Know What Is a Baccalaureate Degree And How Does It Differ From a Bachelor's Degree?

Sep 26, 2021

The undergraduate degree names may sound unusual, but they are just simple expressions with fascinating histories. When we talk about an academic degree, the words "bachelor" and "baccalaureate" have become virtually interchangeable. You must have heard and used that first term before, but maybe you’re not aware of what the second term means. Is it some unique type of degree altogether? What is a baccalaureate degree, and what exactly does it do?

During the 12th and 13th centuries, baccalaureate originally referred to the degree, while bachelor referred to the degree holder when the university structure began.

This article will go through the meaning of a baccalaureate degree, demonstrate how it differs from other types of degrees, and present the different kinds of baccalaureate degrees you can get. We’ll give you some guidelines to help you determine whether a baccalaureate program is eventually the best choice for you.

Baccalaureate Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree: Summary

Let’s talk about what is a baccalaureate degree exactly? You might be shocked to hear this, but a baccalaureate degree is the same as a bachelor’s (or four-year undergraduate) degree. In plain words, "baccalaureate degree" is just another way of saying "bachelor’s degree."

The word "baccalaureate" originates from the Medieval Latin word baccalaureātus, which means the initial, or first, degree you obtain at a university.

So how long does it take to get a baccalaureate degree? A typical baccalaureate program lasts four years, but some students take slightly less time to earn their degrees (e.g., three years) or take more time (e.g., six years).

In a baccalaureate program, you choose a major or principal field of study. Many students also prefer to take a minor or secondary field of study. And in some cases, a student might get a double major (have two majors) or enroll in a dual degree program to earn two baccalaureate degrees at once.

The field you choose to study is totally up to you but does depend on what is offered at your particular school. For instance, MIT specializes in STEM majors, so if you want to get a baccalaureate degree in philosophy and literature, another college would be a better choice.

The number of credits you’ll want to get a baccalaureate degree differs depending on the college and the type of academic calendar it follows. Still, usually, you’ll have to have about 120-semester credits or 180 quarter credits, which again, usually will be spread out across four years of continuous study.

Remember that only approximately 30-36 credits will be mainly for your major—the excess will go toward your minor or second major, General Education requirements, and your electives.

Baccalaureate Degree Vs.Other Types of Degrees?

We understand that a bachelor’s degree and baccalaureate degree are identical, just with different names. But how does a baccalaureate degree is different from other types of degrees?

Before that, first, let’s take a look at the four different kinds of degrees you can receive:

  • Associate degree: Two-year undergraduate degree
  • Bachelor’s/baccalaureate degree: Four-year undergraduate degree
  • Master’s degree: One- to a three-year graduate degree
  • Doctoral degree/doctorate: Five- to eight-year graduate degree

The lowest degree you can receive in higher education is an associate degree, which needs around two years and is given mainly at community colleges. Many associate degrees are intended to teach you a specific trade to enter the workforce directly after college. Collectively, it’s less intense, exhaustive, and less expensive than another baccalaureate degree.

A master’s degree is one type of graduate degree in master’s degree programs that lasts for one to three years, usually two years in the US. In these programs, you study a specific field or domain, constricting your focus even more than your bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degrees can be both academically oriented or professionally oriented. A baccalaureate degree is almost always a necessity. It is mandatory to write a master’s thesis on many master's programs as well.

Eventually, a doctoral degree, or doctorate, is the highest degree you can get. These degree programs last up to five to eight years and need you to write a heavily researched thesis. You’ll generally need at least a bachelor’s degree to apply, sometimes a master’s.

These four-degree types are different from one another!

The chart I’ve mentioned below reviews the main differences between a baccalaureate degree and the three other degrees:


Different Types of Baccalaureate Degrees You Can Get

As you must already know that, there’s no single type of bachelor or baccalaureate degree. Depending on the major or area of your study, you can get one of the various kinds of bachelor’s degrees.

Let’s go through some of the examples of baccalaureate degree types:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): A very well-known bachelor’s degree. It is awarded for study in the arts, humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences.
  • Bachelor of Science (BS): A popular bachelor’s degree. It is granted for study in science, technology, math, or a different STEM field.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA): A famous bachelor’s degree. They are given for study of visual or performing arts.
  • Bachelor of Music (BM): This degree is awarded to study music or musical, vocal, or symphonic performance.
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA): A professional degree is given for business administration which includes financial, marketing, information technology, human resource, operations management, etc.
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS): Like BA or BS, with a primary focus on hands-on methods and practical applications. This degree is awarded for the study of a scientific or business-adapted discipline. It includes a wide range of techniques such as engineering and medicine.
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BE): Professional degree granted for study of engineering.
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE): Bestowed to study engineering just like BS with a major in engineering.
  • Bachelor of Architecture (BArch): Professional degree is given for the study of architecture.

Note that this is not a complete list of all types of bachelor’s degrees.

Remember that there is very small to no difference between some of these degrees in lots of cases. For instance, at many US universities, a BSE is considered identical to a BE.

The basic rule to remember is that the BA, BFA, and BS degrees are more academic and theoretical than the more focused and career-oriented degrees, including BArch, BE, and BBA. Although, the majority of colleges offer BA and BS degrees. Only some offer these unique professional degrees.

Is a Baccalaureate Degree Good Choice for You? Four Essential Questions to Ask

Many high school seniors go directly into college to receive their bachelor’s degree like everyone does—and that’s perfectly fine! After all, college is costly and a significant time dedication and engagement, so you must take the time to see whether a baccalaureate program is a good choice for you.

Let’s check out the four questions to ask yourself before you start applying to colleges.

1: Do You Want To Keep Learning?

This is probably one of the most significant factors to think of when deciding whether a baccalaureate program is good for you: do you want to continue learning and discovering? If your answer is yes, it’ll be perfect for you to earn either an associate degree or a baccalaureate degree.

Another question arises, which type of undergraduate degree suits you better?

If you have a particular academic field decided that you want to pursue and study more about it— let’s say you want to pursue chemistry but didn’t get enough chance to explore it much—a bachelor’s degree program can give you the required time to learn and know the basics on the topic and develop a good understanding of it.

Or let’s say you want to keep learning but would preferably spend less time in school and would like to concentrate on a particular career field. In such a case, an associate degree might be an excellent option for you.

Remember, always be aware that bachelor’s degree holders normally have more job options and higher salaries than associate degree holders (and those with only a high school diploma or GED).

 2: Is There a Particular Career You Want To Pursue That Requires a Bachelor’s?

Suppose you want to pursue a specific career that requires at least a baccalaureate degree. In that case, you can follow your degree, which will be an excellent decision to make for your future.

Nowadays, most employers prefer entirely or require candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, often in a particular field-related job. For instance, almost all architecture engineering jobs expect you to have at least a bachelor’s degree—and that’s just for ground-level or entry-level work!

So if you decide not to get a bachelor's degree, then know that it might be a lot more of a conflict for you to establish the career you want quickly.

3: College Will Cost a Lot Of Money, Can You Afford to Attend It?

You must be well aware that college can cost you a lot of money, especially in the US. If you want to get a bachelor’s degree, you have to be ready to pay a reasonable amount for your education.

Eventually, the amount you'll pay for your tuition and fees will depend on various factors, one factor being whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student for public universities, whether you pass for need-based aid, and whether you’ve won any merit scholarships.

The below chart shows the average cost of tuition and fees at different types of US colleges:

Source: Trends in College pricing by College board

Here you can see, private four-year universities cost the most maximum, while public four-year universities can differ by over $15,000 depending on whether you are a resident of that state or not.

Usually speaking, the cheapest way to obtain a baccalaureate degree is to go to a public, four-year university in your state. For instance, if you reside in Michigan, you would have to save money by going to a state institution, such as the University of Michigan or Northern Michigan University, instead of attending a private school or a public school in another state.

Besides that, many top-tier colleges offer incredible financial aid to students, so it's possible that you could attend an expensive private university for free or at least at less cost.

In another situation, let’s say the college you want to go to is expensive and doesn’t offer that good of aid. You can still demand external scholarships through groups and companies to help offset some of the costs.

On a similar note, always remember not to forget that you do have the option of first attending a community college before going to a four-year university to get your bachelor’s degree. This could save you tons of money, since two-year colleges are considerably your cheapest option for higher education.

4: Are You Planning to Go to Graduate School Eventually?

Suppose you are eventually planning to go to a graduate school, whether to receive a master’s degree or a doctorate. In that case, it will be worth getting that baccalaureate as soon as possible.

Remember that you won’t be able to get a master’s or doctorate without first obtaining a bachelor’s, so there is no point in putting off college unless you’re okay with putting off your whole career.

Moreover, it’ll easier to get your baccalaureate while you’re still young, as you won’t have any financial responsibilities, and it would be just the beginning of your career.

Conclusion: So What Is a Baccalaureate Degree?

What's the distinction between a baccalaureate degree vs. a bachelor’s degree? Nothing! The two are the same thing.

A baccalaureate degree is just a different term from a bachelor’s degree, a type of undergraduate degree typically awarded after four years of continuous study of a particular major. There are various types of baccalaureate degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Fine Arts.

A baccalaureate is just one type of degree: other degrees include the two-year associate degree, the master’s degree, and the doctorate, which is the longest and arguably most challenging of the four.

Still, confused whether a baccalaureate program is a good choice for you? Then ask yourself these questions:

Do you want to continue learning?

Is there a particular career you want that requires a bachelor’s degree?

Can you manage to attend college, which requires tons of money?

Do you plan to go to graduate school finally?

You have to decide in the end whether a baccalaureate degree is the best path to take!

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