Types of undergraduate degrees

The term undergraduate degree refers to your first university degree, such as an associate or bachelor's degree. You often need to have completed undergraduate study before postgraduate study.

If you’re thinking of applying to study abroad, it’s important you have a general idea of the differences between different types of undergraduate degree, so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is what people often mean when they talk about an undergraduate degree. They are a common type of degree to work towards following the completion of secondary education. The degree is recognized worldwide, although the process of getting one differs slightly from country to country.

What you can study

There are many subjects to take as a bachelor’s degree, some will focus on a particular profession, whilst others focus on an area of academic study. All degrees will be categorized into a type of bachelor’s degree: Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (B.S / BSc) are the most common.

Students will be asked to choose a specific subject, or major, to be the focus of their degree. Your major should be in an academic area that you are passionate about, and could influence your career in the future. Some universities won’t ask you to choose a major until part way through a program, whereas some will make you pick a focus at the point of application.

You will have a set amount of credits you need to complete and pass each year to earn a bachelor’s. Some of these credits will have to be used on classes set by the university, and others you can use how you want.

How long it takes to get a bachelor’s

A bachelor’s program will take between three and four years full time to complete. In the US it is usually four years, and in the UK it is usually three years.

Associate degree

An associate degree can help graduates with entry level work within certain professions.

Associate degrees (also known as foundation degrees) can also offer you a pathway to a bachelor’s degree. On completion of an associate degree a university can offer study programs to convert it into a bachelor’s. This can ensure that you have the correct level of knowledge before studying for a bachelor’s, increasing your chances of completing the degree to a high standard.

Sometimes an associate degree will be required by a university before you are admitted onto a bachelor’s degree program. For example, in the UK this is a common requirement for all students studying art and design courses.

How long it takes to get an associate degree

Associate’s degrees usually last two years full time, with an extra one or two years to convert the degree to a bachelor’s.

Dual degree

Dual degrees (also known as double degrees) are courses which allow you to graduate with two bachelor’s degrees rather than one. However, the time period to complete both degrees is the same as a standard bachelor’s degree — around three or four years.

Dual degrees are not the same as joint honors degrees or joint degrees.

Joint honors degree

In some countries such as the UK and Canada it’s possible to study for a joint honors. These degrees enable you to gain one degree across two subjects in the same amount of time as a single honors for example Spanish and English. You usually have to split your time and credits equally between the two subjects, meaning you have little room for elective classes.