Taking Notes: Eye on Education – 3 years, or 4?

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about.

What is the difference between a three-year bachelor degree and a four-year bachelor degree? Well, for one, it’s a difference between a total tuition a little over $16,000 or more than $22,000 (based on current AU per course cost of $541).

But does that extra year really make a difference? Well, it depends on what your goals in life are. University people will tell you that a four-year degree is always preferable because it allows you to get into graduate programs. This is generally true, although students should closely research their program of choice to ensure what the admission requirements are. At AU, the Executive MBA does not even require a completed undergrad degree.

What about employers? Do they differentiate? Not necessarily. A BA is a BA, regardless of how long it took or how much it cost. An undergraduate degree at three years is just as valid as a four year degree for many, if not most, employment opportunities.

Of course, there are specializations, and these are sometimes the best way to go. University certificates and diplomas that can be achieved in one or two years are often excellent ways to beef up one’s resume and improve career prospects without spending excessive time, money and energy.

The choice of how many years really depends on where you want to go in the future. If you want to continue on with your education and are in pursuit of a Master’s degree, a PhD, or a professional designation – then a four year undergrad degree may be required. If you just want to improve your job prospects, get better credentials, or just say you have a university degree – then three years or less is plenty.

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