Your Guide to Baccalaureate Degrees

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A baccalaureate degree is a four-year college degree you can earn after graduating from high school. Learn more about whether this type of degree is right for you.

[Featured image] A baccalaureate student in a cap and gown smiles on stage after getting her degree.

A baccalaureate degree is another name for a bachelor’s degree. It's essentially an undergraduate degree offered by colleges and universities. As with any decision-making process involving higher education, it's important to figure out what you should major in, as well as the costs and time commitment, so you can determine whether getting your bachelor's degree is the right choice for you.

In this article, we'll briefly go over what it takes to earn a baccalaureate degree and other types of education you can explore when you're interested in learning about a subject and building key skills.

What is a baccalaureate degree? 

A baccalaureate degree is a four-year college degree otherwise known as a bachelor's degree. You can earn this type of degree once you graduate from high school or earn your GED. Most baccalaureate degrees are four-year programs, but the completion time can vary. Students increasingly take five or six years to finish their undergraduate degree. 

What can you study in a baccalaureate program?

In a baccalaureate degree program, you can pursue a variety of college majors, which often determine what type of degree you'll earn. For example, majors in the humanities and social sciences tend to earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, while majors in the natural sciences and computer science tend to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS). Learn more about some of the other big differences between BA and BS degrees.

Some of the more popular bachelor's degrees include:

Learn more: Is a Bachelor's Degree Worth It?

The 10 most popular majors in college are business, health, and the social sciences. That's because these majors tend to lead to strong career outcomes. As you think about what you should major in, use our helpful college major overviews to learn more about each one:

Learn more: Double Majors vs. Dual Degree: What's the Difference?

What does it cost to earn a baccalaureate degree?

How much it costs to earn your baccalaureate degree will depend on a few factors, including whether you attend a public, private, or online program, whether you choose to live on-campus, and how quickly you can move through your degree program.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the average annual public school tuition for in-state residents was $10,940, while out-of-state residents paid an average of $28,240, and private nonprofit students paid an average of $39,400 [1].

The factors below can add to or reduce your overall cost for a baccalaureate degree:

  • Public vs. private schools: Private universities often cost overall more than public universities.

  • Online vs. on-campus: Online learning may be less expensive than attending an in-person program because you won't need to pay for a dorm, transportation, or meals outside the home. You can also often complete an online degree while working, which can help mitigate costs.

  • Part-time vs. full-time: Attending college part-time is less expensive per semester, but it may take you longer to earn your degree.  

In the US, applying for FAFSA can help determine what financial aid, if any, you qualify for. There are also many jobs you can get to help you pay for college.  

Other types of education to consider

If you’re unsure if a baccalaureate degree will meet your current or future needs, there are other options. 

  • Professional Certificates: Develop job-ready skills in a matter of months with a Professional Certificate. Enroll in beginner and advanced programs from Google, IBM, and Meta, among other companies. Each program takes less than a year to complete, and you can gain important industry knowledge and career skills.  

  • Bootcamps: With computer sciencedata science, and UX design, you can take part in a shorter but more in-depth program called a bootcamp. Also designed to help you develop job-ready knowledge and skills, bootcamps can help you accelerate your learning and many also feature career placement support. 

  • Internships: You don't have to be a college student to apply for internships, though some companies may have stipulations about who qualifies. These part-time or time-limited opportunities can be a great way to gain professional experience and grow your network to begin applying for entry-level jobs in the field.

Learn more: 9 Alternatives to College

Learn on Coursera

Experience what it's like to earn your bachelor's degree online at your own pace by taking an open course from a top university:

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Article sources

  1. College Board. "Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2022," Accessed June 8, 2023.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.