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

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

Pursuing a bachelor's degree may be one way to expand potential career opportunities. In 2017, the Economics Policy Institute published a report on the state of American wages in 2016 and it reported that "From 2000 to 2016, the strongest wage growth occurred among those with advanced degrees (8.5%) and those with college degrees (6.9%)." That year, the average hourly income for workers with high school diplomas was only 54% of the average hourly rate for bachelor’s degree holders.1 Of course, before realizing any benefits associated with holding a bachelor’s degree, you need to commit both time and effort upon returning to school.

How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree? The National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the US Department of Education, reports that most students at public and private universities no longer complete bachelor's degrees in just four years.2 Hence, the traditional four-year path to a degree isn't always straightforward. Furthermore, if you're a working professional with family commitments, you may be concerned with finding the time to pursue a degree.

Consider these three factors that can have an impact on the time it takes to complete a bachelor's degree:

Method of Study

How you choose to complete your studies can impact the length of time required to finish a bachelor's degree program. The traditional model involves students taking classes on campus for four (or sometimes five) years. However, this model is not always suitable for the diverse range of students pursuing bachelor's degrees. Different course formats, such as online and hybrid classes, can offer alternative options to those looking to complete degrees faster, or to those needing more time to complete coursework.

Online degree programs may offer flexibility with tailored course materials to students' specific needs and knowledge levels, like AIU’s adaptive learning platforms. These platforms are designed to help students complete degree requirements at a pace that supports their learning.

Additionally, if you choose to pursue online studies, you may look for a school that offers 24/7 access to a virtual campus, thus making it easier to work when, where and how you want.

Transfer Credits

Some universities offer transfer credits for courses completed at other institutions, professional training or qualifying work or military experience. Transferring in credits may help cut down the number of total classes required to complete a bachelor's degree program, allowing you to graduate sooner.

Research your options to see if the program that you’re interested in offers prior learning assessments to help determine if you qualify for transfer or prior learning credits. If you are a military service member or veteran, the skills, knowledge and training you gained during your service may qualify you to receive credit for your military experience.

Number of Classes Taken Per Term or Quarter

Universities may also offer different pacing options for degree programs to help meet the varied needs of students of all ages, backgrounds and professions. The pace at which you choose to complete coursework can impact the overall length of your bachelor's degree program completion.

Full-Time

A full-time course load is the standard method of study for traditional college students, though what exactly is full-time status depends on the institution and whether a semester, trimester, quarter or other type of term schedule is used.

At AIU, full-time students take 12 or more credit hours per quarter.

Part-Time

Students who need extra time to balance work and other obligations with coursework may choose to work toward their degrees at part-time status. At AIU, part-time status is less than 12 credit hours per quarter. In addition to enabling you to focus on fewer courses each term, taking classes part-time can be an optimal way to adjust to your new academic responsibilities if you're returning to school after working full-time for several years.

Rules and requirements about how many (or how few) courses bachelor's degree students are permitted to take per term may differ among universities; therefore, be sure to check your institution's policies to decide how part-time status may impact your estimated graduation date.

Accelerated Programs

An accelerated degree program is structured to be completed in a shorter time frame than the traditional four-year program. While there is no set definition of what an accelerated program is, these types of programs are often designed for mature, working adults who prefer to complete their degrees quickly by engaging in intensive, ongoing coursework.

If you're interested in taking an increased course load each term, look into whether the university offers an accelerated version of your degree program. (Accelerated graduate programs may also be available, such as AIU's one-year MBA degree program.)

Through this program, doctoral work is started after 10 of the 12 required master’s courses have been successfully completed. Program plans must be reviewed by the Doctoral Studies Program Director.

Pursue Your Bachelor’s Degree

Answering the question, "How long will it take to earn my bachelor's degree?" depends on a variety of factors, including how much time you can devote to your studies based on your current work, family, and other commitments. If you need professional advice on available options that best meet your educational goals and lifestyle, speak with an AIU Admissions Advisor.

Learn more about pursuing a bachelor's degree at AIU.

1. “The State of American Wages 2016." Economy Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.epi.org/publication/the-state-of-american-wages-2016-lower-unemployment-finally-helps-working-people-make-up-some-lost-ground-on-wages/ (Visited 11/29/18).
2. “Graduation Rates.” U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40 (Visited 11/19/18).

AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures.

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