A degree is formally called a bachelors degree. Bachelors degrees are awarded at the end of a 3 or 4 year course. The type of degree you get depends on the focus of your course.

For example:

  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • BSc - Bachelor of Science
  • BEng - Bachelor of Engineering
  • BEd - Bachelor of Education
  • LLB - Law
  • MB - Medicine

Bachelors degrees can be awarded with or without honours depending on how you perform during your course.

Universities set their own entry requirements, but for those aged 18-21 the usual minimum requirement is:

5 GCSEs at grade A* - C plus a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent from vocationally related qualifications such as the level 3 BTEC National Diploma.

Degrees are usually taken at 18 when you have completed a level 3 course of study such as A-levels or a BTEC National, although some older people return to study after a period of work so may become mature students.

Most degrees are taken in a university although a large number of further education colleges now run degree programmes accredited by a university. You can also study for a degree in a modular way by gaining credits at the correct academic level for years 1, 2 and 3 - or by distance learning.

There are many thousands of degree courses on offer at around 400 institutions. As an example there are over 3,300 courses available just related to business. Degrees fall roughly into three types:

Vocationally related courses which develop the skills for a specific job or role, examples of these courses are:

  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Nursing
  • Engineering
  • Computing
  • Graphic Design


Academic subjects such as:

  • Philosophy
  • Literature
  • History
  • Theology
  • Geography
  • History of Art


Courses related to a broad subject area - but not a specific job or role, for example:

  • Environmental Technology
  • Information Technology
  • Linguistics
  • Business
  • Sports
  • Management Studies

You can only study for 1 full-time degree at a time but as part of that, you could study more than one subject area. For example:

  • Single subject - in-depth study of one subject
  • Joint courses - joint courses allow you to study two subjects
  • Major/Minor combination - in which you do around two-thirds of your course in your main subject
  • Combined subjects - even more flexibility is offered with a choice of up to three or four subjects

A degree usually lasts three years but some courses have a different structure or may contain different elements. For example, if you take a sandwich year, a year studying abroad or a year in industry your overall degree will take four years. In Scotland, degrees are usually masters degrees and take four years.

After completing a degree you can either go into work or continue on to take professional qualifications such as the Postgraduate Certificate of Education to become a teacher.

Extended Degree Programmes are courses which allow students who did not specialise in the required subjects at A-level, to take the university course of their choice (mainly engineering and applied science). This route provides an initial year of a ‘grounding programme’ in the appropriate subject. Extended degrees are sometimes called ‘Foundation Years’, not to be confused with foundation degrees.

To find out more visit the Pearsons website

To find out more about other qualifications return to the Qualifications page.

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