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What are Degree Courses?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

Degree courses are any type of class taken, typically at a university, college, or other secondary educational facility, to fulfill a requirement or need by someone pursuing a degree. This can be a class toward a four-year degree such as a bachelor’s, a post-graduate degree such as a master’s or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or even a two-year degree such as an associate’s or technical certification program. Any type of coursework that helps qualify a person toward a degree that he or she is working on can usually be referred to as a degree course.

The major difference between degree courses and other types of classes is that a degree course helps qualify a person for a degree upon graduation from an educational institution. This distinction means that most classes offered by universities and colleges are degree courses, since many of the students attending such schools are working on various degrees. While some people do take classes simply out of personal curiosity or for personal development, the typical purpose of a class is to satisfy degree requirements.

Degree courses can also be classes taken at a school that does not offer four-year degrees, but can be transferred to another degree-issuing institution, which then can accept the class as a degree course. Many community colleges offer these types of programs, sometimes awarding students associate’s degrees in various subjects, or simply offering programs to help students fulfill prerequisites and other needed classes for university programs. These courses can, of course, also be taken by students who are interested in a subject that does not relate to a degree they are working on or by individuals who simply wish to enhance their own knowledge of a subject.

In these situations, such classes would likely not be referred to as degree courses by that individual, even though they could be for someone else. Many people take artistic classes such as photography, drawing, or pottery out of a personal interest in the subject, rather than to receive a degree. These people would not refer to their classes as degree courses, but instead would simply take the classes that they enjoy or as prerequisites to classes they wish to take in the future.

Most colleges and universities have catalogs that illustrate the path a person must take to receive a particular degree. These catalogs often point out which classes are degree courses and which are classes that can serve as electives or for general study. Anyone unsure of what courses are needed to receive a degree should consult a guidance counselor or adviser for information about specific programs.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon336066 — On May 25, 2013

I am a computer science student in 12th. Can I study veterinary courses?

By comfyshoes — On Mar 11, 2011

SauteePan - I agree that psychology is really interesting. I just wanted to say that while online degree courses are offered, I think it is better to go to a traditional school to get your degree.

Especially if you are seeking a nursing degree courses or education degree courses because both of these fields require hands on experience and a traditional school will be better able to meet your needs.

By SauteePan — On Mar 10, 2011

Crispety - If I went back to school I think that I would love to take psychology degree courses.

I find studying human behavior fascinating.

For example, I recently read about people with multiple personality disorder also referred to as dissociative identity disorder.

I always thought that this condition occurred at birth, but it does not. It is actually a disorder that develops due to extreme psychological trauma often in childhood.

People with this disorder dissociate themselves from the pain by creating additional personalities. It is a form of coping mechanism that allows them to escape from reality.

I know that there are a lot of online degree options but I wanted to find a traditional university that also offers online degrees in this field.

By Crispety — On Mar 09, 2011

Mutsy - I also wanted to add that many bachelor’s degree programs require you to obtain two years in basic education courses that may be unrelated to your intended major.

That is really the difference between taking undergraduate degree courses and going to a vocational school to learn a trade.

In a vocational school, the training could be less than one year and up to two years at the most. The courses immediately begin to prepare you to join the workforce once you complete the program. Also, many of these programs offer externships that help you get job placement upon graduation.

Community colleges also offer continuing education courses that are courses given for personal enrichment like yoga, or painting, or investing in real estate for example.

These courses are not part of a degree program and can be taken for personal enjoyment.

By mutsy — On Mar 07, 2011

I just wanted to add that for many undergraduate degree courses the school will use an abbreviated three letter code along with a four digit number.

For example, a course titled, “ENC 1101” means that this is an English composition class for the first term in the freshman year.

If the course read ENC 2300 then it would be a sophomore level course denoted by the two.

The corresponding number notes the sequential college year that goes with it. Education degree courses might look like SCE 4362 which is a senior level teaching internship for teaching science hence the prefix.

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