If you started college but never earned a bachelor’s degree, you’re not alone. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, roughly 3.5 million people in the United States have some college credits but no diploma. You’re also in good company if the fact that you never finished weighs on you. About 60 percent of Americans who have completed some college report they have seriously considered going back to school to complete bachelor’s degrees online or on campus.
Some may hesitate to enroll in on-campus or online degree completion programs because they’re looking at full-time vocational programs as an alternative. If that sounds familiar, you know that choosing between these paths can be challenging. Your goals—personal and professional—will be instrumental in helping you find the right pathway, but the first step is learning as much as you can about your options. Vocational school can give you the real-world skills you need to succeed in a trade. Liberal arts coursework develops universal skills broadly applicable across many professional fields.
Going back to college can involve a more significant investment of resources. Still, the ROI of a bachelor’s degree is substantial and online programs are making it easier to earn the credits you need without putting commitments like work and family on hold. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs is a career-focused and student-centered bachelor’s degree completion program delivered via a blend of synchronous and asynchronous classroom content. In it, you can develop the kind of career-ready skills employers want on a schedule that fits your lifestyle.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals with bachelor’s degrees earn significantly more than their counterparts with associate’s degrees, regardless of work experience. The data indicate a 39 percent income boost: the average weekly pay for bachelor’s holders is about $1,300 but just $940 for associate’s degree program graduates. That’s a difference of nearly $19,000 per year. Prorate that over a career, and you’re looking at an impressive six-figure sum.
The content of online and campus programs for degree completers at the undergraduate level develops foundational skills valuable in all disciplines. Students in online bachelor’s completion programs hope to launch careers in social work, business administration, elementary education, and public health, as well as in technical fields such as computer science, information systems, information technology, and cybersecurity. A bachelor’s degree can teach you how to become a lifelong learner and help you advance more quickly in your current career. Chances are you won’t be able to join the ranks of management or earn a master’s degree without a college degree.
There’s no question that earning an undergraduate degree can change your life, but the commitment required to succeed in a part-time general studies program delivered on campus may give you pause. Like many adult learners, you may worry you’ll be the oldest student in your university classes or unable to keep up with coursework while employed. Online education programs offered by accredited schools let students with the requisite number of transfer credits pursue bachelor’s degrees when and where it’s convenient. UT offers year-round online classes built around skills that drive professional success.
UT’s Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs offers transfer students two concentration options: Public Policy & Administration (for students who want to pursue careers in government, public service, the law, criminal justice, and nonprofit organizations) and Cultures & Societies (for those who desire careers in the liberal arts and social sciences). These areas of emphasis support many career trajectories, but degree completion students often discover that the most critical skills they learn in the program are essential across industries. They include:
Civic engagement is frequently part of careers in business administration, public health, and social work, which is why it is one of UT’s College of Arts & Sciences value pillars. Faculty members regularly take part in community outreach, and they encourage students in on-campus and online learning programs to make a positive impact in their communities. You can track your volunteer hours via the Jones Center for Leadership & Service page while enrolled, and graduate confident that the civic engagement skills you gain while completing your bachelor’s degree online will serve you well. This skill is particularly valuable in roles that require outreach, communication, and the ability to influence others.
Whether you work in healthcare administration or the health sciences, tech, human resources, or a trade, success is all about communication. In UT’s online bachelor’s degree program, you can collaborate extensively with your peers in live class discussions and virtual chats, and the skills you develop during those encounters will enhance your ability to negotiate, sell, and manage people.
Employers across industries look for applicants who can dissect problems, identify critical roadblocks, and propose workable solutions. The online courses you’ll take at UT as you complete your bachelor’s degree will help you become a more decisive critical thinker. You will learn to examine the evidence, separate valuable information from the extraneous “white noise,” and test solutions against counterarguments to reach viable conclusions.
The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs curriculum includes six credit hours of foreign language courses to introduce the importance of foreign language proficiency. Having a second language under your belt not only looks good on your resume but also opens more doors in the professional world. Even a basic understanding of a language other than English can give you an edge in international business, foreign service, the travel industry, and nonprofit organizations that operate in other countries.
All UT programs stress the importance of ethical and professional behavior, transparency, and accountability, which are core traits of influential leaders. In Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs courses, student-led study sessions and collaborative projects offer opportunities to develop practical leadership skills such as active listening, team development, and conflict resolution.
Career success is still very much about who you know. As you move through the online bachelor’s completion curriculum, you will interact with other online students from all walks of life. Whether your peers are new community college transfer students or associate degree holders with significant work experience, they will make your post-secondary years richer. You can also tap into resources such as UT’s Center for Career Development, which hosts virtual career development and networking events, and the university’s alumni center, which can help you make valuable connections in your field.
Distance learning requires focus and dedication. Online students must develop their organizational skills to succeed in their classes, but these skills translate readily into professional environments. The same skills you use to keep track of exam dates, homework assignments, and synchronous class schedules will help you meet deadlines and keep projects on track at work.
To keep your stress levels in check and overwhelm at bay in a part-time distance education program, you must set realistic goals and expectations, map out each day in manageable increments, and find or create environments where you can focus. Your ability to complete online college coursework while also juggling the demands of your personal and professional lives will help you perform above and beyond your employer’s expectations during crunch time.
Whether you become a journalist or work in an unrelated field like political science or operations management, writing skills are essential. The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs covers writing skills in multiple contexts in courses including Technical and Professional Writing, Public Writing, and Writing in the Workplace.
After reading this far, you may be wondering whether you need a bachelor’s degree to develop the above skills because they’re not complex or technical. What they are is crucial to career success. UT’s online bachelor’s completion program prioritizes what some people call soft skills or human skills because employers do. When Monster asked employers to name the skills they look for in new hires for its 2021 Future of Work report, most survey respondents listed soft skills. The increasing demand for these competencies may come down to employers being comfortable teaching new hires technical skills but ill-equipped to teach human skills. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends found that soft skills shortfalls are one of the primary reasons new hires don’t work out.
Can you learn the skills above on your own? Yes. Can you learn all of them in the same amount of time it will take you to earn your bachelor’s degree in the 100 percent online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville? Probably not. That’s because the program teaches these skills quickly and holistically through a mix of collaborative project work, asynchronous coursework, and live lectures, in liberal arts classes and courses relevant to your area of emphasis. The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs is higher education designed to support careers, now and in the future. After just two to three years of flexible and affordable online study, you will have transferable skills that can enhance your work experience in any role and help grow your career and your earning potential in a big way.