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How Long it Takes to Get an Undergraduate Degree

written by: Percila Jackson•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 9/20/2010

An undergraduate degree, also known as a bachelors degree, is an entry level requirement for many jobs. Most undergraduate degrees take about 4 years to complete. There are many factors that affect how long it takes to get a bachelors degree .

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    It usually takes 4 years to get an undergraduate degree. Some undergraduate degree programs take as little as 3 years and some take as long as 4 years to complete. Most undergraduate degrees require students to earn at least 120 units or more in order to graduate depending upon the major. 12 units a semester is what most full-time college students take and is considered a full course load. Which major a student chooses, whether they are a full-time or part-time student, whether they get into an accelerated program, and whether they work full-time are all factors that affect how long it takes to get a bachelors degree.

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    Choice of Major

    A student's choice of major has a great impact on how long it takes to complete an undergraduate degree. Getting an undergraduate degree with a double-major usually takes about 5 years to complete or longer. Technical degree programs such as Engineering, Math, Science, or Business can sometimes take over 4 years and it is not uncommon to take 5 or 6 years to get an undergraduate degree in a technical field such as Engineering. Majors in Liberal Arts subjects such as English, Religious Studies, and Philosophy usually take about 4 years to complete. To get an undergraduate degree plus a teaching credential in order to become a primary or secondary school teacher usually takes about 5 years.

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    Full-Time or Part-Time Student

    Full-time students on the semester calendar take 12 units or more and part-time students take up to 6 units. Part-time students take longer to get an undergraduate degree because they take fewer units each semester while full-time students who don't take any years off from school can expect to graduate in 4 years. Taking classes during summer session or winter session, times that students usually use to take a break from school, will also lessen the time it takes to get an undergraduate degree.

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    Accelerated Programs

    Many colleges and universities offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their degree in less time than a normal full-time student would. It usually takes 3 years to get an undergraduate degree in an accelerated program. Some accelerated programs allow students to apply to and start college early and skip their senior year of high school. Some accelerated undergraduate programs are combined with graduate programs.

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    Students who Work Full-Time

    Students who work full-time or who have children and a family to take care of usually take longer to complete an undergraduate degree than students who don't have those obligations. Students who work full-time usually have to become part-time students, take online courses, or take courses at night in order to complete their degree.

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    It generally takes 4 years to get a bachelors degree. There are many factors that affect how long it takes to get a Bachelors degree such as a student's choice of major, whether they are a part-time or full-time student, whether they enter an accelerated undergraduate degree program, and whether the student has a full-time job or other family obligations.

    References

    The University of Iowa: Undergraduate Programs - http://registrar.uiowa.edu/registrar/catalog/engineering/undergraduateprograms/