What Is an Undergraduate Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Would you like to learn more about what a bachelor's degree is? This guide by Coursera on undergraduate degrees explains criteria, courses, costs, and more. Learn about types undergraduate degrees, enrollment requirements, and what it takes to graduate.

[Featured Image]: Undergraduate degree candidate preparing for class.

A bachelor’s degree, or undergraduate degree, can set you on a path to break into a field you’ve always been interested in, or enhance a career you’re already in. Learning about it is the first step in getting one.

What is a Bachelor’s, or Undergraduate Degree?

A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree in which students study a subject of their choice at an academic institution and is commonly known as a university degree. Getting a bachelor’s degree can open access to job opportunities, expose you to new ideas, and boost your earning potential.

Here are some key things to know about undergraduate degrees in the UK, including how much they cost, what’s needed in an application, and whether an online or in-person experience is better for you.

Here are the basics:

  • Bachelor’s degrees typically take three years to complete. It’s normally 300 credits to earn a degree, and 360 credits for an honours degree. 

  • Subjects of study can include psychology, computer science, business, nursing, or English, but vary widely, and can be selected by the student based on their interests.

  • Traditionally obtained in-person at a university campus, bachelor’s degrees have become increasingly easier to get online as well.

  • Though many students pursue a bachelor’s degree immediately after college, it is not uncommon to seek one later in life or to take a gap year. 

Is a bachelor’s degree worth it?

There are several benefits to getting a bachelor’s degree. These include a higher potential income, increased job prospects, and new and enriching life experiences. If you’ve been working for a while, a degree may also help you launch a new career or advance in your current one. Obtaining a bachelor’s can be the first step to getting a postgraduate degree, like a master’s or a doctorate.

The financial benefit of a bachelor's degree

A degree can be good for your wallet in the long run. Investing time and money in a university degree may be daunting, but fresh data from England reveals that graduates who attend university can earn more money than those who do not. The current average graduate salary in the UK is just over £24,000, according to the Graduate Outcomes report by HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency).

Jobs you can get with a bachelor's degree

Many jobs require at least an undergraduate degree, so having a three- or four-year degree can make you more competitive for more roles. Here are some jobs that typically require a degree that are expected to grow rapidly in the next ten years, according to The Complete University Guide:

  • Software developers

  • Dentists

  • Engineers

  • Accountants

  • Architecture

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Veterinarian

Ready to start exploring?

Check out degree offerings on Coursera. Study in-demand subjects like computer science and marketing.

Cost of a degree course

The cost of a degree course depends on several factors, like the university you are studying at, whether it is online or on campus, and whether you are a home or international student. Keep in mind tuition is separate from other living expenses, like housing and transportation.

  • Private vs. public: One year of university, on average, costs £9,250 for home students. International undergraduate tuition fees vary considerably, starting at around £10,000 and going up to £38,000 or more for medical degrees.

  • Online vs. in-person: The average public online degree costs between £2,500 and £15,000. Online degrees eliminate relocation and transportation costs and offer enough flexibility for people who want to work full or part-time alongside their course.

  • Scholarships or financial aid: Home (UK/EU) students may be eligible for loans, grants, and other types of aid to cover their UK tuition fees, with varying levels of money available based on location. While student loans for international students often cover all tuition expenses, the supplementary loan to cover the cost of living in the UK sometimes falls short of the amount actually required. 

Undergraduate degree requirements

Enrollment requirements for bachelor’s degrees

To enroll, a bachelor’s degree programme will generally require:

  • At least 60 A Level points, which equates to 2 Es

  • Professional experience and certifications if you are a mature student and have not got A Levels. Professional certificates on Coursera can help you top up your entry certifications.

  • English and Maths GCSEs, required by many courses

  • Universities like Oxford, Cambridge and LSE routinely require AAA to A*A*A* at A Level to meet the criteria for their courses.

Can’t meet all of the requirements? Diplomas and apprenticeships often have lower requirements and can still provide you with a valuable education.

Requirements for finishing a bachelor’s degree

Students typically need 300 credits to graduate from a degree programme in the UK (roughly 100 credits per year of study). Credits are acquired by passing classes for your subject. The reality is that the first year tends to contribute far less to your overall grade, with the second year counting more and your third year making up 40 percent to 60 percent of the course grade.

University degrees generally take three years to complete when you're enrolled full-time, but they can take longer or shorter depending on the course and whether you have a placement in industry.

Types of bachelor’s degrees

The two well-known types of bachelor’s degrees are:


  • Bachelor of arts (BA): A bachelor of arts is a type of undergraduate course that typically emphasises critical thinking, communication skills, and the humanities. Studying history, English, communications, or a similar degree will generally earn you a BA. A bachelor of arts may clear a path to careers that draw on human connection and critical thinking attributes—like teaching, human resources, advertising, or local government jobs.

  • Bachelor of science (BSc): A bachelor of science degree typically emphasises quantitative skills in the course. This means science and math degrees are generally categorised as BSc degrees, making them good ways to launch a career in science or math-based fields. You can earn a BSc by majoring in subjects like finance or computer science.

There are other types of undergraduate degrees, such as bachelor of law (LLB). and bachelor of engineering (BEng).

Some degrees are offered as either BA or BSc. For example, psychology can be either, with the main difference that the BSc courses tend to be more maths and statistics driven, and so have a more scientific flavour.

Online degrees vs. on-campus degrees

Both online degrees and on-campus degrees offer compelling reasons for students to enroll. Here are a few factors to consider when deciding which might be better for you.

Flexibility: Here's a fast fact—The average age of an online student is 32 years old, which indicates that the online student population includes parents, professionals, and everyone in between, all looking to continue their education by getting an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. That’s likely because online degrees are more flexible. Accessing classes from home, with a wider range of time to take them, can allow students to continue working full-time, or take care of a family. Many on-campus programs also have flexible or part-time options.

In-person interaction: Face-to-face interaction is essential to some people but may be less of a priority to others. How important it is might depend on certain factors like your degree subject and what sort of experience you want out of a degree course. While certain subjects, like computer science, may be more conducive to taking online, others like theater might be more suitable for in-person learning. Being on campus can give you many extracurricular options, but online schools can also expose you to a community of people across the country and around the globe.

Here’s some good news

Online courses are constantly evolving, and many have adjusted to create opportunities to interact with other students, professors, and alumni. Online degrees can now give students the chance to work in group projects, join study groups, or network with alumni, all from behind the computer screen.

Affordability: Because of lower overhead costs, online degrees tend to be more affordable than those on traditional campuses. You may qualify for student loans for online courses.

Other types of qualifications

Undergraduate degrees aren’t the only qualification you can get to help push forward your career. Here are others:

Professional certificate: Professional certificates can help you advance your career or start a new one in far less time and with a lower cost than a traditional degree programme. Though not a degree, certificates can be a good option for those who want to acquire new skills quickly while committing less time and money than would be spent on a degree. 

Master’s degree: A master’s degree is a postgraduate degree—meaning it’s a degree you get after completing an undergraduate degree. Those who have completed their bachelor’s and want to advance in their current field, or want to pivot to a new one, might consider getting a master’s. Master’s degrees generally take anywhere from one year to two years for full-time students, depending on the course and field. They can open up paths to careers like clinical social work or psychiatry. Learn more about the differences between Master of Arts (MA) degrees and Master of Science (MS) degrees.

Doctorate degree: Also known as a PhD, a doctorate is a postgraduate degree that you can get to become a recognised expert in a field. A doctorate will be useful for a profession that involves intense research, like a scientist, university professor, or researcher at a think tank. PhDs can take as short as four years to obtain but generally take around eight years.

Ready to start exploring? Take a look at some degree options on Coursera.

Find a path forward to accelerate your career with online degrees. On Coursera, you can find online master’s degrees and bachelor's degrees from world-class universities, in topics like data science, computer science and engineering, business, and public health. With live instruction, peer feedback, and high-quality learning you can access anytime, anywhere, it's possible to move your career forward on your terms.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.