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What is a Degree Completion Program?

September 16, 2022
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When students enroll in college, they usually intend to finish in the customary length of time and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. But life doesn’t always go as planned. With a degree completion program, you can pick up where you left off and earn your bachelor’s degree.

There may be various reasons why a student is unable to finish a degree program and must put educational and career goals on hold. That decision might involve a change in financial situation, unforeseen family issues, or other personal circumstances that force a change in plans.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), fewer than 40% of college students enrolled in four-year programs complete their college degree program in four years. Even after six years, only an additional 20% have graduated, leaving more than 40% without a college degree.1

You may think that it’s too late to finish (or start) that bachelor’s degree or transition from a two-year associate degree into a bachelor’s, but it’s not. Today’s online degree completion programs are designed to help those who, for one reason or another, had to interrupt their education, so that they can resume it with the least disruption to their work and personal life.

Online degree completion programs are made for busy working professionals with families and other obligations. In this article, we explain what a bachelor’s degree completion program is, why it's important, who should enroll, and how these programs work.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program?

A bachelor's degree completion program is primarily intended for students who started but did not finish a four-year degree. In these programs, you can apply your previously earned credits to complete your degree. You can do this at the school where you studied and earned those early credits, or at another school that will accept your transfer credits. Since you’re already part of the way there, a degree completion program will usually require less time than a traditional bachelor’s degree program.2

Depending on the school and the program, it might also be offered to students who have a two-year associate degree, those who served in the military, or those who have work experience in their chosen field and wish to earn a degree. There are many kinds of degree completion programs to match the needs of various types of students. If you’re interested in a degree completion program, you should select one that best fits your educational requirements and learning style.

How Important is a Bachelor’s Degree?

Earning your bachelor’s degree doesn’t just give you a sense of achievement and current knowledge in your field—it can also strongly influence your earning potential. According to 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a high school diploma earned a weekly median income of $809. For those with some college but no degree, weekly earnings went up to $899. Associate degree holders earned approximately $963 per week, while those with a bachelor’s degree could expect to see $1,334 median weekly earnings.3

Who Should Enroll in a Degree Completion Program?

A degree completion program can be a good fit for several different types of learners, as it provides opportunities for people who have chosen different life paths to further their education and boost their career potential.

People with Bachelor’s Degree Credits

If you took classes as part of a bachelor’s degree program but didn’t finish, you may be able to use your credits toward a specific major in your degree completion program—either the same degree that you were pursuing before or a different degree.2

Community College Transfers

You may have started your college career at a community college and earned an associate degree. These schools allow students to complete general education requirements and then continue at larger universities. Many colleges offer transfers of associate degree credits directly into their four-year bachelor’s degree programs.2

Service Members and Veterans

Did you start your education while you were serving and would now like to use your education benefits to finish your degree? A degree completion program lets you apply what you learned during your military service to help you complete your degree at a faster pace.2

Adult Learners

You may have focused on work, your family, or other experiences, and would like to complete your degree. Adult learners tend to have years of professional experience in their chosen field, and they want to enhance their knowledge and go further in their profession. Degree completion programs provide flexible options, such as online classes, so that it’s easier to balance work, family, and your education.2

These different types of learners share a desire to better themselves and achieve their highest potential.

How Do Degree Completion Programs Work?

A degree completion program takes your previous college credits and/or work experiences and applies them toward a degree program. If you’re interested in this flexible learning option and would like to see if you're a good candidate, there are three important steps to take.

Research Degree Completion Programs

Explore different schools that offer ways to complete your degree. If you’re currently working full-time and need a flexible program, look for online degree completion programs. Think about the degree you wish to earn and note the schools that offer it. Write down any other requirements you have, such as the ability to take classes part-time and to set your own schedule.2

Consider Credit Requirements

It is very important to find a college that will accept the maximum number of your transfer credits. How long will it take you to earn the degree? What is the cost? Contact your previous school to obtain a record of your existing class credits. Ask them to send your transcripts and any other required documents for your application. Send these to potential colleges’ registrar offices to learn which credits they will accept for your desired degree program. 2

Submit Your Application

When you have found a program that meets your needs, you can apply to different colleges. As with standard applications, you must include your contact information, educational history, work experience, and, most often, a personal essay. You might also be asked to take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams to show college education proficiency. 2

In addition to schools in the state where you live, include other states in your search, as most colleges offer online degree options, and this will give you more choices and greater flexibility. Note your professional experience and ask if any of that work experience can be applied to the program’s required courses. For example, if you have any accounting, marketing, or finance experience, you may be able to apply it toward a BS in Business Administration degree. Finally, take advantage of any academic or career counseling that is available.2

Advance Your Career with an Online BSBA Degree Completion Program

Chico State’s AACSB-accredited Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree completion program builds on your prior credits and past experience. This BSBA program helps you to develop diverse skills that will make you competitive in today’s business environment. It’s fully online, affordable, and designed for busy professionals so that you can advance your career on your own schedule, creating a healthy balance between work, family, and world-class education.

To get started, contact an Admissions Advisor today.