If you think about it for a moment, this doesn’t make any sense at all. Really why do all degrees take 4 years. Do all degrees require exactly the same amount of education, the same amount or learning, and the same amount of experience? I highly doubt it, which means it doesn’t make sense why all college degrees take 4 years!
I won’t debate why you should or shouldn’t go to college or university, it could be to learn to learn, to acquire a skill, to acquire knowledge, etc. It really doesn’t matter for this post, the question is why does it take 4 years no matter what subject you’re getting your degree in?
Some topics are more involved than others. And it shows! I remember taking some “hard science” courses where each course had a lab section to it. If you take 5 of these courses in a semester, that was also 5 labs (don’t ask me why but I did this for a few semesters – and no I’m not insane, at least I don’t think so). For other subjects, there were no labs. Some classes had virtually no assignments where others had weekly 5+ hour assignments (university calculus classes are a good example of classes with higher workloads). If I compare my computer science assignments to my psychology assignments, well let’s just the say the amount of effort wasn’t comparable on average. And almost none of my psychology classes had any labs whatsoever. In case you’re wondering I have a BSc. in Computer Science with a Math and Physics minors. I was also just a couple courses short of a full second degree in Psychology (1 semester) before I left academia for the workforce.
Of course I assume things haven’t changed that much since I went to university years ago, except that now laptops are standard whereas when I went it was only one or two computer science students that could afford any laptops at all. Actually, almost no one had computers period. You generally had to find a friend that could help you out or go to the dreaded computer labs. That was also back when we used to walk 50 miles in blizzards with 100mph winds. But seriously, I assume there’s still as much discrepancy between how much effort goes into getting different degrees.
And that’s how it should be. Some material is harder to learn and takes more effort. That’s life. It’s just the way it is. But why is it that almost every college degree still takes 4 years. Why don’t they vary depending on what’s required?
Is it a perception thing, where people will put less value into a 2-3 year degree versus a 4-5 year degree. I’m sure that will happen, but that can’t be the real issue. At least I hope not.
Or is it that it’s just easier to make everyone go through the same 4 year program, and expand or shrink the program to make it fit it into 4 years (Parkinson’s Law – work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.). Plus, and I just can’t resist, it’s relatively pretty easy money to have a 2-3 year program take 4 years.
Personally though, I believe the main reason is that’s easy and it’s standard to make it 4 years, no matter how much time it really takes (or should take). It’s hard going against convention. It’s the standard. Why rock the boat. And any other of the million cliches and tag lines you can come up with. Sure the other benefits are nice, but I simply think it’s because that’s the way it’s always been. And that’s why we should really question why college degrees almost always take 4 years to complete!