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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What are academic degrees?

Studying for an academic degree at university can be a rewarding and enriching experience. We guide you through the options, benefits, and potential career options.

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If you’ve been researching your study options for a course or degree, you’d have noticed that some qualifications are classified as academic degrees rather than professional degrees. The difference is that academic degrees focus on knowledge development and research in an academic field, without a particular emphasis on a career path. We delve a little deeper into what studying for an academic degree is like, including the subjects you can pursue, the benefits, and what you can do with an academic degree.


What subjects are part of an academic degree?


First off, it’s important to know that all professional degrees are academic degrees, but not all academic degrees are professional degrees. That may sound confusing. It means that not all degrees offered at university are about preparing you for a specific career. When you take an academic degree path, you have a little more freedom in choosing your subjects.


An academic degree is usually structured as a more general qualification, such as a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Some of the subjects and fields you can pursue throughout a three or four-year undergraduate academic degree include:



Remember that you will have to select your minor and major subjects. This will mean choosing two or three subjects for the entirety of your degree, while others will be elective modules you pursue for six months to a year.


Are you interested in studying a subject in the humanities? Find out why the humanities are important and what to expect when studying humanities.  


What are the benefits of an academic degree?


While some may try to convince you otherwise, there are numerous benefits of studying for an academic degree. You’ll pick up essential knowledge and a range of skills that are coveted by employers, despite the degree not being designed for one particular career. Some of the other benefits of studying for an academic degree include:


  • Developing essential skills such as critical thinking, communication, argumentation, analytical skills, flexibility, and collaboration
  • A broadening of knowledge and culture
  • Advanced writing and research abilities
  • A foundational qualification towards a specialised postgraduate degree
  • pathway to a professional degree or qualification
  • The development of networks and communities
  • Improved and diverse employment opportunities


Studying for an academic degree is a great way to develop your creativity and independence. You could also find a love for a subject you didn’t know you had.


Read more about why studying abroad is a good idea.


Can you change from an academic degree to a professional degree?


The short answer is yes. You can change your path from an academic degree to a professional degree. Much does depend on your area of study and if it's related to the professional qualification you want to study. For example, you could move from a Bachelor of Arts degree with a law major into a professional law qualification.


It’s always a good idea to chat to your university’s career office or an education counsellor for advice on how to navigate this transition. It may require a bridging course or an additional module or two. This can add to your study time. Think about how a  career path may suit your personality, if you're interested in a specialised field and get advice on mapping your study and career path.


Undertaking a work placement of an internship can be a good way to get a sense of whether a profession would suit you or not.


What can you do with an academic degree?


Obtaining an academic degree allows you to work in numerous fields and industries. Employers will look for a match in the skills and qualifications you have for a particular role. For example, if you have completed a degree in languages, you’re unlikely to get hired as an IT technician.

Depending on your major subjects and academic degree type you could work in fields, roles, and industries including:


  • Education
  • Marketing
  • Business
  • Public sector
  • Charities
  • Journalism
  • Film and television
  • Advertising
  • Data analytics
  • Counselling


This list is by no means complete, and there are numerous other possibilities you can pursue with an academic degree.


As you can see, studying for an academic degree can be a good choice. For further research on your study abroad journey, discover what student lifestyle may suit you best, the top 10 humanities degrees for international students, and the ultimate study abroad checklist.  

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