How Long Is an Online Bachelor’s Degree

A college degree is as important as ever. An October 2021 New York Times article reported that, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, white-collar workers with degrees, many of whom could work remotely, were not only less affected by job loss than other workers, they were in industries that rebounded faster once lockdown measures began to lift. On the other hand, individuals lacking college degrees, especially those working in jobs that require face-to-face interaction with customers such as those in the retail, hospitality, and restaurant industries, were disproportionately hit by layoffs, furloughs, and underemployment.

That point is underscored by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): In December 2020, the unemployment rate for professionals aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 3.6%, while for high school graduates aged 25 and older with no college experience it was 7.9%.

Earning a bachelor’s degree allows individuals to increase their knowledge and expand their skill set, lays the foundation for professional connections, and helps graduates pursue a wider range of career opportunities, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and increased earning power. However, earning a degree requires a time commitment, which is why aspiring students should understand how long a bachelor’s takes prior to pursuing one.

A smiling student works online.

Bachelor Degree Completion Timeline

The timeline for a bachelor’s program can vary based on several factors, such as whether a student is enrolled in full- or part-time study, and whether they have prior college credits that are eligible for transfer.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Study

Students interested in gaining real-world experience while earning a bachelor’s degree may opt for part-time study. Not only does this allow students to work while they earn their degree, it may also provide them with the opportunity to build in an internship, practicum, or clinical experience as part of their credit requirements. However, part-time students often take longer to complete their degrees. While most full-time students find they can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years, part-time students may require up to six years to complete their course of study.

Transfer Credits

Applicants with prior college experience may be able to transfer some or all of their credits to their new school. A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) is typically required for transfer eligibility in most programs. Official college transcripts from all prior colleges and universities must be submitted as part of the application process. The greater number of eligible transfer credits an applicant has, the less time it could take them to complete their degree.

What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree and an Associate Degree?

Among the differences between a bachelor’s and an associate degree are the credit hour requirements of each program. Most associate programs, including those that can be completed online, require students to complete approximately 60 credit hours to graduate, which most full-time students find they can do in approximately two years. The average baccalaureate degree program typically requires students to complete between 120 and 130 credit hours, which usually makes the length of a bachelor’s degree approximately four years for full-time students.

Students’ post-graduation earning potential also varies depending on their degree. PayScale reports that, as of January 2022, the median annual salary was around $57,000 for associate degree holders and around $65,000 for baccalaureate degree holders.

Finally, while some students choose to earn an associate degree to qualify for entry-level jobs in a certain field, such as by completing licensed practical nurse (LPN) or paralegal training, more advanced positions often require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. In some instances, credits earned in an associate degree program may qualify as transfer credit should graduates choose to pursue a four-year degree.

Benefits of an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program

Students weighing in-person learning versus online learning should be aware of the benefits associated with online education.

  • Online students can work from wherever they have an internet connection — at home, at the library, or at the coffee shop.
  • Online students aren’t limited by geography. They don’t need to commute to campus, which means they won’t need to upend their lives and relocate.
  • Online students often learn with students of various ages and backgrounds, which allows them to make connections with a broad range of other students, expand their networking opportunities, and engage in meaningful classroom interactions.

A Big Step Toward the Future

Among the benefits associated with earning a bachelor’s degree is its effect on one’s earning power and employment. The BLS reports that, in the year 2020, while people aged 25 or older with a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $781 and an average unemployment rate of 9%, those aged 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees had median weekly earnings of $1,305 and an average unemployment rate of 5.5%.

Maryville University’s online bachelor’s programs are designed to help aspiring students turn their ambition into action. In addition to allowing students to learn remotely and at their own pace, approximately 96% of Maryville University online bachelor program graduates report positive career outcomes within six months of graduation.

Are you ready to take the first brave step toward earning your bachelor’s degree? Discover how Maryville University’s diverse online certificate and degree program offerings can help you create your own success story.

Recommended Reading

How Long Is a Master’s Degree?

Why Do an Internship During College?

Moving Forward in Your Career Takes Focus, Determination, and Education


Investopedia, “Education vs. Experience: Which One Gets the Job?”

The New York Times, “A Year After a Jobs Bust, College Students Find a Boom”

Seattle Post Intelligencer, “10 Advantages of Taking Online Classes”

SoFi, “Full-Time vs Part-Time Student”

ThoughtCo., “6 Financial Benefits of a College Degree”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Education Pays

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Status of the Civilian Population 25 Years and Over by Educational Attainment

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