Undergraduate Degree ProgramsIMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

As you start your college education, you need to know your options. What should you expect from an undergraduate degree program? Which degrees are available at the undergraduate level? What should you look for in an undergraduate education?

Understanding Undergraduate Studies

Typically, the phrase “undergraduate degree” refers to a bachelor’s degree, though the two-year associate’s degree you earn from a community college is also technically an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree is the basic college degree, one that you must earn prior to beginning advanced studies at the graduate or doctoral level. Undergraduate degrees exist in hundreds of different subjects of study.

How long does it take to earn your bachelor’s degree? It depends on factors like how many courses you take at a time and the requirements of your curriculum. While a bachelor’s degree is commonly called a four-year degree, it doesn’t always take four years. Some programs, like degrees in architecture, require five years of study. Even in programs that could be completed in four years of full-time study, many students take longer. Just 19 percent of full-time students at public universities get their undergraduate degrees in four years, according to The New York Times. Events such as transferring schools, switching majors, scheduling issues and registration problems can contribute to taking more time to earn your degree.

Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

Many of the undergraduate degree programs that are most popular with students fall into one of two categories: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. Both types of bachelor’s degrees are undergraduate programs of study, and students complete mandatory classes and a set amount of credits necessary to fulfil the requirements of their chosen academic major. In both B.A. and B.S. degree programs, students typically have to complete general education requirements that include studies in the liberal arts, sciences and humanities. However, B.A. programs generally have a stronger focus on the liberal arts, while B.S. programs may require students to complete more technical or specialized classes in subjects such as science or mathematics.

While it might seem logical to assume that life and physical science programs result in a B.S. degree and studies in the humanities culminate in a B.A. degree, there’s often a good deal of overlap between programs. Psychology, for example, is one subject in which both B.A. and B.S. degree options are common. Some schools may offer both B.A. and B.S. programs in the same subject matter, with only slight differences in curriculum requirements. Due to the variances between B.A. and B.S. programs from one college to another, employers are less likely to judge job candidates based on whether they hold a B.A. or B.S. degree than they are on the subject matter studied and the school’s reputation.

While many undergraduates do earn either a B.A. or B.S. degree, these options are just two out of dozens of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States. When students complete certain college programs, they earn a more specialized undergraduate degree.

Some of these specialized degrees include:
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)
  • Bachelor of Music (B.Mu.)
  • Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)

Regardless of which type of bachelor’s degree you’re pursuing, you should know that the best degree programs for undergraduates have a lot in common. These schools offer a strong core curriculum for all undergraduate students, a variety of academic majors and opportunities you won’t find at institutions that cater to graduate students.