Honours vs. non-honours degree: Which is better?

7 minutes reading time (1308 words)

So you are looking for the perfect course for your higher education all over the internet. And questions like which university to pick, which country to pick and which course has better opportunities are already doing their best to erupt a mountain of confusion. To top it all off, you see that some degrees have honours attached to it and some don't. And now, these honours degrees are on their way to hit you with yet another truck of confusion!

Let's start by saying that it's normal to feel confused and lost while making important life decisions. You can always clear your mind if you take some time out, trying to break things down and understand them little by little, which is exactly what we have done for you here! Understanding the difference between honours degrees and non-honours degrees is not rocket science at all. Having a clear idea of what it means to have an honours degree will help you be more cognizant of your educational journey. 

What is an honours degree?

Before moving forward, you should be informed of the fact that it might refer to different things in different countries. A bachelor's degree with honours indicates that the course curriculum is structured to be at a higher level with respect to the quality, deep learning and knowledge consumption of the subjects taught.

Note: It is important to take into account that it's totally up to an individual's preference and goals when it comes to the discussion of which is the better degree.

Honours degree in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, an honours degree is an indication of the greater standard that an individual acquires in terms of subject specialisation, as well as the higher credit scores. It is expected that the student must maintain a higher amount of credits throughout their course period.

It takes around 3 years to obtain an honours degree in the UK, but take note of the fact that your academic performance plays a major role in determining the type of honours degree you will eventually be graduating with. Here is the list of the types of honours degree you can graduate with depending on your grades:

First-class honours: You are expected to finish your course with 70% or above to earn yourself a first-class honours degree. Having a first-class honours degree serves as a trump card, by giving you an advantage over others during your job hunt or while applying for a master's.

Upper second-class honours: You will need 60-69% to be able to obtain an upper second-class honours degree. This degree might also help you if you choose to pursue a master's degree.

Lower second-class honours: With a 50-59%, you can acquire a lower second-class honours degree. It may not give you much of an edge over others as compared to the first-class and upper second-class degrees, but it is accepted for some master's degrees.

Third-class honours: You can obtain a third-class honours degree with a passing grade of around 40-49%. It might be difficult to get yourself enrolled in a master's programme with this honours degree.

Honours degree in the United States

In the US, you would be graduating with honours and not graduating with an honours degree. It might sound confusing, but to put it in simpler terms, you will be awarded the honours title based on your outstanding academic achievements and higher grades.

Based solely on your academic performances, you will be awarded different titles while graduating with honours:

  • Cum laude (To indicate that it is awarded with praise)
  • Magna cum laude (To indicate that it is awarded with great praise)
  • Summa cum laude (To indicate that it is awarded with the highest praise)

Honours degree in Australia & New Zealand

Australian and New Zealand universities would allow you to pursue an honours right after the completion of your undergraduate degree or as part of your undergraduate program. You would be studying to specialise in a particular discipline to gain a higher level of research skills as well as to develop a never-ending quest for knowledge, not only during your course of study but also after that. You would find yourself developing a research project from scratch, coming up with a thesis topic, and then concluding it under the guidance of an expert or a mentor.

You would be eligible for an honours degree only if you hold a solid record of your academics with a weighted average mark (WAM) of 65 to 75%. You might also need to present a research proposal in order to showcase your potential to carry out academic research of higher quality. 

Honours degree in Ireland

You should have around 180-240 credits to be eligible enough for earning an honours degree in Ireland. It might take up to 3 or 4 years to complete the degree – in fact, there are disciplines such as medicine and architecture which might take even longer to complete. This degree will focus on nourishing your research skills as you work on a thesis or a final project to adhere to the requirements for acquiring an honours degree.

You are required to have two higher level C3 grades and four ordinary level D3 grades to become an honours degree graduate from Ireland. Some universities, however, demand three higher level C3 grades and three ordinary D3 grades.

PRO TIP: Learn to lean on yourself! Pursuing an honours degree will not be a path full of roses. You may fail. You will have your lows. But you must have yourself to believe in.


5. What does honours mean in a degree?

The honours attached to a degree denotes an individual's advanced skills and knowledge, with outstanding academic performance while still being at an undergraduate level. It is given to those students with higher grades and the ability to bind their skills and knowledge for an improved outcome in complex situations. 

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