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Typical Completion Time of a Bachelor’s Degree Program

Higher Education Articles March 30, 2015

Bachelor’s degree programs usually take four years to complete, although some bachelor’s degree programs in accounting and architecture may add a fifth year. Other programs may be shorter.

Bachelor’s Degree Program Length

Although the scheduled time of a bachelor’s degree program is ordinarily four years, the majority of students take more time to finish their undergraduate degree. Data released by the U.S. Department of Education show that only 36% of students who embarked on a bachelor’s degree program in 2001 completed the program within its scheduled duration.

About 57% of said students took six years to complete their degree program. The bachelor’s degree programs begun by the remaining students may not have yet reached completion; alternatively, these students may have taken time off and could be planning to return to school in later years.

Bachelor’s Programs

It takes a minimum of 120 semester credit hours of courses to complete a bachelor’s degree programs, with students needing four hours of preparation, including an hour of classroom instruction, to complete a credit hour.

Schedules devised by schools for the completion of all general education and major requirements related to bachelor’s degree programs usually involve full-time coursework (four years) and sometimes part-time study (six years).

Most schools require students to complete 12 credit hours of study per semester to meet their full-time enrollment standard (U.S. Department of Education). Thus, completion of a bachelor’s degree in four years could involve more than a minimum full-time schedule.

Degree Completion Programs

Degree completion programs offered by some schools are usually set up for completion within two years. Students are allowed to apply the college credits they’ve earned previously to a new bachelor’s degree program, either through an incomplete bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree.

Schools perform the assessment as to which earlier credits may be applied to the new degree program, and students could take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams to showcase their knowledge and skills and waive some degree requirements.

Accelerated Programs

Some schools devise bachelor’s degree programs to allow completion of the full program, including general education requirements, within four years. Within these programs, higher course loads than the four-year plans are typically required each semester, and classes are attended year-round by students, whereby the summer features a third semester. Thus, completion time is reduced to three calendar years or less, but students are often counseled by schools to avoid holding jobs during their involvement in these intensive programs.

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