Formal education is no longer a commodity in the workplace, but a necessity. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require training and postsecondary education beyond high school. That employment research estimates that 19.25 million (35 percent) of the projected 55 million job openings through 2020 will require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree. In turn, education is not only equated with better job marketability, but potential earning as well -- earnings that increase at every degree level. For example, bachelor's degree holders saw their incomes increase by 34 percent since 1983, while individuals with a high school diploma only realized a 13 percent increase during that time.
The central purpose of a college education is two-fold: to help students develop intellectually and personally, and to provide students with occupation- and work-related skills and knowledge. Bachelor's degrees are offered by four-year universities, both public and private, and the major benefit of an online program is to offer students an opportunity to complete their education in a flexible, individualized manner.
Types of Online Bachelor's Degrees
The US Department of Education defines a bachelor's degree as an academic award that requires at least four years of full-time study. Curriculum is split between general studies (liberal arts) coursework and classes dedicated to a major concentration in one or more subjects. The most common degree in the US higher educational system, the bachelor's degree typically falls into one of two types: Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). Typically, both degree types require students to complete between 120 and 128 semester credit hours of study. Additionally, bachelor's degrees provide in-depth academic or professional preparation; expose students to general education in the social sciences, mathematics, arts and humanities, science and mathematics; and offer students an opportunity to specialize their studies through elective coursework. While the BA and BS share commonalities, they diverge in the following way:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA): The BA is an academic degree focused on providing students with a broad education in the liberal arts (e.g. English, social science, foreign languages).
- Bachelor of Science (BS): The AS is an academic degree focused on providing students with a more narrow scope of study and technical instruction in their subject area of study (e.g. science, nursing, mathematics).
From accounting to graphic design, bachelor's degrees are available in a wide range of subject areas, some that take longer to complete than others. For more on individual majors, check out the links below or contact an admissions advisor from your school of interest.
What to Expect in an Online Bachelor's Program
Today's online degree programs are designed to complement their on-campus counterparts, providing greater access and flexibility to students who -- for a variety of reasons -- are unable to complete an in-person bachelor's program. Typically speaking, students can complete their degree through two different types of delivery formats -- online and hybrid. Depending on the specific program of study, department and institutions, students may be relegated to one or the other.
- Hybrid: Hybrid programs are commonly referred to as "blended" programs, and approach instruction from an integrated point-of-view where students take classes both online and in-person.
- Online: In fully online programs, students complete all of their coursework via distance learning technologies and forego in-person interaction with their instructors and other students.
In addition, online learning itself is also nuanced and falls into two categories: asynchronous and synchronous. Synchronous learning means students are required to participate in real-time learning environments with their instructors and classmates via a host of online technologies such as video conferencing, live chat, or online message boards. Asynchronous learning environments are known as "self-paced," where students can access their instructional materials at any time and complete their coursework on their own time and schedule. Because of the varied nature of online learning, prospective students should have an understanding of how their selected university provides online teaching -- as that teaching could vary from program to program.
Popular Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
In 2013, more than 1,100 universities in the US provided programs via distance learning across a spectrum of academic subjects. Enrollment and graduation data from the National Center for Education Statistics showed the most popular online bachelor's degree programs (by program count) included the following:
Popular Programs of Study
Job Openings (2014-2024)
|RN Registered Nursing||1088400||2857180|
|Elementary Education and Teaching||378700||1392660|
|Secondary Education and Teaching||284000||1003250|
|Business Administration with an Operations Management Concentration||166900||958670|
|Computer Programming - Software Development||238000||794000|
|Management Information Systems MIS||208500||637690|
|Middle School Education and Teaching||175500||626310|
The latest market research published by Eduventures reveals the bachelor's degree is the most popular online degree option, with an estimated 42 percent of students pursuing the degree, followed by associate (29 percent) and master's (24 percent). Based on a 2014 survey of online college students from LearningHouse, the top five most popular online bachelor's degrees include:
- Business administration
- Information technology
- Criminal justice
- Early childhood education
As for choosing a field of study, prospective students may want to consider finance, computer science and engineering, and healthcare -- as several of the fastest growing occupations requiring a bachelor's degree are in those professional areas.
Fastest Growing Occupations
Average Salary (2016)
Job Growth (2012-22)
|Operations Research Analysts||$84,340||30%|
|Personal Financial Advisors||$123,100||30%|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||$66,160||29%|
|Interpreters and Translators||$51,260||29%|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$60,690||27%|
|Therapists, All Other||$60,590||24%|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||$44,160||22%|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$91,620||21%|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||$47,880||19%|
|Software Developers, Applications||$104,300||19%|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||$70,620||19%|
|Information Security Analysts||$96,040||18%|
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, http://www.bls.gov/emp/
Center for Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf
Center for Education and the Workforce, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/fullreport.pdf
Learning House, 2014 Online College Students, http://www.learninghouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014-Online-College-Students-Final.pdf
National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/CDS.aspx