What is an Undergraduate Degree?

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The entire university application process is a daunting prospect as there are so many choices to be made. This is made no easier by the mildly complex naming system given to the various degrees and equivalent courses available. Undergraduate is just one of the terms used when describing the wide range of options. Understanding what is meant by the term is vital to your understanding of the university process.

On a basic level, an undergraduate degree is the lowest level qualification which can be studied at university. It’s an umbrella term which encompasses several forms of degree, all of which can be taken by students with no previous degree-level qualifications. An undergraduate degree can be taken in every field of study at your chosen university, so you will never have to worry about the unavailability of a course at this level.

By reading further, you will have access to an explanation of the various undergraduate courses available and what they are, as well as other options post-secondary and the various study methods available.

What is an Undergraduate?

In simple terms, the word “undergraduate” is given to a student who has never obtained any form of degree-level qualification. This doesn’t mean to say that anyone who doesn’t have a degree is classed as an undergraduate. It’s only people currently studying at university or the equivalent who qualify to be classed under the term.

The only other meaning of undergraduate is when the word is used in reference to a degree. In this situation, undergraduate means education which is post-secondary (as in more difficult than an A-Level) but does not require a previous degree qualification to study.

A qualification which does need the prerequisite of another degree is called a postgraduate. Therefore, an undergraduate bridges the gap between A-Levels and postgraduate degrees.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree a Type of an Undergraduate Degree?

When choosing a university course after finishing school, there are two choices to make; the subject area you wish to focus on and the type of degree you’ll take. When first starting university, you are required to choose an undergraduate degree, of which there are several types.

However, other than foundation courses which can then develop into full degree qualifications, the bachelor’s degree is the most common for undergraduates to take post-secondary.  Bachelor’s is another overarching term which encompasses several types of qualification.

Single vs Joint Honours Bachelor’s Degrees

Depending on the subject you plan on taking, the bachelor’s degrees available can vary. There are two main categories which undergraduate degrees can fall into.

The first of these is a Single Honours Bachelor‘s Degree. Essentially, what this means is that you can spend three years studying a single subject, such as Geology for example. As part of this, you will be able to study lots of different areas of the subject and there may be some overlap between topics. In the case of geology, this would the elements of geography which may appear at times in the course.

However, 95% of what you learn, will be driven by a very specific discipline, so when opting for the single honours course, it’s important to really love what you do.

If you have less of an idea of what you want to do in later life, studying for a Joint Honours Bachelor’s Degree may the preferable option. The principle is effectively the same, in that the qualification takes the same amount of time and carries the same weight in a job application.

Therefore, the biggest difference is that you are able to choose two subjects to specialise in when taking a joint honours. So, it would be possible to take, say, both physics and maths if you’re undecided on which you prefer.

For a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of bachelor’s degree, you can read this article.

What are the Types of Bachelor’s Degrees?

When being awarded your degree at the end of the university process, the official certification doesn’t just provide the name of your course. There are in fact, only four categories a subject could be classified under.

You will hear the terms “Bachelor of Science” and “Bachelor of Art” most commonly, as most subjects come under one of these two titles. The BSc encompasses every form of scientific bachelor’s degree, including geography and social sciences such as psychology. On the other hand, BA includes all subjects that could be seen as artistic, including English, Media and Humanities.

There are only a few other types of bachelor’s degree, being the BEd, education and the BEng, engineering, both of which are often listed by universities under the art and science bracket anyway.

For more information on the different types of undergraduate degree in the UK, as well as a description of the courses available, click here.

Of course, as with any process of categorisation, each subject is not black and white, and there are some areas of overlap. Business is a good example of this, as some universities place this under the BA title, whilst others claim it’s a social science, and therefore should be BSc.

Ultimately, the name of the degree is not overly important, but this is important to note when writing your CV.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Undergraduate Degree?

The standard bachelor’s degree takes 3 years to complete in full time education. However, there are several factors which can affect the time it takes to finish the degree. Some students will opt to take a year abroad, or a placement year in the industry, which then adds another year to the degree.

Endeavours like this can give you valuable transferrable skills and life experiences, so despite the added time and expense, looking into these options can be massively advantageous. Click here to read an article about the general age people start university, including how long various degrees, and not just undergraduates, take to complete.

Another of the factors affecting time taken to complete a degree is the allotted study time per week a person commits to. Many older students will opt to learn in part-time education, giving them the time to earn the money paying for their tuition.

Depending on the amount of time the person dedicates to their education per week, it will take an average of 5 years to complete a part-time degree, but there is no set finish date. It’s all down to how regularly you work.

The only other undergraduate degree available which takes less than 3 years in the foundation course. This is essentially a degree taking one or two years to complete which gives the student a taster of what a certain university course will be like. In some cases, the foundation course can be developed into a bachelor’s degree by taking a third year.

To read more about all the different undergraduate degrees available and the amount of time each takes, click here.

What are the Options Available After Undergraduate Education?

Once completing undergraduate study, you then unlock a whole new range of courses available to take at university. Postgraduate means any degree which can be taken with the prerequisite of an undergraduate.

There are several types of postgraduates, which include master’s degrees and doctorates. Each of these adds to the completion time of the course. Generally speaking, a masters will increase the length by one or two years, while a doctorate will add three or four years alone.

So, for a student looking to take an bachelors, followed by a masters and finishing with a PhD, the total time taken to complete their education would be a minimum of seven years.

If you are interested in taking a master’s degree, this article supplies some useful information about the application process and what to expect. Also check out this article which provides further details as to what a master’s degree is.

The other possibility on finishing an undergraduate degree is to look at specialised schools. For example, a person interested in becoming a barrister could look at law school. For any high-profile career in fields like medicine, it is usually required to have spent a considerable number of years in post-18 education, and this is just one of the availabilities.

How Much Does an Undergraduate Degree Cost?

For all British citizens, the standard undergraduate degree costs the same amount of money, regardless of the university or subject taken. Currently, in the UK, the yearly tuition fee cost for students is £9,250.

Remembering what was said earlier about the possibility of extending the degree to include a year in industry or abroad, this will increase the cost of taking an undergraduate degree. Therefore, the total cost of the degree depends on the number of years it is studied for. A three-year degree will cost £27,750 in tuition fees, and four years would cost closer to £37,000.

This can seem like a daunting sum of money, but there are always options to help finance the degree. By reading this article or this article about the key dates when applying for student finance, you can reduce the stress surrounding the cost of university.

However, you must also consider the other factors increasing the total cost of university. On accommodation alone, students spend roughly £8,245 per year, which can significantly increase the overall cost. And on top of this, you should consider the fact that university is the first time most people become self-sufficient, so living costs will also increase the already hefty sum.

This article will give you a further insight into the combined cost of university, considering both accommodation and tuition fees.

Can You Take Online Undergraduate Courses?

In short, yes, it is definitely possible to take a bachelor’s degree online. However, choosing to take a course online is a big decision, because it is so different to an in-person degree. Instead of watching lectures and participating in seminars whilst surrounded by other people, everything is done through the medium of online chat rooms.

Online degrees are mainly aimed at two groups of people. The first are older, part-time students who need to be at home in order to look after their families. However, online study is also the perfect opportunity for foreign students to attend the university of their choice without needing to leave their home country.

By taking an online degree, you will be able to study on your own time, wherever you want, and the price will be massively decreased from what it would be. The only things you really need are a stable internet connection and the motivation to work independently.

That said, it can feel quite isolated studying alone for three years. By going online, you miss out on valuable experiences meeting different people, navigating a brand-new city and learning to be self-sufficient. It can feel quite isolated, especially when completing independent work.

For a detailed insight into how an online degree would work, click here.

What are the Most Well-Respected Online Undergraduate Degrees?

As a student in the UK, the benefit of studying online is that you’re not limited to UK universities for your degree. By doing further research, you can find some incredible courses, particularly in the USA and Australia.

Nevertheless, focussing specifically on universities in the UK, the use of online learning varies from school to school. Whilst some have a wide range of courses available, others have little or no online presence.

The Open University is one of the most popular universities to take degrees with from home, mainly because the majority, if not all, of learning is based online, with occasional visits to the campus itself at regular checkpoints.

Degrees offered by the Open University are no less reputable than any other degree-level qualification, as employers look for the skillset earnt in a degree more than they look at the school it was taken with. This article explores more ideas about the employability of people with degrees from the Open University.

Whilst the Open University is the most popular and offers the widest range of courses, there are plenty of Russell Group Universities, including but not limited to The University of Manchester, King’s College London and University of Southampton. They all offer online courses for students across the globe to take.

To read a full list of the top 20 universities offering online degree courses, click here.

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