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A bachelor's degree is usually an undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course or major that generally lasts for three, four, or in some cases and countries, five or six years. It may also be the name of a postgraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Civil Law (granted by the University of Oxford.)

Honours degrees and academic distinctions

Under the English system, and those influenced by it such as the Canadian, Irish, Indian, Maltese, Singaporean, and Hong Kong systems, undergraduate degrees are differentiated either as pass degrees or as honours degrees, the latter denoted by the appearance of "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation. An honours degree generally requires a higher academic standard than a pass degree, and in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and the Canadian province of Ontario an extra year of study. In Scotland, there also exist General Degrees.


In Australia, there are two types of undergraduate degree: pass degrees and Honours degrees. In some disciplines, Honours degrees are awarded solely based on a high-level of academic achievement. In most disciplines, particularly science-related, Honours degrees require an additional year of study where degree candidates must complete an original research project and submit a thesis, in addition to achieving a high-level of academic performance. Honours degrees are denoted with "(Hons)" following the degree abbreviation, e.g. BSc(Hons).

Undergraduate degrees may be awarded in five classes, with different terminology used by different universities:

  • Honours Class I / First Class Honours – the highest level of academic achievement, with some universities awarding a university medal to the highest-achieving graduates within this class
  • Honours Class II Division 1 / Second Class Honours Division A
  • Honours Class II Division 2 / Second Class Honours Division B
  • Honours Class III / Third Class Honours
  • Pass – awarded to all graduates other than those who have completed an Honours degree program

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland there are two different types of degree: Honours degrees and Ordinary degrees. Some universities offer undergraduate courses leading to both, though most degrees are honours degrees, with an option not to take honours. The length of study required for both types of degree can vary from two to five years.[1] [2]

Honours degrees (usually written "B.A. (Hons)" or "B.Sc. (Hons)") are of a superior academic standard, and are usually awarded for the more traditional academic subjects such as English, Philosophy, Mathematics, etc. An Honours degree is always awarded in one of four classes depending upon the marks gained in the final assessments and examinations. The top students are awarded a first class degree, the next best, an upper second class degree (usually referred to as a 2:1), the next a lower second class degree (usually referred to as a 2:2), and those with the lowest marks gain a third class degree. An Ordinary or unclassified degree (which does not give the graduate the right to add "(Hons)") may be awarded if a student has completed the full honours degree course but has obtained a very low pass mark which is insufficient to merit a third-class honours degree.

For a detailed explanation of the classification system see British undergraduate degree classification.

Ordinary degrees are unclassified degrees awarded to all students who have completed the course and obtained sufficient marks to pass the final assessments and examinations. Ordinary degree courses usually have lower entry requirements than Honours degree courses. Although Ordinary degree courses are often considered to be easier than Honours degree courses, this is not always the case, and much depends on the university attended and the subject being studied. In many of the 'new' universities now offering a large range of modern degree subjects, Ordinary degree students are able to transfer to an Honours degree course in the same subject if an acceptable standard is reached after the first or second year of study.


At the Scottish Ancients (St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee), undergraduate degrees are differentiated as either General Degrees or Honours Degrees.

An Honours degree (usually MA(Hons) for arts/social sciences or BSc(Hons) for sciences) is awarded for students who have completed four years at university - two years at sub-honours level, studying a variety of different subjects, and two years at honours level studying one subject in depth, usually including a dissertation in the final year.

A General Degree (usually MA or BSc) is awarded to students who have completed three years at university studying a variety of subjects. The first two years of a General and Honours degree are identical, but candidates for the General study in less depth in their final year, and over a wider variety of subjects. Candidates for the General do not usually complete a dissertation. A Scottish General degree is different from an English Pass degree even though both may be denoted BSc.

United States

Almost all U.S. universities and colleges award bachelors' degrees with honors -- usually "cum laude" (with praise), "magna cum laude" (with great praise) and "summa cum laude" (with highest praise) -- degrees without honors are awarded "rite." Requirements for such notations of honors generally include minimum Grade Point Averages, with the highest average required for the "summa" distinction. In the case of a few schools, a senior thesis for degrees in the humanities, and laboratory research for "pure" science degrees is also required. A notable exception is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which does not have a dean's list, cum laude recognition, or undergraduate honors subjects.

Some U.S. colleges and universities have a separate academic track known as an "honors" or "scholars" program, generally meant for the top students of the school and offering more challenging courses or more individually-directed seminars or research projects. The students are awarded the same bachelor's degree as students in the regular course, but with the notation "in cursu honorum." Usually, the above "laude" honors are separate from the notation for this honors course, but a student in the honors course generally must maintain grades at least worthy of the "cum laude" notation anyway. Hence, a student from such a school might receive a diploma Artium Baccalaureatum rite or Artium Baccalaureatum summa cum laude in the regular course, or Artium Baccalaureatum summa cum laude in cursu honorum, for instance.

English-speaking world

BA, AB, BS, BSc, SB, ScB

Today, the most common undergraduate degrees given are the Bachelor of Arts (Artium Baccalaureus) and the Bachelor of Science (Scientiæ Baccalaureus). Originally, in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge all undergraduate degrees were in the Faculty of Arts, hence the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Since the late 19th century, most universities in the English-speaking world have followed the practice of the University of London in dividing undergraduate degree subjects into the two broad categories of arts and sciences, awarding the degree of Bachelor of Science to students of the latter category of subjects.

In the United States, many colleges (particularly what are known as "liberal arts colleges") and universities award the BA for all "academic" subjects (whether English literature or chemistry) — often these colleges and colleges within universities only offer academic (rather than pre-professional) courses. Schools that have professional training ("Police Science", "Finance", "Nursing", and so on) often reserve the BS degree for these subjects. Some schools award the BA for humanities academic courses and the BS for courses in the physical sciences; in some cases a student may choose between a BA course of study and a BS course of study in the same subject at the same college.


The Bachelor of Architecture is awarded to students who complete the five year course of study in the field.


The Bachelor of Liberal Arts or Bachelor of Science in General Studies is sometimes awarded to students who major in liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies, or who design their own concentrations.

BEng, BE, BESc, BASc

The Bachelor of Engineering (Baccalaureus in Arte Ingeniaria) degree or the Bachelor of Applied Science[3] degree is a professional degree awarded to students who have completed the four year course of study in engineering. There are more specific variants for many subfields, such as the BSEE degree (Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering).


The Bachelor of Business Administration degree is awarded to students who complete the four year course of study in certain areas of business (general business administration, marketing, accounting, and so on).


The Bachelor of Fine Arts is a specialized degree awarded for courses of study in fine arts, usually by an "arts school" or conservatory.


The Bachelor of Journalism degree is a professional degree awarded to students who have studied journalism at a four-year accredited university. Not all universities, however, grant this degree. In the United States, schools tend to offer the BS with a major in Journalism instead.

BM or B.Mus.

The Bachelor of Music degree is an undergraduate degree in music at most conservatories in the U.S.


The Bachelor of Laws is the principal academic degree in law in most common law countries other than the United States, where it has been replaced by the Juris Doctor degree.


The Bachelor of Philosophy degree is either an undergraduate or a graduate degree that often entails independent research, a thesis, or a capstone project.

BS in Ed

The Bachelor of Science in Education is a four-year undergraduate degree offered by many U.S. colleges and universities for those preparing to be licensed as teachers. Variants include the B.Ed, B.A.Ed, B.A.T. (Bachelor of Arts for Teaching), and B.S.T. Preparatory to the MS in Ed, this degree is most often taken by those interested in early childhood, elementary level, and special education, or by those planning to be school administrators. Secondary level teachers -- for high school students -- often major in their subject area, as History or Chemistry or Mathematics, instead, with a minor in education.


The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is an undergraduate degree in nursing


There are many other specialized Bachelor's degrees offered. Some are in very specialized areas, like the five-year BID degree in industrial design. Others are offered only at a limited number of universities, such as Stanford University's BAS (Bachelor of Arts and Sciences) degree for students completing two Arts and Sciences majors, one of which would ordinarily lead to the BA while the other would ordinarily lead to the BS, but who are receiving only one degree. At many schools one can only complete a two-degree program if the bachelors degrees to be earned are of different types; e.g., one could earn a BA in philosophy and a B.S.Ch.E. in chemical engineering simultaneously, but a person studying philosophy and English would receive only a single BA with the two majors. Rules on this vary considerably, however.


The education systems in Asian countries are largely patterened after the western models.


In the Philippines, where the term "course" is used to refer to a bachelor's degree, several undergraduate categories exist - the two most common degrees awarded being Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Arts (AB or BA). Specializations ("majors") in economics, business administration, nursing, architecture, and engineering fall under Science in most colleges and universities. The latter two specializations normally require five years of schooling, in contrast to the standard of four years. Other common degrees are Bachelor in Education (BEd), and Bachelor of Laws (LLB, a graduate degree).


Institutes of higher learning in Japan provide four years of college education leading to a bachelor's degree which is referred to as "gakushi", e.g., Gakushi in Economics. Some institutes offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree.


Bachelor's degrees exist in almost every country in Europe. However, these degrees were only recently introduced in some Continental European countries, where Bachelor's degrees were unknown before the Bologna process.


Bachelor's degrees, called Bakkalaureus, existed originally in Germany, but were abolished up until 1820 as part of educational reforms at this time. The Magister degree, originally a graduate degree, became the new first degree after five years of study. In 1899 a second first degree, the Diplom, was introduced when the Technische Hochschulen received university status. However, in 1998 a new educational legislation reintroduced the Bachelor's degree (first degree after 3 to 4 years of study) in Germany. Today these degrees can be called either Bakkalaureus or Bachelor (in accordance with federal law) but the English term is more common. The traditional degrees will be abolished by 2010.


The historical situation in Austria is very similar to the situation in Germany. The traditional first degrees are also the Magister and the Diplom. A new educational legislation in 2002 reintroduced the Bachelors degree also in Austria, but these degrees are generally called Bakkalaureus.


Similarly to Austria and Germany, there is no tradition of Bachelor degrees in Switzerland. The traditional first degrees where the Licentiate and the Diplom. Bachelor's and graduate Master's degrees replacing the old degrees since 2004.


In 2004, the Dutch degree system was changed to abide to international standards. Former degrees such as the doctorandus (prefix abbreviated to drs., corresponds to MA or MSc), ingenieur (ing. for bachelor and ir. for master level, corresponds to B.Eng and M.Eng respectively), meester in de rechten (mr., corresponds to LL.M.) and doctor (dr., corresponds to Ph.D) are no longer granted (although still used and protected)

Master's degrees

See Master's degree

Bachelor's degrees

Bachelor's degrees are granted by both accredited colleges and universities. For colleges after 4 years of education a bachelor's degree is obtained (BA, BSc, B.Eng, LL.B.). For universities after 3 years of education a degree is granted (BA, B.Eng, BSc, LL.B.) Whether a bachelor's degree is granted by a college or university makes a lot of difference. BA's from a university grant 'immediate' entry into a master's programme (and are usually considered a formality to allow students entering foreign universities master's programmes), BA's from a college require an extra 'bridge year' to be allowed into a master's programme. Granted degrees may be used as suffixes (Mr. Janssen BSc)

Commonwealth of Independent States

The specialist degree (специалист) was the only first degree in the Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, bakalavr (Bachelor's) degrees were introduced in all the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, except Turkmenistan. However, the specialist degree continues to be the most frequently awarded degree in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tadschikistan, and Ukraine, and bakalavr degrees are still relatively rare.

Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery

In countries following British tradition, (the University of Malta is an exception) medical graduates receive a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery (MB BChir or MB ChB or MBBS). This was historically taken after the initial BA degree, and in Oxford the BA is still awarded for the initial three years of medical study, with the BM BCh being awarded for the subsequent clinical stage of training. Although in theory the MB and BChir are two degrees, they must be taken together, and by convention entitle the bearer to use the title of Doctor. In some Irish universities a third degree, Bachelor of Obstetrics (BAO), is often added.

New bachelor's degrees

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are perhaps alone today in awarding the B.A. for all undergraduate degrees. Almost all American universities award B.A. and B.S. degrees. However, in many universities over the last hundred years the range of bachelor's degrees has expanded enormously, especially in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where the B.A. degree is becoming increasingly uncommon.

Some of these new degrees and their abbreviations include:

  • A.L.B. — Bachelor of Liberal Arts
  • B.A.S. — Bachelor of Architectural Studies
  • B.A.A. — Bachelor of Applied Arts
  • B.A.A.S — Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences
  • B.A.Sc. — Bachelor of Applied Science
  • B.AgrSc — Bachelor of Agricultural Science
  • B.App.Sc. — Bachelor of Applied Science
  • B.As. — Bachelor of Asian Studies
  • B.A.Econ. — Bachelor of Economics
  • B.Arch. — Bachelor of Architecture
  • B.B.A. — Bachelor of Business Administration
  • B.Bus — Bachelor of Business
  • B.C.A. — Bachelor of Commerce and Administration
  • B.Ch. — Bachelor of Surgery (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
  • B.Comm. or B.Com. — Bachelor of Commerce
  • B.Comp. — Bachelor of Computing
  • B.CompSc. or B.CS. — Bachelor of Computer Science
  • B.D. — Bachelor of Divinity (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
  • B.Des. — Bachelor of Design (Visual design discipline)
  • B.Ec. — Bachelor of Economics
  • B.Ed. — Bachelor of Education
  • B.E.S. — Bachelor of Environmental Studies
  • B.Eng. or B.E. — Bachelor of Engineering
  • B.F.A. — Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • B.G.S. — Bachelor of General Studies
  • B.H.Sc — Bachelor of Health Sciences
  • B.InfTech. — Bachelor of Information Technology
  • B.InfSci. — Bachelor of Information Science
  • B.IntSt. — Bachelor of International Studies
  • B.J. — Bachelor of Journalism (see the University of Missouri-Columbia)
  • B.Lang. — Bachelor of Languages
  • B.M. or M.B. — Bachelor of Medicine (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
  • B.Math. — Bachelor of Mathematics (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
  • B.Mus. or Mus.B. — Bachelor of Music (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
  • B.M.M.S — Bachelor of Multimedia Studies
  • B.Ost — Bachelor of Osteopathy
  • B.Optom — Bachelor of Optometry
  • B.P.A.P.M. (Hons); Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (used at Carleton University)
  • B.P.Ed. or B.P.E. — Bachelor of Physical Education
  • B.Pharm. — Bachelor of Pharmacy
  • B.Psych — Bachelor of Psychology (Commonwealth Usage, Particularly Australia)
  • B.P.S. — Bachelor of Professional Studies (University of Mary Washington, Virginia)
  • B.R.E. — Bachelor of Religious Education
  • B.S. — Bachelor of Surgery (Commonwealth usage, usually as part of a MB BS)
  • B.S.E. — Bachelor of Science in Engineering
  • B.SE. — Bachelor of Software Engineering (used at McGill University and the University of Waterloo)
  • B.Soc.Sci — Bachelor of Social Sciences (used at the University of Ottawa)
  • B.S.B. — Bachelor of Science in Business
  • B.S.E.E. — Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • B.S.F. — Bachelor of Science in Forestry
  • B.S.F.S. — Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (used by the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University)
  • B.S.S.E. — Bachelor of Science in Science Education
  • B.S.W. — Bachelor of Social Work
  • B.Tech. — Bachelor of Technology
  • B.Theol — Bachelor of Theology
  • B.Tour. — Bachelor of Tourism

A full list of British degree abbreviations is also available.

See also

  • Associate's degree
  • Master's degree
  • Engineer's degree
  • Doctorate
  • Bologna process - European harmonisation.
  • Degrees of Oxford University
  • Double degree
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