Bachelor’s degree is the first cycle of higher education in countries with the Bologna system. When talking about higher education, most often the bachelor’s degree is meant. Master's and doctoral are considered to be graduate and postgraduate.
The bachelor's program is designed for secondary school graduates who want to get higher education in a particular specialty. A bachelor's degree is determined by the number of academic hours. They are usually measured in academic credits (ECTS), where 1 credit is equal to 25-30 academic hours depending on the country. To get a bachelor’s diploma, you need to acquire 180-240 ECTS during the entire study period. Studying at the bachelor’s cycle will take 3-4 years, with the exception of medical and legal specialties, where studies last for 5-6 years.

Types of bachelor’s degrees

There are several variations of bachelor’s degrees. On university websites, abbreviations such as BA, BSc, BAS, BFA, and others can be placed next to the name of the educational program. They indicate the type of undergraduate. The most common types are:
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA). A BA degree is awarded in the humanities. The exception is the United Kingdom: there, a BA degree is awarded in all disciplines. Education under the Bachelor of Arts program lasts for 3 to 4 years. In most European countries, it will take 3 years to earn a BA, while in the USA and Canada it will take 4 years. The main feature of BA educational programs is the emphasis on obtaining theoretical knowledge;
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc). Unlike BA, Bachelor of Science degree involves not only the study of theoretical material, but also research practice. Generally, a BSc degree is awarded in the natural sciences, computer science, and mathematics. But it can also be found in the social sciences and psychology — in this case, the theoretical content of the humanities course will be supported by a strong natural sciences foundation. For example, a bachelor of science degree in psychology, in addition to strong theoretical education, will involve the study of biology, chemistry, and even computer science. Training on BSc, as well as on BA programs, lasts 3-4 years;
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng). A BEng degree is awarded in technical disciplines. The training will take 3-5 years. In some countries, this degree is equivalent to BSc. The main difference between a bachelor's degree in technical sciences is a strong emphasis on practical activities and subsequent employment in the relevant field. Most graduates of technical faculties quickly find work in their specialty and, if they continue to study in master’s programs, do this simultaneously with their professional activities;
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). BFA is awarded in the fields of visual and performing arts. The main emphasis in the learning process is on the development of artistic skills, while scientific disciplines are taught to a much lesser extent. The training program is designed for 4 years. This degree, depending on the country, may have a different name: BFA is common in the USA and Canada, in many countries this degree is called a Bachelor of Creative Arts (BCA).
PopularityTitleAbbreviationDuration
10.40%Bachelor of ScienceBSc3-4 years
8.83%Bachelor of ArtsBA3-4 years
6.37%Bachelor of Business AdministrationBBA, BBA3-4 years
4.31%Bachelor of EngineeringBEng3-5 years
2.55%Bachelor of EducationBEd3-4 years
1.71%Bachelor of LawLLB3-4 years
1.26%Bachelor of NursingBN, BSN, BScN, BSc Nursing3-4 years
1.22%Bachelor of Computer ScienceBCompSc, BCS, BS CS3-4 years
1.12%Bachelor of MedicineBM, BMed5-6 years

Admission to bachelor’s

The minimum package of documents required for admission to bachelor's programs includes:
  • Certificate of completed secondary education;
  • Language certificate;
  • Certificate of financial solvency.
Depending on the country and the university itself, it also may be required to provide:
  • Motivation letter;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • Results of a standardized test (for example, TestAS or SAT), which simultaneously checks the level of foreign language proficiency and subject knowledge of the applicant;
  • Portfolio (for creative specialties).
Before submitting documents to the university it is necessary to check whether the certificate of secondary education in the home country is equivalent to the one issued in the country of study. In countries such as Germany, Norway, and Japan, the certificate of 11 years of school does not allow students to go to university right away. In this case, the applicant can resort to one of the options below:
  • Study from 1 to 2 years at the university in your home country;
  • Finish a preparatory course at a foreign university, which you intend to enter, or at a state educational center (for example, Studienkolleg in Germany);
  • Successfully pass the nostrification exam, which will confirm the conformity of the applicant's knowledge to the school education of a foreign country.
The evaluation of applicants at a university can be done with a GPA stated in a secondary education certificate or as a result of entrance examinations. The format of the tests depends on the country: the exam can be a written work, a test, or an interview.

The process of studying a bachelor’s program

Each country has its own special educational atmosphere, which may or may not appeal to a foreign student. Despite this, two main types of the educational process at the bachelor’s cycle can be identified:
  1. Maximum freedom for the student. The student chooses subjects (with the exception of three to four compulsory), teachers, and forms his schedule. This can be found, for example, in educational institutions in England, Norway, and Italy;
  2. A classic learning option. Almost all subjects are compulsory; the university offers only a few elective courses. Students do not participate in teacher selection and curriculum design. This approach is common in many countries, for example, Poland, Japan, and South Korea.
Many universities provide an opportunity to simultaneously study in two bachelor's specialties (Joint Degree), which allows them to obtain two bachelor's degrees (for example, a bachelor of education in technical sciences) after graduation.

Tuition costs of bachelor’s programs

Tuition fees vary dramatically. Taking into account many factors, in 2018, the most expensive countries for obtaining a diploma were the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and Hong Kong[0]. Cheaper education can be obtained in Hungary, Poland, India, and other countries. In some states, for example, in France, Germany, and Sweden, higher education is absolutely free even for foreigners (students pay only the application fee, which is about 178 USD).
The applicant has the opportunity to receive a scholarship, which often covers the costs of not only training but also of living in the country. Student financial assistance can be provided by the government, public organizations, or even the university itself. Also, in some countries, for example, in the USA and Norway, it is possible to take a student loan from the state, which subsequently needs to be paid back (this process might take from a few years to a couple of decades).
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Prospects after obtaining a bachelor’s degree

The bachelor’s degree is quite enough to start a career. In many countries, the final year of study is student practice in large companies, which can last from two weeks to a whole semester, which gives the student the necessary work experience and helps him find a job after graduation. However, there are exceptions everywhere. For example, in France and Norway, a bachelor's degree will not allow you to reach incredible heights in your career. At some point, you will need to get a master's degree to further progress your career.
Master's is the second stage of higher education. It can be focused on research activities or on obtaining applied skills. Master programs last from one to two years. In most cases, the selection of applicants is based on a GPA of a diploma.

Interesting facts

  • The concept of "bachelor" can be traced back to the 12th century. In England, a young or poor knight who could not assemble his army was called a bachelor. By the beginning of the 14th century, this word was used to designate a beginner in a guild or at a university, which eventually gave the name to the first stage of higher education;
  • To date, there are 48 countries that support the Bologna system[1]. Nevertheless, many states that are not involved in this process have adopted the division of higher education into three cycles: bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies.

Assistance in applying to foreign universities

In order to receive more detailed recommendations on possible program options and entrance requirements, as well as to devise an admission plan, you can use our help when applying for bachelor's programs abroad. A list of services is available here.
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Bachelor's degree
Duration4-6 years
ECTS180-240
VariationsBA, BSc, BFA, BEng, BBA, BEc, BN etc.
Previous cycleSecondary education (equivalent to local) / Foundation Program / Associate's degree / Foundation degree
Next cycleMaster / Doctoral studies
CountriesAll countries participating in the Bologna Process + most countries of the world