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Honours Degree vs Bachelor's Degree

Honours degrees are actually designed to be at a higher level than a regular Bachelor's degree.

Honours degree students graduating.
 

It is common to take Bachelor's degree as your undergraduate pathway.

However, there is usually another option available: Bachelor’s degree with honours. You will see words like ‘Hons’, ‘Honours’ or ‘with Honours’ attached to the name of the degree.

Both degrees - with or without honours - are academic programmes of the same undergraduate level. Britain, UK introduced the concept of honours degree first, followed by countries around the world like Australia, Canada, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Malaysia and more. 

Starting to get the idea? Great. Let’s delve deeper.

What exactly is an honours degree?

For those who encounter this term, you might be wondering, 'Is an Honours degree the same as a Bachelor's degree?'

Let us help you answer that question.

An Honours degree (sometimes spelled as honors degree) is designed to be an advanced level of a general Bachelor’s degree. Even at the undergraduate level, the curriculum involves a higher level of complexity and achievement. This includes research and professional work that offer students in-depth knowledge in relevant fields.

Another question may arise: how do you know if your degree is an Honours degree or not?

As mentioned earlier, you can find this information in your study program, which is usually the first thing stated in your offer letter or student system.

You may notice that the title of your study program has "(Hons)" at the end of it. For instance, "Bachelor of Engineering - BEng (Hons)", where "(Hons)" indicates that it is an Honours degree.

Honours degrees offered by Malaysia and UK universities

1. Stand-alone or Single Honours Degree

Taken as an additional course after finishing your Bachelor’s degree, you can choose to specialise in one of the subjects you have studied in your degree.

You need to take an extra year to complete this stand-alone honours degree, and you must have good academic grades in your current degree, especially in your third year.

2. Double Honours Degree

A degree for the adventurous kind, the Double Honours Degree is for students who want to specialise in two subjects on top of their ordinary Bachelor’s degree. This also means adding two years to your study duration after completing your degree.

3. Joint Honours Degree

As the name implies, Joint Honours allows you to take two correlated subjects in a year. 

4. Degree with Honours Project

This is the most common method to acquire an honours degree. Bachelor’s students are required to complete a dissertation or thesis, which is integrated into their final degree year. You will still complete your degree on-time without the need to extend another year.

Your honours degree will be worth as much as 360 credits, compared to the general Bachelor’s degree (300 credits) that does not offer a final year project.

How are the degrees awarded?

Compared to the usual Bachelor’s degree, such as Bachelor of Arts in English, Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science, honours degree have a slightly different format of classification. The degrees awarded shows a higher level of academic achievement:

  • First Class Honours (highest level)
  • Upper Second Class Honours
  • Lower Second Class Honours
  • Third Class Honours

Is an honours degree better than a bachelor?

If you're wondering whether to pursue an Honours degree or a Bachelor's degree, the following six reasons should motivate you to choose the former.

1. It’s an impressive achievement

It is a well-known fact that a Bachelor’s degree with honours is more challenging. The fact that you choose this option shows that you are keen to take on a challenge and to be thorough with your projects and studies. 

2. You gain transferable skills

Honours degrees stand out due to the research project included. Writing a research paper or thesis needs a lot of patience, time management, planning, and organisational skills. On top of that, you learn to source your information correctly, which indicates a good research skill that employers want.

3. Easy transition to postgraduate studies

In case you don’t know, postgraduate studies like Master’s and Doctorate degrees heavily involve research. Once you learn how to conduct your research from your honours degree, you are one level ahead of other postgraduate students who may not have as much experience in the area. 

Plan to study MBA? Read this.

4. Increase chances of employment

You have a major advantage in your job search as your honours degree stands out. Employers value honours degrees more than general degrees. They are already given the impression that honours students have great skills that will benefit their company.

5. You officially become a published researcher

It’s an admirable feat to have your own research published. After grading your final work, your supervisor will publish your thesis in a journal that will eventually be used as a reference for future students and researchers. How cool is that! You can also show the published thesis to your future employers to make a good impression.

6. It can be your key to studying for a Master's in the UK

As the Honours degree system originates from the UK, your Bachelor’s degree with honours will be recognised and accepted by UK universities if you apply for a Master’s degree there. As you are already accustomed to the system, completing a research for your Master’s won’t be too hard!

Tuition fees

Bachelor’s degrees with honours generally cost higher than an ordinary degree. The fees differ based on the university and type of honours degree programme you’re after. You can browse these courses and universities here.

Universities in Malaysia that offer honours degree

Kuala Lumpur night view.

Malaysia is known for having many types of higher education institutions for students to choose from. This includes universities that offer honours degrees as well. The three most common types of universities that offer honours degrees are:

  • Branch campuses (typically from the UK)
  • Universities with 3+0 UK programmes
  • Local universities that offer their own degree programmes

You can find these universities in Malaysia offering Bachelor’s degree with honours:

On the other hand, Australian branch campuses in Malaysia offer the stand-alone honours degree programme, which will cost more time and money. Some of the institutions are:

What are the differences between an honours degree and a bachelor's degree?

  • An Honours degree is more complex compared to ordinary Bachelor’s degrees.
  • You are required to complete a disssertation/thesis/research project.
  • Honours degrees have 360 credits due to the thesis project, whereas a Bachelor’s degree only has 300 credits. 
  • You can choose to specialise in one or more subjects in an honours degree, allowing you to experience a much more refined curriculum compared to an ordinary Bachelor’s degree.
  • Honours degrees are designed to be at a higher level than ordinary degree programmes, hence they are valued more than the latter.

Honours degree in other countries

United States

Statue of Liberty in the US.

There is no honours degree system in the US. International students and local students studying in the US will only graduate with the usual Bachelor’s degree. However, you will be awarded with honorific titles to indicate your level of achievement:

  • Summa cum laude / ‘With the highest praise’
  • Magna cum laude / ‘With great praise’
  • Cum laude / ‘With praise’

Canada

Honours degree student holding Canada flag.

Students need 4 years to complete their honours degree in Canada, and the curriculum is known to be more intensive. You must have a degree with honours if you want to pursue your Master’s in a Canadian university.

Australia

View of Australia.

Similar to Malaysia or UK universities, you have two options when it comes to an honours degree in Australia: You can either take an extra year to complete your honours degree, or integrate the programme into your ordinary Bachelor’s degree during your final year.

New Zealand

View of New Zealand.

Honours degree is considered a postgraduate programme that students can take after finishing their Bachelor’s studies. Having an honours degree provides students with a smooth transition to a Master’s programme.

On the other hand, students can also integrate the programme into their ordinary Bachelor's degree, taking up to 4 years to complete the entire programme with honours.
 

Check out these articles:

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