The bachelor's degree is usually the first academic title or rank conferred on a student by the University for satisfactory completion of a prescribed four-year course of study and authenticated by a diploma signifying a measure of achievement. Its purpose is to enable a student to acquire a certain amount of liberal learning and to become proficient in a particular branch of learning. The primary sources of liberal learning in the curriculum of the bachelor's degree are University Studies and electives. For more programs, those studies leading to proficiency in a branch of learning are a major supported or complemented by one or more of the following: a professional core, a cognate field, a minor.
The curricular structure of the bachelor's degree at Southeast Missouri State University includes 48 credit hours of University Studies, a minimum of 12 credit hours of electives, and a maximum of 64 credit hours of the combination of major and its attendant studies for a minimum of 124 credit hours. The curricular structure allows for a certain amount of overlap between University Studies and other parts of a program: a maximum of 6 credit hours of University Studies courses at the 100-200 level may be taken in one department, and one course at the 300-400 level may be taken in the student's major. Within the structure, the content of programs determines the type of bachelor's degree. For example, bachelor of arts degree programs usually are aimed at liberal learning; they tend to teach qualitative methods of scholarship that focus on matters of priority and choice; and they ordinarily have a small major, which makes the degree flexible. Bachelor of science programs generally are oriented toward professional preparation; they tend to teach quantitative methods of scholarship for purposes of prediction; and they usually have a large major, which limits the flexibility of the degree. Like these traditional degrees, professional bachelor's degrees reflect the content of their programs. The University offers several professional degrees: the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, the Bachelor of Science in Education, the Bachelor of Science in Vocational Home Economics Education, the Bachelor of Music Education, the Bachelor of Music, and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. These programs usually require a core of professional studies that conforms to the standards of an accrediting agency or other professional body. The size of the professional core ordinarily restricts the number of hours that are required in its associated major.
The relationship among the parts of the bachelor's degree engender its coherence. University Studies and elective provide the intellectual milieu in which a particular branch of learning is applied. The development of proficiency in a branch of learning extends the student's knowledge of one or more of the human perspectives first encountered in University Studies.