What Is a Course of Study?

Erik Neilson
Erik Neilson
Erik Neilson
Erik Neilson

A course of study refers to a series of courses which students are required to complete prior to earning a diploma or otherwise moving on to the next stage in their education journey.

Teachers must base their lesson plans on a curriculum that adheres to government requirements.
Teachers must base their lesson plans on a curriculum that adheres to government requirements.

As a term, “course of study” is often confused with singular courses. The term actually describes a collection of educational requirements and materials designed to take the student to the finish line. This may include classes, lectures, home study and a variety of other methods of learning.

The term course of study generally refers to a list of educational requirements. There are several things that can result upon completion of those requirements. Some people earn certificates. Others may earn degrees or diplomas. Doing so may allow individuals to pursue goals, such as beginning on a particular career path or advancing to higher levels of education.

What is Another Word for Course of Study?

A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.
A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.

There are a variety of different terms that are commonly used to describe the same general concept as course of study. These include curriculum, program, “crash course,” syllabus, core curriculum and more. At the end of the day, any term describing a collection of educational requirements necessary for meeting an end goal is essentially synonymous with course of study.

A course of study, or curriculum, outlines the coursework needed to meet an educational goal.
A course of study, or curriculum, outlines the coursework needed to meet an educational goal.

These terms refer to structured academic programs that can result in achievements such as certificates or degrees. There are usually numerous classes that must be taken to complete a curriculum. While some of these are specifically outlined, a person may have the liberty to choose others, which are known as electives. Although two courses of study may have the same name and the same result, the requirements may be different.

Did You Know?

  • Sticking to a regimented course of study can help keep you on-task with your schoolwork.
  • All traditional schools and educational institutions utilize the principles of course of study.
  • You can always choose your course of study if it isn’t working out for you.

What is a College or Adult Education Course of Study?

In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.

There are some instances when a person may have the opportunity to choose her curriculum. This is usually the case during secondary education. A person can choose, for example, whether she wants to pursue a degree in business management or one in social work. In the pre-secondary years, however, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.

Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.

When a person chooses a course of study at a college or university, it is common for there to be certain classes that must be taken. In many cases, however, an individual is also allowed to choose electives, or courses of their choice. Sometimes students are allowed to choose any electives that they wish, whether or not they are related to the required classes. In other instances, a person is allowed to choose electives but is restricted to making the choice from certain categories, such as health or history.

How Do You Choose a Course of Study?

In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.

Choosing a course of study can be a confusing process. One course of study may have the same name as another, yet the two may be different. For example, a student of paralegal studies in Virginia may have a different curriculum from a student studying paralegal studies in North Carolina.

A number of things can cause a curriculum to differ from others that seem similar. In many places, a curriculum must meet certain government requirements. If this does not happen, a person may complete his studies only to discover that he is still not qualified to pursue the goals that he was working toward.

Here are a few tips to help you choose a course of study:

  1. Weigh your options. Don’t just go with the first course of study that pops out at you—consider all of your options before making a decision.
  2. Trust your gut. If you feel strongly about going with one course of study vs. another but are still questioning the decision, it’s usually best to trust your initial reaction.
  3. Ask for advice. Asking others about their experience with choosing a course of study is a great way to get an outside perspective into your own educational journey.

Choosing the right course of study can be challenging, but with a solid and focused mindset, you can make the decision that best speaks to you and who you are.

What Is Course Planning?

Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.

Course planning involves determining and enrolling in the correct courses required for a student’s course of study. While there is some flexibility within the requirements, students must meet a certain number of hours in each subject field to graduate.

Advisors

Planning for courses with an advisor ensures that students choose the correct courses for their program and do not waste time or money in classes that are not approved or do not count toward graduation requirements. Advisors are usually senior students, professors, counselors, or specific program administrators familiar with the planning process.

What Is a Course of Study?

A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.
A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.

A course of study is a program that students choose and agree to complete when entering a higher education institute. Each program has specific educational requirements that prepare students for entering or advancing the field. Often, in addition to completing a certain number of hours and course requirements, a qualifying grade point average must also be met to advance. The course of study ends in a graduation ceremony wherein an award of some nature is conferred upon the student for completing the program successfully. Examples of awards for completed programs include:

  • Degrees 
  • Certificates
  • Diplomas 
  • Endorsements

What Is a Course of Study Example?

A course of study is also called a curriculum, program plan, flight plan, goal sheet, core qualifiers, or educational requirements. Every degree, certificate, diploma, and endorsement has specific qualifications to be awarded. While there is some crossover for the general requirements at the initial level of completion, the top tier of specified skills is very narrow in course selection. Specialty courses ensure that people who graduate with a completed course of study are adequately prepared to demonstrate their knowledge.

If a student were pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology, they would have to meet several requirements before graduating. Depending on the institution of attendance, the student would have to complete a certain number of general education requirements to satisfy the overall school program qualifications. The remainder of the course requirements involve biology and supporting courses that add up to around 120 hours of total course time, depending on the school of choice.

General Education Requirements 

General education hours are required at the school level to ensure that graduating students have a basic knowledge level. General education includes math, English, science, history, and humanities. Foreign language requirements are often included for general education hours.

What Is a Major Course of Study?

When completing a course of study, there is an overarching subject area with which the final graduation award will be conferred. The course of study that a student specializes in is called a major. While some people find it satisfying to complete one primary course of study, others enroll in a double major.

Double Majors 

A double major combines two areas of study, and students must complete the requirements for both course programs. Occasionally, the general education requirements for a dual major are merged if the student’s intent is communicated and approved early enough.

What Is a Minor Course of Study?

A minor course of study is different than a double major. While course requirements must be satisfied for a minor to be completed, no special award or degree conferred at graduation qualifies the recipient for additional work or service. A minor is helpful for flexibility in other educational opportunities.

How To Choose a Course of Study?

Choosing a course of study can be complicated and overwhelming without the proper support. Before enrolling in a secondary institution, consult with a career counselor to determine if college is the right path for you or if a trade school would be a better fit.

Trade Schools 

Trade schools also have courses of study. An example of a course of study for a trade school might be an electrician. Electricians have to complete a specific course program and a certain number of apprenticeship hours before being awarded their certification. Even after they are initially certified, additional courses of study, training and work hours are necessary to advance to a master electrician.

Occupational Evaluation 

Choosing a course of study will also depend on what a student is interested in as a career field for their future. Some courses of study are programs for advancement in an area that participants are already in, such as registered nurses returning to a program to advance to an advanced practice registered nurse. Other programs, however, will require a statement of intent from the student that they are interested and committed enough to complete a course of study through to graduation and enter the field for which they train.

Erik Neilson
Erik Neilson

Erik Neilson is a professional writer and editor based in Portland, ME. With 12 years of experience and a broad, diverse background, Erik provides written content of the highest quality to agencies, organizations and print/digital media outlets.

Neilson's work spans a wide range of spaces and disciplines, from copywriting in the tech, government, healthcare and energy efficiency sectors to journalism and editorial calendar development for a popular culinary arts magazine.

In his spare time, Erik enjoys cooking for friends and family, sharpening his woodworking skills and performing his original music in a live setting.

Erik Neilson
Erik Neilson

Erik Neilson is a professional writer and editor based in Portland, ME. With 12 years of experience and a broad, diverse background, Erik provides written content of the highest quality to agencies, organizations and print/digital media outlets.

Neilson's work spans a wide range of spaces and disciplines, from copywriting in the tech, government, healthcare and energy efficiency sectors to journalism and editorial calendar development for a popular culinary arts magazine.

In his spare time, Erik enjoys cooking for friends and family, sharpening his woodworking skills and performing his original music in a live setting.

Discussion Comments

Vaclav

I wonder what would be considered a standard course of study in today's world? I know English would be, but what about Keyboarding? i would think Keyboarding would be a necessity in today's world of computing.

Sara84

I have been taking online courses. I find e-learning to be fun and it suits me perfectly. I am kind of a loner, and do well studying on my own. I also like how I can have complete control over how I study for my courses. No study halls or classrooms to do study sheets and assignments in. I also like the total silence of my home while I take tests. I wish I could have taken online courses in grade school and high school.

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    • Teachers must base their lesson plans on a curriculum that adheres to government requirements.
      Teachers must base their lesson plans on a curriculum that adheres to government requirements.
    • A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.
      A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.
    • A course of study, or curriculum, outlines the coursework needed to meet an educational goal.
      A course of study, or curriculum, outlines the coursework needed to meet an educational goal.
    • In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
      In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
    • Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
      Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
    • In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
      By: paylessimages
      In the pre-secondary years, it is common for curriculums to be more structured and nearly identical for all students in the same year of study.
    • Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Completing a course of study may result in earning a degree, diploma or certification.
    • A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      A course of study at a college or university will involve mandatory classes.