According to the latest data from the United States Department of Commerce, roughly four percent of adults 25 years old and older hold an associate’s degree but not a bachelor’s degree. That represents approximately ten million Americans, according to recent census data.
The percentage is even higher for the approximately 23 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 29. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about ten percent of that group—around 2.3 million people—are in a position to earn a bachelor’s degree in as few as two years.
That’s over two million people who could increase their earning potential by completing their four-year undergraduate degrees. They’ve already enjoyed a pay boost by advancing from a high school diploma to an associate degree, increasing their average weekly income from $781 to $938 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), a 20 percent uptick worth more than $8,000 per year. A bachelor’s degree delivers a much more substantial income boost—from $938 to $1,305 weekly. That 39 percent raise translates into $19,084 in additional annual income.
A bachelor’s degree doesn’t only increase your pay. It also improves your chances of finding and keeping a job. In 2020, the unemployment rate for people with associate’s degrees was 7.1 percent. For those with a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent.
A bachelor’s degree delivers substantial benefits throughout a career, including:
- Enhanced self-esteem
- An expanded skill set
- Improved career opportunities
- Greater likelihood of employment
- Higher income
- Personal growth
To reap those benefits, however, you must first earn the degree. You don’t have to attend an on-campus program to do that. Instead, you could enroll in an online bachelor’s degree completion program like the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Online learning is ideal for those who want to continue working while they study or for those for whom on-campus classes are simply an inconvenience they’d rather avoid.
So, how do you get started, how much will it cost, and is completing your bachelor’s degree worth the time and financial expense? This article explores all those questions to help you decide whether a bachelor’s degree completion program is right for you.
Bachelor’s degree completion programs serve students who have earned specific associate’s-level degrees. These degree programs, typically offered by state universities, offer students the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degree. Students usually accrue at least 60 credit hours in earning their associate’s degree. They may have earned additional credits through post-associate’s coursework; they may even have begun work on a bachelor’s degree and earned some credits but did not finish the degree. Those credits may be applied to their bachelor’s as transfer credits, depending on the school they enroll in.
Degree completion programs allow students to complete the remaining credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the university and program, students may choose from various major and concentration options in their studies. They typically offer highly structured curricula that provide a clear, well-defined pathway to the bachelor’s. Some, like the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, can be completed entirely online.
Students in bachelor’s degree completion programs are typically older than traditional undergraduates. Some began careers with their associate’s degrees and now seek an upgrade to qualify for a promotion. Some earned an associate’s and started a bachelor’s program but could not complete it. Some are motivated by a desire for the satisfaction and stature of earning a higher degree.
The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs (BAIP) at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, exemplifies this type of program. It is open to anyone who earned an AA, AS, AFA, or AST degree from a Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) community college with a GPA of at least 2.0. Because it is delivered 100 percent online, you never need to visit the Knoxville campus (although you are welcome to do so). The program offers two options for academic concentrations: Public Policy & Administration or Cultures & Societies.
For the 2020-21 academic year, The University of Tennessee Knoxville charged in-state students $378 per credit hour. That put the estimated cost of completing 60 credit hours—the average required number for program enrollees—at $22,680. Out-of-state students pay a higher rate: $453 per credit hour, for an estimated $27,180 cost to complete 60 credit hours. These figures represent tuition only; they do not include additional fees.
UT offers various scholarships that can help defray the cost of attending. Veterans may also qualify for government benefits that help cover the cost of tuition. Tuition rates change annually. UT’s tuition rates compare favorably to those at similarly ranked universities.
Several factors make it impossible to project the exact cost of a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs (BAIP) at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. That’s because:
- Tuition and fees typically change from year to year
- Some fees vary depending on the number of credits you take
- Some courses in specific fields charge additional per-credit-hour fees
That said, regardless of those changes, you should earn enough to pay for your degree in under two years—if you receive the average bachelor’s degree pay increase of $367 per week. Those two years’ earnings translate into over $38,000, more than enough to cover the cost of your bachelor’s degree completion program.
Of course, you will continue to reap the benefits of your income increase throughout the rest of your career. Plus, you’ll enjoy other benefits, including:
- Improved health outcomes
- Increased happiness with life (even when income increases are factored out)
- Higher levels of community engagement
By nearly any accounting, a bachelor’s completion program more than pays for itself financially, and that’s only the beginning of the list of valuable benefits it confers.
If you’ve put off completing your bachelor’s degree because you thought it would be too expensive and/or inconvenient, consider the online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs (BAIP) at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It’s reasonably priced, well-regarded by employers, and can be completed from the convenience of your home, office, or anywhere you can connect to the internet.
It’s also practical. This program is designed for those aiming to advance in their current employment or seek new employment opportunities, both of which are easier to achieve with a bachelor’s degree. The curriculum focuses on skills useful in the modern workplace. Its online courses in communication, critical thinking, writing, and other professional skills serve working adults looking to grow in ways that directly apply to their current and/or future career objectives. If your goal is to build career-boosting skills, a UT Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs is a good fit for you.
UT BAIP undergraduates may choose between concentrations in Public Policy & Administration or Cultures & Societies. The Public Policy & Administration concentration covers policy- and decision-making processes and impact within governments and organizations. It investigates policy-making theory and research to prepare students for public and nonprofit sector careers. The Cultures & Societies concentration explores beliefs, behaviors, and practices worldwide. A focus on history, sociology, anthropology, economics, and cultural studies arm students with diverse perspectives on the world’s various cultures.
The program offers courses year-round; students may begin in the Spring, Summer, or Fall semesters. Full-time students can complete the program in as few as four semesters, while part-time students typically take at least twice as long. Students must be enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester to qualify for financial aid; most online classes are worth three credit hours. Visit the program website to learn more about this opportunity to strengthen your professional skills and boost your income. If you’re ready to apply, you can start your application online.