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What Is An Honours Degree? Meaning And Benefits

If you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, you may be wondering what next. Choosing between further studies & gaining work experience may seem tricky at first. And while there is no right or wrong decision, making the most of your time & channelising your productivity is what counts. That’s when an honours degree walks into the picture to help you make informed decisions. What is an honours degree? An honours degree is a higher level of education than the typical Bachelor’s degree, which can ideally take you further in your career and help you get into certain jobs. Honours degrees are normally awarded for study at the undergraduate level. The honours degrees started in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, but some European universities also include an honours degree as part of their academic structure.

Honours degrees are usually granted on the basis of superior performance as opposed to first-class or upper-second class Bachelor’s degrees. The term is also used in some countries for high school graduation. Honours degrees can be earned in a lot of disciplines; however, most commonly, they include subjects such as mathematics, engineering and chemistry. In addition, other fields, such as medicine, often have their own specialised honours degrees, which may be awarded after completion of an undergraduate course and research project. This article will explain the honours degree meaning, its benefits, and how to get one if you’re interested. 

What Is An Honours Degree?

An honours degree is an undergraduate degree that involves an enhanced level of study beyond a standard bachelor’s degree, showcasing a higher standard of academic achievement and education at the undergraduate level.

If you’re considering this programme, it’s important to understand what is an honours degree and how it differs from a Bachelor’s. This is a post-secondary academic programme that can be taken on top of another post-secondary credential (like a diploma or certificate) or as part of your first degree.

An honours education often takes longer than a regular four-year program because its curriculum typically incorporates more courses per semester than standard Bachelor’s programmes do. Students opting for this programme should check with their institution beforehand about whether they’ll have enough time between terms without missing any credits required for graduation!

what is an honours degree

Types Of Honours Degrees

Now that we know what is a degree with honours, let’s look into its types. The best thing about earning this is that you can do so in a variety of ways depending on your goals and preferred methods of study.

1. Single Honours Degree

After completing your undergraduate studies, you may choose to pursue stand-alone honours, which is regarded as an additional course. You can take a course that combines three disciplines into one, such as Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, to specialize in one of your undergraduate subjects. In contrast to integrated honours, in which you finish your honours requirements throughout the course of your study, this variety differs by needing an additional year of study.

2. Joint Honours Degree

If you choose to pursue a joint or combined honours degree, you can study various disciplines at the undergraduate level independently. This is for all the top students who can’t be content to specialize in just one subject and want the chance to have multiple subject specializations as part of their conventional undergraduate degree. You select different study courses for each subject, and each is offered by various departments or schools within the University. This is how it works.

3. A Degree with an Honours Project

One of the simplest options for earning honours is this one. It would be a typical three-year degree that included a project or dissertation in the last year of study.

Qualifications In Various Countries

Distinct Honours Degrees

In certain countries, universities provide an honours degree as a separate qualification, requiring an additional year of study beyond the standard three-year undergraduate program. The countries offering this separate honours qualification include:

  1. Australia
  2. New Zealand
  3. Scotland
  4. Ireland
  5. South Africa
  6. United States

Integrated Honours Designation

In other countries, the honours designation is integrated into the undergraduate degree program, depending on the student’s level of achievement. These countries include:

  1. England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
  2. Canada
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Malaysia

UK Undergraduate Grading System & Degree Classification

In countries where the UK undergraduate grading system is adopted, a degree with honours is awarded based on a student’s performance and achievement throughout their course of study. It is important to note that it is granted only in countries where it is offered as part of the degree structure. Students should always verify this with their desired educational institution.

The UK undergraduate grading system assesses student performance using various classification levels. The table below highlights the possible levels of achievement and their equivalent grades:

ClassificationMarkOU MarkEquivalent Grade
First class (1st)70% +85% + (OU)A
Upper second class (2:1)60-69%70-85 + (OU)B
Lower second class (2:2)50-59%55-70% (OU)C
Third class (3rd)40-49%40-55% (OU)D
Fail0-39%0-39% (OU)E/F
OU – Open University

Note: The Open University (OU) grading scale is included for reference purposes.

Grading and Classification Of An Honour’s Degree

The grading and classification of an honour’s degree differ depending on the country of study. In the United Kingdom, a designated classification system is used, which considers specific grade thresholds and their corresponding percentages within the degree. Conversely, in the United States and Canada, grading is typically based on the Grade Point Average (GPA), which is then associated with a percentage or letter grade score.

Admission Requirements: In countries where an honour’s degree is offered as a separate qualification, aspiring students usually need to attain a minimum pass percentage of 70% or a B+ grade to be considered for admission into an honour’s degree program. The competition for placement, especially in certain subjects, can be intense, underscoring the importance of maintaining consistently high grades to secure a spot.

International Grading System: To gain insight into how an honour’s degree is marked and graded, referring to the international grading system can be helpful. The following table illustrates the percentage ranges, letter grades, and corresponding descriptions commonly used:

PercentageLetter GradeDescription
80 – 100%AExcellent
70 – 79%BVery Good
60 – 69%CGood
50 – 59%DAverage
49% & lowerE / FUnsatisfactory

Note: The above table provides a general overview of the international grading system, which can vary slightly between institutions and countries.

Honours Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree

The primary distinction between an honours degree and a bachelor’s degree lies in the level at which one studies during their undergraduate academic journey. It is important to note that while some bachelor’s degrees are offered with or without honours, achieving the honours qualification typically requires additional steps. In certain countries, this entails applying for an honours degree program, which is pursued as a separate one. Consequently, individuals earn both a bachelor’s and an honours degree, distinct from a degree with honours.

When researching educational options, discerning between these degrees can often be as simple as identifying the variation in abbreviations used for the qualifications. For instance, an ordinary Bachelor of Arts degree is commonly denoted as BA, whereas a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours is represented as BA (Hons). Similarly, in the case of Bachelor of Science degrees, a regular degree is abbreviated as BSc, while a degree with honours is signified as BSc (Hons).

Another pathway to consider is a single honours undergraduate degree, where students choose a specific subject of specialization to concentrate on. These programs often offer an integrated and cohesive curriculum, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of the chosen field of study. This differs from studying individual subjects in isolation, providing a focused and immersive learning experience.

What Are The Opportunities

Students who know the hons meaning and are also aiming to obtain it show that they have the motivation and commitment to succeed in their chosen field. This qualification will also set you apart from those with lesser qualifications regarding job interviews, as it shows that you are capable of working at a higher level.

A degree with honours can help you get a better job with higher pay and more responsibility than someone without one. The more skills and knowledge in relevant areas of study, the better chance there is of finding employment, particularly if they are related directly to the job itself (e.g., knowing how much raw materials cost before manufacturing).

Benefits Of Studying For An Honours Degree

Knowing what is an honours degree isn’t enough; studying for an Honours Degree is a big commitment, and it will be a challenge. However, there are many benefits to undertaking this extra work.

  • An Honours Degree is generally more challenging than a Bachelor’s degree; many students find that they learn more from their coursework as well as from their research projects and dissertation – which means that when you graduate, you’ll have a much better understanding of the subjects you studied
  • Having an Honours can help you stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs or university places. Many employers look favourably at applicants who hold higher academic qualifications because they know this shows dedication and determination in your studies (and all other aspects of your life!)
  • If your goal is to get into one of the world-class universities like Oxford or Cambridge, then having an A+ grade in your final year may give you an advantage over other applicants who don’t have the same kind of high grades at AS/A2 level too


By now, you must have a proper idea of what is an honours degree. Studying for this programme can be a challenging time, but it’s worth it in the end. You will gain a deeper understanding of your chosen subject area, as well as develop valuable skills that will help you excel in your career. If you want to go on to do further studies or work in the field of business administration or management, then an honours degree is definitely worth considering.


1. What is an honours degree in university?

An honours degree in college refers to an undergraduate degree program that includes an additional level of study beyond the standard bachelor’s degree. It typically involves more rigorous coursework and a higher level of academic achievement.

2. How do you get an honours degree?

To obtain an honours degree, students usually need to meet specific academic criteria, such as achieving a certain grade point average or completing a designated number of credits or modules at an advanced level. The requirements may vary depending on the educational institution and country.

3. Can you do an honours degree in any subject?

Yes. Honours degrees are available in a wide range of subjects, including arts, sciences, business, engineering, and more. However, the availability of honours programs may vary depending on the specific discipline and educational institution.

4. Is an honours degree necessary for further study?

While an honours degree is not always a mandatory requirement for pursuing further studies, it can be advantageous when applying for postgraduate programs, especially in competitive fields or for prestigious scholarships.

5. Can I upgrade my regular degree to an honours degree?

Some universities may offer options for students with a regular degree to upgrade to an honours degree by fulfilling specific requirements, such as completing additional coursework or a research project. It is advisable to consult with the educational institution for their policies and procedures.

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What Is An Honours Degree? Meaning And Benefits