Upon completion of a term of study spanning three to six years, a bachelor's degree (from Middle Latin baccalaureus) or baccalaureate (from Modern Latin baccalaureatus) is conferred by colleges and universities as an undergraduate academic degree (depending on institution and academic discipline). Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees are the two most popular bachelor's degrees awarded in the United States (BS or BSc). Certain bachelor's degrees are only available as graduate or postgraduate educations in some institutions and educational systems after a first degree has been completed, although more commonly, the completion of a bachelor's is a precondition for the further coursework including a master's or a doctorate.
Countries with qualification frameworks generally include bachelor's degrees as one of the main levels (or, in some cases, as both major and minor levels if non-honours and honours bachelor's degrees are treated separately) in the framework. While certain bachelor's degrees are at higher levels than others (e.g., MBBS), other credentials with non-titles bachelor's may be regarded as bachelor's degrees in specific circumstances (e.g. the Scottish MA and Canadian MD).
In the 12th century, the word bachelor referred to a knight bachelor who was either too young or too impoverished to raise a legion of vassals under his own banner. As late as the 13th century, it was also being used by junior members of guilds and colleges. With the help of folk etymology or clever wordplay, the term "baccalaureus" came to be connected with the Latin word bacca lauri ("laurel berry"), in allusion to the laurel wreaths that were bestowed for scholastic achievement or honours.
Honors degrees (sometimes marked by the addition of "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation) and non-honours degrees (occasionally denoted by the addition of "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation) are distinguished in the British system, and in systems that have been inspired by it (known variously as pass degrees, ordinary degrees or general degrees). An honours degree often demands a higher academic level than a pass degree, as well as an extra year of study beyond the non-honours bachelor's degree in certain systems. Some nations, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, offer a postgraduate "bachelor with honours" degree as an alternative to a bachelor's degree. There are two ways to get this qualification: as a sequential academic qualification after the completion of a bachelor's degree programme in the same discipline, or as part of an integrated honours programme. Programs like this often involve completion of a research thesis project that lasts a full year.