What are the different degree levels?

Thinking about going to uni? There’s more than one way to get a degree…

Gaining a degree is a great way to gain knowledge in your chosen field. Not only will further education help with your own personal development, it’ll also enhance your career opportunities. But how can you figure out which university degree level is right for you?

To make your options clearer, here’s everything you need to know about the most common university degree levels:

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University degree levels

HND/foundation degree

What is a foundation degree? Higher national diplomas (HNDs) and foundation degrees are level 5 work-based courses, which are equal to two years at university. They can lead straight into a career, or be ‘topped up’ by further study to become a full Bachelor’s degree.

How long will it last? Full-time HNDs/foundation degrees will take around two years to complete, with part-time courses lasting longer.

What are the entry requirements? You’ll usually need a minimum of 100 UCAS points to get started on these types of courses – although specific entry requirements may vary. This can be gained through a range of qualifications that are usually studied at school level. These include: one GCE (A level), one advanced VCE, a BTEC, or a diploma.

What qualifications will I get? You’ll get an HND or a foundation degree at the end of your course – which can be used to gain access to further study such as a degree, or go straight into a relevant career.

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Bachelor degree

What is a Bachelor degree? A Bachelor’s degree is the most common of university degree levels – and can be studied straight after finishing higher education. It’s classed as a level 6 qualification.

How long will it last? A Bachelor’s degree will usually last three to four years if studied full-time.

What are the entry requirements? Entry requirements may vary from course to course – but you’ll usually be required to gain a certain number of UCAS points to get started. These can be made up of a variety of level 3 qualifications, including A levels, BTECs, and Diplomas.

What qualifications will I get? The specific title of this qualification will depend on the subject studied. Typical types could include Bachelor of Arts (BA), Science (BSc), Law (LLB), and Engineering (BEng). Graduation from this course will allow you carry out postgraduate study, or go straight into your chosen career.

View all Bachelor’s degree courses

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Master’s degree

What is a Master’s degree? A Master’s degree is the most common type of postgraduate qualification, and involves a more in-depth level of study than a Bachelor’s degree. They’re designed to focus on a specific area of a wider subject – and they can either be taught or research based courses. It’s classed as a level 7 qualification.

How long will it last? If studied full-time, Master’s degrees will last around one to two years. If studied part-time, they’ll normally take between two and four years.

What are the entry requirements? You’ll usually need a minimum of a 2:1 at undergraduate level to be accepted onto a Master’s course, although those with a 2:2 may be accepted with relevant professional experience.

What qualifications will I get? The qualification you receive after studying for a Master’s will depend on your chosen subject and area of study. Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc) are the most popular postgraduate university degree levels – but a Master’s degree can be achieved in anything from music to architecture.

View all Master’s degree courses

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What is a PGCE? A PGCE is a level 7 postgraduate certificate in education, which combines practical placements with teaching theory. Types of PGCEs include early years, primary, secondary, and further education. It’s a popular route for graduates who want to use their expertise to teach others.

How long will it last? PGCEs can be completed in just nine months if studied full-time, with part-time courses taking longer.

What are the entry requirements? Generally, you’ll need to be qualified to a university degree level, with a minimum of a 2:2 to start a PGCE. If you choose to study primary teaching, a national curriculum subject will be beneficial. Those wanting to become secondary teachers are required to have a degree in the subject they’re looking to teach.

What qualifications will I get? You’ll get a PGCE qualification, which will allow you to start teaching straight away. Many graduates find permanent employment at the school they did a placement at.

View all PGCE degree courses

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What is a PhD? A PhD is the highest of the university degree levels (level 8). It involves independent and original research into a specific field or subject – which is used to write a lengthy thesis that’s worthy of publication.  

How long will it last? Full-time PhDs will usually take three to four years to complete, while part-time courses are likely to last around six years.

What are the entry requirements? Most universities will require you to have both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree to get started with a PhD. However, people who only have a Bachelor’s degree are often still accepted. This might involve initially registering to study for a Master’s, to be upgraded to a PhD partway through studying (based on your progress).

What qualifications will I get? You’ll receive a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) on completion of the course. Other types of Doctoral degrees include Higher Doctorates, New Route PhDs, and Professional Doctorates.

View all PhD degree courses

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Other degree types 

Conversion course, degree apprenticeship, professional qualification, higher national certificate.



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