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Types of degrees explained

BSc? MEng? LLB? What do these even mean? There are so many options for university-level study that it can all start to feel a bit confusing. But that’s where we come in. We’re here to demystify vocational degrees from foundation degrees and talk you through everything you need to know about undergraduate study and the different types of degrees to help you feel prepared and find the right type of qualification for you.

Some degree types offer more hands-on experience in a chosen industry or field of work. Others are lecture and seminar based relying more on yourself to manage your study time and workload. Some degrees even allow you to work in existing organisations alongside your studies and are more tailored towards a particular occupation, industry or career path.

So which type of degree is for you? Here we explain the different types of undergraduate degrees you can study and what they involve.

Types of bachelor degrees

A Bachelor’s degree is the most common undergraduate degree type you can study, classed as a level 6 qualification that many students study straight after sixth form or college. Courses usually last 3-4 years studied full-time and entry requirements vary by course.

The specific title of this qualification depends on the subject studied. This could be:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) – relating to humanities and creative subjects, like historyEnglishdance or media. These tend to be less specialised covering broad topics allowing for more qualitative, creative and theoretical thinking. They offer more flexible career paths, developing your transferable skills.
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc) – relating to science, engineering and health subjects, like biologycomputingnursing and psychology. Courses focus more on the subject, taking a more technical approach to encourage in-depth analytical and statistical thinking.
  • Bachelor of Laws (LLB) – specific to law degrees and leads to the next stage in training to enter the legal profession, typically an LPC (Legal Practice Course) or BPTC (The Bar Professional Training Course), to become a solicitor or barrister. The skills learned are also transferable to careers in politics, business or journalism.
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) – specific to engineering degrees such as Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. They are professional degrees focusing on practical application and are the first step to becoming a Chartered Engineer.
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) – usually a 5 or 6-year programme specific to careers in medical practice as a doctor.

Graduating from these courses will allow you to study a postgraduate degree or go straight into your chosen career. Some degrees are also available to study as an integrated Masters which, essentially, is an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification rolled into one. At Edge Hill, these are available as MEng engineering MSci sport science and nursing and MNSW social work.

Students in library seating in Catalyst

What is a Bachelor of Arts?

This type of Bachelor Degree involves a lot of independent self-study, developing your transferable skills for a range of different career paths. Courses are typically a mix of lectures or timetabled classes alongside a large amount of ‘private study’ sessions, where you will manage your own time and choose how you want to study. Controlling your own workload means you’ll need to build a workflow or create your own timetable around classes in order to study and meet deadlines effectively. Not taking on too much all at once is key.

Many Bachelor of Arts degrees also offer field trips as part of the course. They’re a great way to put your knowledge, skills and techniques into practise and immerse yourself in different environments outside the lecture theatre akin to the working world. Field trips are a key part of courses like geography and geology, giving you the chance to visit relevant places and learn in person.

It’s also worth noting that these kind of self-study courses aren’t the same thing as distance learning – you’ll still be attending classes taught by lecturers at the university itself.

Geology student examining a rock

What our students say

The History degree at Edge Hill is a good mix of traditional teaching methods with some innovative things as well. In some ways it has been what I expected – you have to do essays, reading and research – but in others, it has really surprised me. The lecturers help you apply what you learn, almost having a bit of fun with it. For example, after one Europe in the 1800s lecture we played the board game Diplomacy and applied our knowledge to it.”

Ben White, BA (Hons) History

The field trips are definitely one of the highlights of the course. It’s a brilliant way to put what you learn in lectures into practice, and they’re also great fun. I’ve been to Ireland, the Lake District, the Outer Hebrides and I’ve even walked through lava tubes in Tenerife. My favourite was a trip to Ullapool in the second year to practise geological mapping techniques. It was hard work – but great to learn new skills that I went on to use in my final year dissertation.”

Amanda Hughes, BSc (Hons) Geography with Geology
Students studying in Catalyst

What is a vocational degree?

This type of degree is a truly unique method for study. Vocational degrees are tailored towards a particular occupation or industry and are well suited to subjects that have a clear line to career paths – things like teachingmidwiferyparamedic practice and medicine. Vocational degrees put a focus on practical work and course work for assessment rather than relying on more traditional methods of revision and exams for grades.

With this type of degree, you may even find yourself working within environments relevant to your chosen field as part of a sandwich year or on placements in relevant workplaces and organisations – a fantastic opportunity to put what you learn into practice and gain a very real sense of what the career will be like once you graduate.

Two student nurses are stood looking at a booklet. One is holding a pen, the other is holding a bottle of medicine. There are various forms of medicines in front of them on a table. There are two other nurses in the background of the photo interacting with a practice mannequin.

Non-vocational practical degrees

Of course, there are more practical subjects that you can earn a degree in that don’t fall into the same ‘vocational’ category. These are typically more creative subjects, like performing artsanimationmusic and film, media and television.

This type of degree involves a lot of practical work alongside a smaller amount of written work and revision (often in the form of logbooks, portfolios, or diaries). These are less likely to include written exams but rather, you’ll be evaluated on the work you do across several different units and modules. For performing arts, for example, this will likely mean your grades will be mostly reliant on the productions you put on at the end of each unit, whereas film or media degrees will likely rely on the final production you create.

Six Performing Arts Students dancing with teacher at the front instructing the students

What our students say:

I’ve really enjoyed the practical modules as they help you try out different roles, from the admin side to writing and camerawork, which show how you’ll be working in the industry. We get to meet a lot of industry professionals during the course. One of the tutors organised an event called Festival in a Day, where people from film and TV came in to give talks and lectures and we got to chat with them and build up our contacts.”

Amelia Cornett, BA (Hons) Television
A group of student walking and talking outside

What is a STEM or lab degree?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This type of degree encompasses a range of degrees with subjects that fall under those categories. Most of these courses involve a substantial amount of time spent in lab-based classes alongside lectures and, occasionally, some hands-on work experience depending on the subject.

Despite the acronym, STEM also covers an array of subjects including everything from physics and computer science to subjects like business technology and cyber security and offer a lot of working with your lecturers on projects and other industry experts. Demand for studying the hard sciences has increased rapidly over the years. They offer many career opportunities with high paying salaries straight out of university due to how specialised they are.

A student in white overalls looking down a microscope

What our students say:

It was the fantastic facilities in the Tech Hub that pushed me towards Edge Hill. At the open day we were shown the Virtual Reality room and the robots – you can use them in your everyday studies. They’re not just reserved for postgraduate research, which is amazing and quite rare I think. We were even allowed to set up our own Robotics Club that had access to all the robots and are encouraged to teach ourselves how to interact with them, with the technicians around to help and guide us – that was fun!”

Lucie Jones, Engineering – BSc (Hons) Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
An image of multiple people sat around various small tables in The Hub on the Edge Hill University campus. One set of these groups of people are looking at an iPad that is placed on the table.

What is a foundation degree?

Foundation degrees are vocational courses that give you role-specific skills sought-after by employers. This type of degree is ideal if you are looking to gain an undergraduate qualification without committing to a Bachelors course, whether that’s to gain new skills for the workplace, studying flexibly while you work, or to open doors to a Bachelors degree further down the line. Full-time study usually takes two years to complete and is equivalent to two-thirds of a Bachelors degree or Higher Education Diploma (HND or DipHE).

At Edge Hill, we offer foundation degrees in STEMEarly Years Education and Leadership and medicine.

What our students say:

The course focuses on practical experience. You go out on placement within four months of starting. Everyone gets the opportunity to work in different settings including hospitals, dementia clinics and mental health settings, so you get an idea of where you might like to specialise. I’m set on paediatrics at the moment but, in four years’ time, I might decide I want to be a diabetes specialist or something else. I want to keep my options open and take all the opportunities I can.”

Bilal Razaq, MBChB Medicine with Foundation Year
Students listen attentively during a lecture.

What is an internship?

Internships are also an option with most degree types that can work to bridge the gap between a self-study degree and hands-on experience. An internship is often something you’ll have to seek out yourself, either by finding internship job listings, contacting companies directly or you can speak to Careers who can help you find an internship to be undertaken during your studies, over summer or after you graduate. Once attained, an internship will have you directly working at a company or organisation relevant to your studies, gaining work experience as well as contacts and extra skills along the way.

Be aware that internships come in both paid and unpaid forms, so be sure to factor that in when reaching out to any potential employers. Having an internship under your belt can often show to a potential future employer that you’ve dedicated yourself to your relevant field and can be a nice advantage when interviewing.

Students in classroom, one looking towards the front of the room pensively, the other two examining their notes

What our students say:

The best thing about my Business and Management degree is the process of learning through fun and practical experience. Edge Hill’s commitment to employability provided me with the opportunity to enhance my CV by completing an internship as a part of my employability module. During the placement, I gained many transferable skills, expanded my digital knowledge and business understanding while working with supportive staff members as part of Edge Hill’s marketing team.”

Natalia Kosecka, BSc (Hons) Business and Management
Two students walking upstairs in the Catalyst building whilst talking.

So, which type of degree is for you?

Consider how you want to be assessed, what career opportunities you can pursue and, most importantly, what subject you are passionate about and meet the requirements for. Whatever you choose, you’ll discover a place at Edge Hill where you will thrive. A place where you can truly learn, belong and achieve your potential.

June 24, 2022