options, which allow students to earn their credit hours within a shorter time frame. This creates the opportunity for students to finish their online bachelor’s degree more quickly than if they were pursuing a traditional bachelor’s degree.  

The amount of time it takes to complete an online bachelor’s degree depends on a number of factors. For instance, students with an associate degree can often finish their bachelor’s degree in half the time it takes students starting from scratch.

Other variables that can affect the time it takes to get an online bachelor’s degree include the following.

Enrollment Status: Full-Time vs. Part-Time

Online bachelor’s programs often let students choose either full-time or part-time enrollment. Students with heavy workloads and personal responsibilities may want to take fewer courses at a time. In this case, part-time students could take five to six years to complete their degree.

Other students may want to enroll full time, which usually means taking 12 to 15 credit hours during fall and spring terms. Students in a hurry may elect to take even more credit hours per term, which could allow them to earn their degree in three years or less, depending on how many accelerated courses they take and whether they attend summer school. 

Program Requirements

Programs vary in their course requirements. This means different degree programs may require varying numbers of credit hours. For example, marketing majors may have to complete 36 credits hours to satisfy their program’s degree requirements. Early childhood education majors, on the other hand, may have to complete 50 credit hours.

These variations can affect how long it takes to get a bachelor’s degree online. So, prospective students weighing their time commitment may want to factor in program requirements when choosing between majors.


Benefits of Online Degree Programs

Online degree programs offer many benefits that draw students to them. For example, the following advantages make online degree programs especially accessible and worthwhile.

Flexibility

Many people have hectic schedules with irregular work hours or family obligations that often prevent them from attending traditional college classes at set times. The structure of online bachelor’s programs, however, allows for a great deal of flexibility.

Courses for online degrees typically have asynchronous components that give students control over when they listen to a lecture, participate in a discussion, or ask a question. They also allow students to work at their own pace so long as they meet class deadlines. Asynchronous classes typically include prerecorded lectures and message boards for engaging in class discussion.

This structure offers considerable convenience. Not only does it allow students to arrange their classwork around their current life obligations, but it also allows them to study from their home, their place of work, or even a cafe.

Cost

Online bachelor’s degrees usually save students a lot of money. Many of the expenses associated with traditional degree programs don’t apply to online programs. To begin with, online degrees don’t require students to commute to attend class. This eliminates the need to spend money on gas and parking. It also frees up a considerable amount of time, which students can devote to their studies, jobs, or another activity.

Students of online programs don’t have to relocate to a new city or state. A computer and internet connection transport them to exactly where they need to be. Additionally, many online courses use texts available electronically, which are frequently cheaper than regular textbooks.

Location

Online bachelor’s programs allow students to attend universities across the country without the need to uproot their lives and move to a new place. This can be especially helpful to people living in rural areas that may not have colleges or universities. In general, this makes higher education more accessible to a greater number of people.

It also provides students with many more options. For example, if a local school doesn’t offer a degree program, students can still earn their desired degree without the need to locate. With online degree programs, the pool of school options expands considerably.

Career Advancement

Higher levels of education open up many job opportunities. Many companies reserve management positions for those with at least a bachelor’s degree. Advanced education also often leads to much higher salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn median weekly salaries of $1,305. Those with only a high school diploma earn $781, about half as much.

With an online bachelor’s degree, professionals can get raises, enter new careers, and apply for more competitive positions. Even before graduating, students can apply their new knowledge and skills to their current jobs and get promotions as a result.


Expand Your Opportunities by Earning an Online Bachelor’s Degree

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree online? Depending on a specific program’s requirements and a student’s prior education, the answer is anywhere between two and six years. However long it takes, students who choose online programs benefit in numerous ways.

Discover the many online bachelor’s programs offered at St. Catherine University and how they can help prepare graduates to achieve their professional goals.

Recommended Readings:

7 Inspirational Women in Business and Tech

The Evolution of Nursing: How Interdisciplinary Care Supports Better Patient Outcomes

What You Need to Know About Going Back to School to Change Careers

Sources:

Kajabi, “20 Benefits of Online Classes for Teachers and Students”

NCES, “The Condition of Education 2020”

Salary.com, “Six Advantages of an Online Degree”

StraighterLine, “13 Great Benefits of Online Learning”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections