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We explain everything there is to know about undergraduate degrees, what they mean, and what to expect…
University lingo can be confusing. If you’re starting to research different universities and look into what degrees you can do when you leave school, there’s a lot of terminology to get your head around.
You’ll most likely be looking at undergraduate degrees. But what is an undergraduate degree exactly? And how does it differ from a postgraduate degree? Read on for the full lowdown on degree names and meanings.
An undergraduate degree is the first level of degree study at university. Some examples of undergraduate degrees include:
- BA (Hons) Art and Design
- BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing
- BSc (Hons) Psychology
- BEng (Hons) Software Engineering
Whatever subject or field you go into, if it’s your first degree at university, then it’s an undergraduate programme. And while you are studying this course, you’ll be referred to as an “undergraduate student”.
Typically, an undergraduate degree is the same a bachelor’s degree, whether it is single honours or a joint honours.
As an undergraduate student, you will be working towards your bachelor’s degree. Once you have completed your degree at this level, you will become a graduate. If you choose to go into further education, you will become a postgraduate.
But not everyone at undergraduate level is working towards a bachelor’s degree, and there are other types of courses that could fall into this category. These include foundation degrees (which are equivalent to two-thirds of an honours bachelor's degree), and associate degrees (above a high school diploma but below a bachelor's degree).
There are also different abbreviations to know. For instance, with bachelor’s degrees, there is BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), and others depending on your chosen field.
Normally, undergraduate degrees last three years when done full-time. This is the case with most bachelor degrees, while foundation degrees are typically two years. Some degrees may offer part-time options, in which case the course will take longer to complete.
Whatever course type or subject you choose, you will most likely have a range of modules to undertake, coursework or hands-on projects, and then exams and a dissertation. Not all courses are exam-based, and some subjects may include work experience.
Not sure what you want to do at university? Or not sure what you want to do as a career? Not everyone is clear about their path at this stage of life, so it’s entirely understandable to be confused.
Some school leavers choose a course that appeals to them with the mind-set that it’s helpful to have a degree, no matter what the subject is. This is true in some cases, as there are transferable skills that can be learned in any degree, which will prepare you for almost any workplace.
But there are some jobs that will require more vocational training. For instance, there are very specific routes for teaching or nursing. If you are unsure, speak to a careers advisor or get information from the UCAS website.
In terms of grading, some employers will not be too concerned with this. But there are some graduate programmes that have strict entry requirements. For those that are interested in further education (such as doing a master’s), certain grades may also be expected of you.
The grading for bachelor’s degrees is as follows:
- First Class Honours (typically grades of 70% or higher)
- Second Class Honours (typically grades of 50–69%)
- Third Class Honours (typically grades of 40–49%)
Looking into the best universities to go to? At the University of Bolton, we have a student-centric approach, and put students and their needs first. If you’re worried about moving away from home for the first time, you’ll have our award-winning Student Services Team to get you settled in and provide support throughout your studies.
Our passionate lecturers will also get to know you as an individual, tailoring the course to fit in with your personal and professional development needs. And because we have relatively small class sizes, it’s much easier to make friends, build your network, and get the support and attention you need.
As a leading Greater Manchester university that is in the Top 5 in the UK for Teaching Quality* and No.1 for Student Satisfaction in the North West** for three years running, there’s nowhere better to study.
To find out more about applying in 2022, use our online course finder.
* The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 2019
** Complete University Guide in 2021, 2020 and 2019, North West region