Baccalaureate comes from the Latin word "baccalarius," meaning "bachelor." So a baccalaureate degree means the university degree known as a bachelor's degree. This degree is an award that signifies a certain level of educational achievement through a university or college program. A student may attain a bachelor's degree in many subjects at colleges and universities around the world.

History of Universities

The colleges that students attend today have their roots in ancient Greek and Roman culture. From as early as 200 B.C. and the development of the famed Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt, the thirst for knowledge has been a driving force in the growth of higher education. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe experienced an explosion of intellectual development that led to the construction of many universities. Many of these schools, like the University of Cambridge in Britain, which was opened in 1209, are still in existence today. Scholars continue to share their research, service and technology across the globe so that modern students in almost any part of the world can acquire a bachelor's degree.

Why the Degree Is Important

For the 21st-century job seeker, a bachelor's degree in a given field of study is often required for even an entry-level position. For this reason, many more students attend college today than in previous generations. The bachelor's degree is often the first step on the ladder of higher education and is required for graduate-level studies.

Kinds of Degrees

The baccalaureate degree is conferred upon a student who has completed a regimen of course work, commonly following one of two educational paths: arts or sciences. The bachelor of arts and bachelor of sciences both include an academically rigorous program, usually lasting four years.

Course of Study

To achieve a bachelor's degree, a student must choose a course of study, commonly referred to as a major. For example, a college student may select journalism for a bachelor of arts degree or biology for a bachelor of sciences degree and completes the courses required for that major degree. For most programs, this entails at least 120 credit hours, based on a semester system of study. There are hundreds of different majors for students to choose, from accounting to zoology.

Getting In

To achieve a bachelor's degree, a student must first be accepted into a college or university. Each school has an application process, and though requirements for admission vary, every school expects a student to have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent. Students should also be aware of and prepare for the financial expenses involved in attaining a higher degree of education.