What Are Honours Degrees? Should You Study an Honours Bachelor’s in 2021?

If you want to study at the undergraduate level, things can get confusing quickly, with so many types of degrees available: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Laws, etc.

But what happens when you introduce honours in the mix? What is an honours degree, and what impact does that have on your plans to study abroad?

From one country to another, an honours degree can have different meanings. But a couple of things are common everywhere:

  • graduating with an honours degree shows a high level of academic achievement
  • honours degrees almost always involve more work and higher levels of commitment

Find an honours degree abroad

Now, let’s have a look at the most popular countries where you can graduate with honours:

What is an honours degree in the US?

In the United States, there is no such thing as an ‘honours degree” per se. Students can only graduate with a regular Bachelor’s degree.

There is such a thing as ‘graduating with honours’, but that just refers to being an exemplary student and finishing your studies with a very high GPA. Such students are awarded honorific titles like:

  • cum laude (with praise)
  • magna cum laude (with great praise)
  • summa cum laude (with the highest praise)

Honours student celebrates graduation with her parents

What is an honours degree in Canada?

In Canada, an honours degree usually refers to a Bachelor’s that takes 4 years to complete. This honours Bachelor’s is more intensive and involves a higher level of specialisation. To enrol in most Master’s programmes offered by Canadian universities, you will need a 4-year honours degree.

Canadian universities use ‘(Hons)’ or ‘(Honours)’ to indicate that a specific Bachelor’s is an honours degree. Here are a few examples:

  • Kinesiology (Hons)
  • Applied Psychology (Honours)
  • Honours Bachelor of Arts

Find an honours degree in Canada

What is an honours degree in the UK?

The United Kingdom is the most popular study destination where you can graduate with honours. In fact, the majority of Bachelor’s programmes offered by local universities are honours degrees, and almost all of them include a thesis or research work in the final year of studies.

UK universities generally use ‘(Hons)’ to indicate that a specific Bachelor’s is an honours degree. Here are a few examples:

  • (Hons) Chemistry
  • Business Marketing (Hons)
  • BA (Hons) in Creative Writing

It usually takes 3-4 years to graduate with honours, and the type of honours degree you receive depends on your overall grades. Based on your academic efforts, you can graduate with:

  • First-Class Honours (First or 1st): You need to complete your studies with an overall mark of 70% or above. It is a great academic achievement and represents an advantage when applying for a Master’s degree or a job.
  • Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1): You need an overall grade of 60-69% to receive it. This degree type is a common admission requirement when applying for a Master’s programme.
  • Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2): To obtain this degree, you need a mark of 50-59%. It is not as prestigious as the First or 2:1 degree but is still accepted by certain Master’s programmes.
  • Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd): It is offered to students who finish their studies with an overall mark of 40-49%. While it is still a pass, it will be challenging to compete with other students when applying for a Master’s degree.
  • Ordinary Bachelor’s degree: It is awarded if you miss the 40% mark by a small margin.

Based on data from the University College London (UCL), almost 50% of students graduated with an Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1) degree in the last 4-5 years.

Find an honours degree in the UK

What is an honours degree in Ireland?

In Ireland, the differences between ordinary Bachelor’s and honours Bachelor’s are few but clear:

  • admission requirements for honours degrees are stricter
  • honours Bachelors involve more demanding assignments, classwork and examinations

Irish universities use ‘(Hons)’ and ‘(Honours)’ to indicate that a specific Bachelor’s is an honours degree.

Find an honours degree in Ireland

What is an honours degree in Australia?

In Australia, an honours degree can refer to:

  • a stand-alone course in which you can enrol after your undergraduate studies
  • a type of work that you can usually complete in the last year of your Bachelor’s degree

Australian universities use ‘(Hons)’, ‘(Honours)’ or ‘with Honours’ to indicate that a specific Bachelor’s is an honours degree or includes honours work. Here are a few examples:

  • Law (Hons)
  • Engineering (Honours)
  • Environmental Science with Honours

The stand-alone or appended honours degree is an optional course that’s available to students who have graduated with a Bachelor’s diploma. It usually takes 1 year to complete and involves an independent research project and, sometimes, additional coursework.

The other types of honours are referred to as integrated or embedded honours. The work will generally take place during the last semester, and it may (or not) include specific study units. These types of honours don’t increase the length of your studies.

Learn more about honours degrees in Australia.

Find an honours degree in Australia

What is an honours degree in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, an honours degree refers to either:

  • a stand-alone postgraduate programme available after completing a Bachelor’s
  • or an undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree that involves more work

Universities in New Zealand use ‘(Hons)’, ‘(Honours)’ or ‘with Honours’ to indicate that a specific programme is an honours degree.

The stand-alone postgraduate honours degree can be seen as a pathway to a Master’s programme. It usually takes one year to complete and offers a personalised study experience.

The honours Bachelor’s is an undergraduate degree that requires more effort from students and approaches the discipline more in-depth. However, the length of studies is still the same: usually 3-4 years.

Find an honours degree in New Zealand

University students during break

Other countries where universities offer honours degrees

There are other places where students might encounter honours degrees, but their number is lower when compared to the countries listed above. Here are some of them:

Online honours degrees

For those of you who won’t settle for an ordinary Bachelor’s but want to study from the comfort of your home, we have great news:

You can! On our portals alone, there are over 350 online honours degrees waiting to be discovered. Most of them are offered by universities in the UK, but we’ll let you find out the details on your own.

Find an honours degree abroad

Is an honours degree worth it?

Well, it depends. As you already know by now, an honours degree can refer to different things depending on where you study. In Canada, for example, you will need a 4-year honours Bachelor’s to apply for the vast majority of Master’s programmes.

In other countries, the distinction between ordinary Bachelor’s and honours Bachelor’s is relatively minimal, with differences being in the amount of work, the type of (final) assignments, and the overall difficulty of the courses.

In the end, it’s about your particular goals. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t back down from a challenge, an honours degree could be right for you. On the other hand, if you plan to focus on part-time work or other demanding activities while studying, perhaps a regular Bachelor’s degree is the way to go.

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