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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

The types of bachelor's degrees explained

Discover what types of bachelor’s degrees are available for international students to study. We explain, define and describe the most common undergraduate qualifications. Plus, we explore the potential subjects you could take too.

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Did you know that a bachelor’s degree is the most common and widely studied undergraduate qualification in the world? You may be familiar with some of the more common options, such as a BA and BSc. However, bachelor’s degrees cover many subjects and specialisations. They’re crucial qualifications for students aiming to pursue certain careers requiring professional degrees. Our guide gives you a full explanation of what bachelor’s degrees are, the options available, the differences between qualifications, and popular subject choices.


What is a bachelor’s degree?


A bachelor’s degree is the first type of undergraduate qualification that you will be able to study after having completed your school education. Bachelor’s degrees cover arts, social science, science, engineering and medicine, so pretty much most of the subjects and fields that you can think of. Bachelor’s degrees are designed to be completed within three or four years of full-time study.


Remember that the type of bachelor’s degree that you graduate with will depend very much on the subject/s that you have decided to study. This can depend on whether you have chosen to pursue an academic or professional degree. Some of the more common bachelor’s degrees include:


  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Law (LLB)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)


In some study destinations, such as Canada and the United States, you are unable to progress to graduate school in your chosen subject without having successfully completed a bachelor’s degree majoring in an associated subject, such as law or medicine.


Are you still finding the terminology a little confusing? This video from the University of Waterloo may help. 



What levels of degrees are there?


It’s always useful to revisit the different levels of degrees so that you get an idea of how a bachelor’s qualification fits into the bigger picture and how bachelor’s degree programmes are related to postgraduate options. There are a number of key degree study levels offered by institutions. These are:


  • Foundation degree and diploma level study are structured to be the equivalent of two years of university study and can be used as credits towards the completion of a bachelor’s degree.  
  • Bachelor’s degree level study is the base of undergraduate degree study.
  • Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are based at the same level as a master’s degree but take less time to complete and are the equivalent of having completed a portion of a master’s degree.  
  • Master’s degree level study delves deeper into a specific subject area and follows from a bachelor’s degree qualification. Entry to a master’s programme is often subject to a good academic record at the undergraduate level.
  • PhD degree level study is the highest academic level that you can reach and will see you pursue your specialist subject in a great deal of detail while conducting original research and contributing to the field.


What is the difference between a BSc and BA?


The difference between a BA and a BSc is one that often causes the most confusion amongst prospective students. The principle difference between the two qualifications is the type of subjects that you’ll study, as well as the teaching focus of the degree.


In a BA you will pursue a more general curriculum that encourages critical thinking, interrogation of knowledge and theoretical analysis. It’s a great way to develop some of the key skills you can take through to the workplace. BA degrees are most often offered under the umbrella of the humanities disciplines.


If you’re going to undertake a BSc degree then it’s likely to require a few more credits than a BA and will also be more focused on a single subject. The curriculum is often much more technical and STEM-related, which will bring to bear your analytical and mathematical skills. It can also be the case that BSc degrees have a specific career or work-oriented structure, with the aim of getting you ready for a professional environment. What you choose has much to do with what sort of career you may be looking for.


What are professional bachelor’s degrees?


You will likely have heard about professional bachelor’s degrees and wondered how they are different to general or academic bachelor’s degrees. A professional degree has a primary focus on readying you for entry into a distinct profession, such as teaching or nursing. What you’ll learn is practically oriented and modelled on professional practice. Once you have completed the qualification the expectation of an employer would be that you would hit the ground running when starting work.  


With a professional bachelor’s degree, you can find yourself in a work placement or internship as part of your course of study. Being able to apply your knowledge practically is the essential assessment criterion used in professional bachelor’s degrees. One point that you must always bear in mind is that all professional degrees are academic degrees as well, but not the other way around. Some examples of professional bachelor’s degrees are:



Take a look at our analysis of professional degrees vs academic degrees to better understand the difference.


What are the entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree?

Requirements for entry to a bachelor’s degree can differ depending on the subject or course that you aim to pursue. In addition to the academic requirements, you may have to undertake an admissions test or sit for an interview. For subjects like architecture or fine art you will have to show examples of your work and if you have an interest in a subject like drama, music or theatre then chances are an audition will be needed prior to acceptance.


General entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree for international students include:


  • A good academic record (70 per cent average or above)
  • A good level of English language proficiency (IELTS score of 6.0 to 6.5 overall)
  • A school qualification in a related subject to the degree you wish to pursue
  • SAT score of 1,280 or better and a GPA of 3.0 or better


Remember that these are general guidelines and do not represent a definitive guide of what you may need to be accepted to the university or degree of your choice. Some bachelor’s degrees, such as those in medicine and engineering can be very competitive for acceptance onto the course, with limited spaces available. It is always recommended that you verify the exact entry requirements with the university of choice.


What are the most popular bachelor’s degree subjects?

With such a wide variety of subject combinations and degree options on offer, it can be difficult to navigate through or decide which qualification may be right for you. You might be able to get a bit of inspiration from some of the more popular bachelor’s degree courses:




Now that you are more familiar with the types of bachelor’s degrees you can begin your course research with more confidence. You will probably also find our guide to university application useful and what you can expect if you study for a bachelor’s degree in social sciences.

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