How Many Years Does IT Take to Finish a Bachelors Degree?

Nov 24, 2021

A bachelor's degree program can usually be completed in 4 years, but there are many exceptions. Students wondering 'how long does it take to graduate college?' can explore the different factors affecting the answer here.

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How Many Years is a Bachelor's Degree?

Traditionally, bachelor's degree programs are designed to take 4 years to complete. However, there are many exceptions that can allow students to finish a bachelor's degree faster, such as accelerated online bachelor degree programs that can be completed in 2 years, or finish a degree much slower. For example, some bachelor's degree programs have time limits that give students 7 to 10 years to complete the program. Several other factors may affect how long it takes someone to graduate from college, which we discuss in more detail below.

How Long Does it Take to Graduate College?

Graduation time may be affected by factors like chosen majors, changing majors, financial aid, work schedules, home life demands, and more. While it normally takes students 4 years to complete a bachelor's degree, most students are done within 6 years. This is supported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). They reported most bachelor's degree students (60%) who began study in 2011 graduated in 2017. Here we examine just a few factors that may allow students to finish a bachelor's degree program faster or slower than 4 years.

Degree Completion

Degree completion programs are typically designed to allow individuals to finish a bachelor's degree faster than 4 years. These programs are intended for working professionals who have not earned a bachelor's degree but have years of valuable work experience. Students in these programs may have started a bachelor's degree program but never finished. Degree completion programs accept transfer credits towards the program to allow students to finish the program in as little as 2 years.

Part-Time Programs

Part-time bachelor's degree programs are fairly common for working students and professionals. While some part-time bachelor's degree programs may be degree completion programs and can be completed in as little as 2 years, others allow students to work at their own pace and may take more than 4 years to complete. This is where time limits may be enforced that require students to finish their degrees within 7 to 10 years.

Majors/Dual Programs

The length of the program may also be determined by the major. For example, some majors are more likely to offer accelerated programs that could be completed in less than 4 years, such as nursing, while other majors usually take more than 4 years to complete, such as a 5-year architecture degree. Majors that take longer may include additional requirements, like research and/or internships.

Dual degree programs also traditionally take longer than 4 years to complete but allow students to earn 2 separate degrees. For example, there are 5-year bachelor's/master's degree programs in psychology that allow students to earn a bachelor's degree and master's degree in the field faster than completing each degree separately.

How Many Semesters in 4 Years of College?

Traditionally, there are 2 semesters per academic year. This means a semester in the fall and a semester in the spring. Therefore, 4 years of college is typically seen as including 8 semesters. Some schools may also offer summer or winter terms where students can take additional coursework, and/or other schools may work off of a quarter system. There are 3 quarters in 2 semesters.

How Long Does it Take to Finish General Education in College?

General education coursework in college usually takes 2 years to complete. These courses cover traditional subjects, such as English and math, and are commonly completed in the first 2 years of a 4-year bachelor's degree program. This allows students to take mostly major-related courses in the final 2 years of their degree program.

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