There is no doubt that completing a degree is going to be a time commitment. And with so many different types of degrees available, it can get confusing just how much of a time commitment you are going to get yourself into. 

Here is a complete list of the average time investment each degree takes to complete:   


An associate degree offers a relatively small time commitment when compared to other degree options. On average, it takes a full-time student approximately two years to complete. The typical associate degree requires 60 credit hours, so to complete it as a full-time student, you will have to average four semesters of 15 credits each.   

Getting an associate degree as a part-time student is an excellent option for those with a busy schedule or who are already working full-time. Part-time students complete the same amount of credits to receive their degree but typically will stretch those credits out over more than the average two years.   

Associate degrees are great starting points for students who want to learn more about their field and advance their careers but are looking for a shorter commitment.   


A bachelor's degree is the next step above an associate degree when it comes to time investment. A good rule of thumb when thinking about the commitment of a bachelor's degree is to double the length of an associate degree.   

A full-time student can expect to commit four years of their time to obtaining a bachelor's degree. These four years are often broken up into eight semesters of 15 credit hours for an average of 120 total credit hours for completion. Taking courses during the summer is a great way to get your degree completed in less than four years.   

Like an associate degree, bachelor's degrees can also be completed by part-time students. By spreading out your credits as a part-time student, you can expect your degree to take longer than the average four years, but you will take the same courses and receive the same degree.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the doubled time commitment often pays off in the long run because someone with a bachelor's degree, on average, makes 40 percent more per year than someone with an associate degree.  


Determining the amount of time it takes to complete a master's degree is a bit more complicated than determining the amount of time it takes to complete an associate or bachelor's degree. While the average master's degree takes between one-and-a-half to two years to complete for a full-time student, it is important to remember that this type of degree will always have the prerequisite of completing a bachelor's degree.   

It typically takes between 30 and 40 credit hours to complete a master's degree, but some programs can require as many as 60 credit hours. Which school and program you choose will be the biggest driving forces in determining how long it is going to take and how many credit hours you must complete to finish your degree.   

Depending on your field of choice, the commitment to pursue a master's degree typically does pay off. A master's degree often makes graduates better candidates for higher-level positions and ensures higher job placement rates. 


Doctorate degrees are highly valued and considered the most prestigious degree in education. To earn a doctorate, you must be able to put in the time and effort. In addition to receiving your bachelor's degree, you must then be committed to at least four more years of education. On average, it takes a full-time student four to five years to complete their doctorate, but a part-time student can expect up to eight more years of education to get their degree.   

Doctorates are typically around 120 credit hours in length, the same as a bachelor's degree. It is important to consider that someone who has already completed a master's degree can often take credits earned for that degree and put them toward their doctorate. Those who can do that have been able to complete their doctorate in less than the average four to five years.   

No matter what degree option is right for you, Penn State World Campus provides the flexibility you need to study at the times most convenient to you. Explore available programs by topic area or degree type.