A bachelor's degree
(from Middle Latin baccalaureus
) or baccalaureate
(from Modern Latin baccalaureatus
) is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion
of a course of study lasting three to seven years (depending on institution and academic discipline). In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees
can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications
frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework (sometimes two levels where non-honours and honours bachelor's degrees are considered separately), although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels (e.g. MBBS) and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees (e.g. the Scottish MA and Canadian MD).
The term bachelor
in the 12th century referred to a knight
bachelor, who was too young or poor to gather vassals under his own banner
. By the end of the 13th century, it was also used by junior
members of guilds or universities. By folk etymology or wordplay, the word baccalaureus
came to be associated with bacca lauri
") in reference to laurels
being awarded for academic success or honours.
Under the British system, and those influenced by it, undergraduate academic degrees are differentiated as either non-honours degrees (known variously as pass degrees
, ordinary degrees
or general degrees
) or honours degrees
, the latter sometimes denoted by the addition of "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation
. An honours degree generally requires a higher academic standard than a pass degree, and in some systems an additional year of study beyond the non-honours bachelor's. In some countries, e.g. Australia, there is a "postgraduate" bachelor's honours degree, which may be taken as a consecutive academic degree, continuing
on from the completion of a bachelor's degree program in the same field, or (in a similar manner to the UK system) as part of an integrated honours program.