What is an Undergraduate Degree?

Learn about what is an undergraduate degrees, its types, differences, eligibility and admission requirements and much more.

Updated by Anchal S on 20th October 2020

An undergraduate degree is a three-five year degree depending on the course and institution. The degrees are offered in diverse subjects and would help you make a career out of the subjects you choose. This type of degree usually qualifies you as eligible for a job for an employer. The degree offers various general education, major and elective courses.

There are a plethora of options for high school students to choose from after earning the diploma certificate. Right from the type of undergraduate degree to the kind of education system (traditional/ online) he/she prefers to enroll in, it is pivotal to have a deep understanding of these topics to make smarter, wiser decisions.

In our article, we have comprehensively discussed the various aspects of undergraduate degrees. It is our constant effort to inform you more explicitly and help you make those correct career choices. 

Eligibility Criteria for an Undergraduate Degree

Enrollment into an undergraduate program demands certain eligibility criteria to be met. A few of them are as given below.

  • You should be a high school graduate or hold an equivalent degree.

  • There must be a minimum GPA required to enroll in a particular course.

  • Official transcripts of the school/college must be provided for enrollment.

  • Students should have passed in all the exams.

  • Have letters of recommendation (if required).

  • Should complete 120 semester hours of credits or 180 quarter hours of credits.

  • The student must complete all the major, general, and elective courses. 

Types of Undergraduate Degrees

There are two types of undergraduate degree-

  • Associate's degree and

  • Bachelor's degree. 

What is an Associate Degree?

Associate’s Degree is an undergraduate degree which can be completed in two years. It is an academic program and is the first step towards gaining technical skills and knowledge about the course and the program.

The degree has a shorter duration as compared to the Bachelor’s Degree and you will attain 60 credits after completing the degree. These credits can be transferred to the Bachelor’s Degree if you wish to enroll in it. However, it depends on the course and the institution, and the eligibility of the student.

The degrees are offered both on-campus and online. The Associate’s Degree online platform offers accelerated courses with an up-to-date curriculum.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree?

A Bachelor’s Degree is a three-five year course. It is an undergraduate degree that comprises of 120 credits in a semester pattern or 180 quarter credits in a quarter system. It is a post-secondary degree and provides a foundation in the respective subjects. It is also called as a Baccalaureate Degree. It is a standard degree for pursuing a career in a respective field.

The degree can be pursued both online and on-campus. Hence the bachelor’s degree has been made more accessible. 

Why is a Bachelor’s Degree important?

A few reasons why you should earn a Bachelor's degree are as given below.

  • Provides employment opportunities: Bachelor’s Degree is a minimum requirement in many sectors. The degree would provide you with the potential and knowledge to develop a career.

  • Improves wages: A Bachelor’s Degree improves employment opportunities and hence improves the wage rate. Bachelor’s Degree holders can earn better as compared to high school graduates.

  • Necessary for Graduate Studies: To enroll in a graduate program, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree. It is the requirement.

How Many Years Is  An Undergraduate Degree?

An undergraduate degree program either takes two years or four years. Both durations of the undergraduate degree program, their structure, and more are explained in the later section below.

Two-Year Undergraduate Degree

There are around a thousand and over two-year degree colleges and universities in the US. If you want to pursue higher education, you should opt for a two-year degree program, which will earn you an associate degree. The credit hour requirement for a two-year degree is 60 semester credit hours, which completes 2-years. Associate degrees can be earned in either arts, commerce, or science streams. The entire degree program is divided into three parts, the general education requirements of the program, courses with your majors, and additionally your elective courses.

You may also pursue a 4-Year degree program after completing an associate degree program of 2-years (transfer 60 credit hours). Learn more about two-year degree programs and various types in the later sections.

Four-Year Undergraduate Degree 

In the US, there are around 2000 and more colleges and universities which offer a four-year degree program. It is also known as a college degree or bachelor’s degree. A four-year degree program consists of 120 to 128 semester credit hours. This constitutes to a 4-Year degree. As mentioned60 credit hours of this can be transferred to from a two-year degree program from a community college.

Typically, a four-year degree program is called as freshman year, sophomores, juniors, and senior years. A few general courses under a four-year degree program are philosophy, mathematics, physical sciences, social studies, commerce, technology, etc.

Learn more about how many years is a Bachelor's degree here.

Features of an Undergraduate Degree

Both associate's and bachelor's degree have their own set of characteristics that distinguishes them from each other. Here, let us discuss the most important features of an Associate's Degree and Bachelor's Degree

Features of an Associate’s Degree

Some of the noteworthy features of an Associate Degree are as follows:

  • It provides foundational and technical skills in the particular field you’ve opted for.

  • The degree is fast-paced and can be completed in less than two years.

  • The tuition cost of the degree is lesser than the bachelor’s degree the duration of the degree is just for two years.

  • The degree would prepare you to enter the workforce in the respective field you wish to enter in accordance with the subject you opted for in the degree program.

  • You would be provided with adequate skills and training to become a professional.

  • The time would be saved as the degree can be completed at a faster rate as compared to others.

  • Upon completion of the course, you may transfer your credits earned to a Bachelor’s Degree and directly enroll in the third year of the bachelor’s degree program.

  • The entry requirements for the program are less than that of a bachelor’s degree program.

Features of Bachelor's Degree

The most important features of a Bachelor's Degree are given below:

  • Provides important knowledge on the subjects you opt for.

  • The degree can be completed in mostly four years. It is available in an accelerated form online.

  • The degrees are affordable and are the minimum degree required to build a profession in many sectors. 

  • The specializations and electives offered in the degree courses are diverse and give technical and vocational training required to succeed.

Eligibility Criteria of Undergraduate Degree

The eligibility criteria for an Associate's degree is not the same as that of a bachelor's degree. Let's look at the features in-depth here

Eligibility Criteria for Associate’s Degree 

The eligibility criteria to apply for an associate degree are as given below.

  • You should be a high school graduate or have an equivalent education.

  • A complete application form must be submitted.

  • Minimum GPA requirements must be met.

  • The course must be completed within 60 credits.

  • An official GED certificate must be presented (if required).

  • Financial Aid can be opted for if required.

Eligibility Criteria for Bachelor’s Degree

The enrollment criteria for a Bachelor's degree remains the same in most of the universities. A few of them are as given below.

  • You must be a high school graduate or have a GED certificate.

  • ACT or SAT scores are required.

  • Minimum GPA requirements should be met.

  • Have an Associate’s Degree (if you want to get enrolled in the third year directly or transfer the credits)

  • Official high school transcripts must be presented.

  • General, major and elective courses must be completed.

Types of an Associate’s Degree

There are various types of degrees awarded under an Associate degree. Be it arts, science, or others The different types of associate degrees are as given below.

Degree 

Criteria

Associate of Arts

  • Literature, sociology, history, and many more

  • Duration - 2 years

  • Future - Enroll in a bachelors degree

  • Jobs - Manager, teacher, Sales and many more

Associate of Science

  • Subjects of liberal arts

  • Duration - 2 years

  • Future - Bachelors degree

  • Jobs - Adm Assistants, Registered Nurses, and many more

Associate of Applied Science

  • Focus mainly on core subjects

  • Cannot transfer to a Bachelors or third year

  • Duration - 2 years

  • Jobs - Registered Nurses, Certified Occupational Therapists, Radiologic Technologists, and many others

Associate of Fine Arts

  • Fine arts Subjects

  • Duration – 2 years or less

  • Future - Credit transfer possible to Bachelors degree

  • Jobs – Arts Administrator, Arts therapist, Business Development Associate, Art Teacher, and many more

Associate of General Science

  • Combined subjects of AS and AA

  • Duration – 2 years

  • May/may not be able to transfer to a Bachelor’s degree

  • Subjects – Anthropology, Applied Engineering, Computer Networking, English, Geography and many others

Types of Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's Degree is the generic name for the various degrees awarded as per their stream. The different types of Bachelor's degree are as follows:

Degree Type

Criteria

Bachelor of Arts

  • Liberal Arts Majors along with specialization
  • Duration – 4 years
  • Credits - 120

Bachelor of Science

  • Specialized courses in subjects including Botany Mathematics, Physics and many more
  • Duration – 4 years
  • Credits-120 (Semester), 180 (Quarter)

Bachelor of Fine Arts

  • Fine arts and Creative Subjects
  • Duration – 4 years
  • Credits – 120 (Semester), 180 (Quarter)

Bachelor of Applied Science


  • Focuses on any student with an Associate Degree
  • Duration – 4 years
  • Credits – 120 (Semester), 180 (Quarter)

Importance of an Undergraduate Degree

An undergraduate degree would help gain basic knowledge about different subjects and would help you make a career in the same. Since the degrees provide technical, vocational, practical, and theoretical, students get good job opportunities after completion of the degree.

Completing the degree also helps in getting a better wage as the undergraduate students have the necessary skills. It’s better than a high school degree and provides diverse career options.

Examples of Undergraduate degree Programs

There are various programs under Undergraduate Degree. Some fall under the Associate's Degree and some Under Bachelor's degree. Let's discuss some of the Programs that fall under Associate and bachelor's degree

Associate’s Degree Programs

A few Associate degree programs in the various arena is as given below:

  • Associate’s Degree in Business: The degree focuses on streams like economics, finance, marketing, sales, and many other concepts. It provides the foundation for the concepts of Business Administration and other inter-related subjects.

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing: The course provides training to the students to become efficient nurses. It is a minimum degree required to become a registered nurse. The degree can provide job opportunities in Oncology, Physician’s Office, Telemetry, Labor and Delivery, Medical Surgery, and many others.

  • Associate’s Degree in Computer Science- The program would teach you computer applications, programming languages, multimedia tools, and many other concepts as such. It would prepare you to enter the profession as a web developer or a computer technician.

  • Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice- It would give you a foundation in law, legal institutions, and criminal procedures to name a few. The coursework would be diverse and prepare you to engage in legal institutions.

  • Associate’s Degree in Psychology- The coursework includes topics such as substance abuse, sociology, abnormal psychology, and research methods in psychology. It is the minimum degree required to enter the profession based on psychology.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A few examples of Bachelor's degrees offered in different subjects are as follows.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Science- The degree provides knowledge in concepts such as computer applications, web development, database analysis, and many others.

  • Bachelors in Business Management- The subjects explored in this degree are that of marketing, finance, human relationship management, business analytics, and many others.

  • Bachelor’s in Biology- The subjects explored in this subject are human and animal anatomy, physiology, earth sciences, microbiology to name a few.

  • Bachelors in Psychology- Few subjects explored in the degree are behavioral psychology, child psychology, human psychology, and many others.

  • Bachelors in Media Studies- The program includes subjects such as communication; editing and writing, game designing, and many others.

Universities for Undergraduate Degree

Many universities offer Bachelor's degree programs and not many that offer associate degree programs. Let's take a look at some of the universities that offer an

Associate Degree program and a bachelor's degree program.

Universities offering Associate’s Degree Program

Many universities offer programs under the Associate's Degree. Examples of a few universities that offer Associate's degree is as given below.

Universities offering Associate’s Degree Program

Grantham University

Capella University

Southern New Hampshire University

Walden University

Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne 

Ashford University

Liberty University

University of Arizona

The Colorado Christian University

University of Delaware

 Universities Offering Bachelor's Degree Program

Most universities even if they do not offer associate's degrees do offer  Bachelor's degrees as the latter is more often pursued by students. Some of the universities of the United States that offer a Bachelor's degree are as follows.

Universities Offering Bachelor's Degree Program

Arizona State University

Indiana University Purdue University

Ohio University

Capella University

Kaplan University

Washington State University

Baker University

Saint Joseph’s University

Liberty University

Ashford University

Conclusion

The degree of competency of an undergraduate degree ( in different fields) solely depends on the individual’s efforts and dedication. There is nothing called an ‘easy’ or ‘ hard’ undergraduate degree. However, some fields require you to devote substantial time and effort. Subjects like Biology, Computer Science, Social Science require you to have a very sincere approach to learning it.

People would prefer to find employment and enter a job after earning an undergraduate degree. This break generally gives clarity on whether or not you really need to pursue an advanced degree. Some graduate programs also cater to working professionals, providing the possibility to pursue an advanced degree whereas still working full-time. 

Getting a degree will likewise demonstrate that you can complete what you begin with regards to your education. Any individual who has finished their secondary schooling, have their GED, or taken remedial classes can get their student qualification and improve their lives right away. Hence most often an Associate's degree is considered as the minimum qualification to enter into a job.

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