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General Honor
November 12, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Does it matter if I pursue a 4 year general degree over a 4 year honors degree?

To give a bit of a background, I am a fifth year undergraduate student. I recently earned my degree in Communications and just started my second degree in something very similar to Social Work. Outside of academia, I have two going on three years worth of experience in the insurance field as part of claims intake/customer service. Beyond that, I don't have any recent volunteering or internship experience.

Currently, I'm conflicted when it comes to pursuing a 4 year general degree compared to a 4 year honors degree. The major differences include 1) less courses required for a four year general degree compared to an honors degree and 2) minimum average requirements for my major differ (honors degree=75% and general degree=70%). The general degree option sounds better for me because I would like to graduate earlier.

So, my question is---will pursuing a general degree instead of an honors degree affect any future job opportunities? What about grad school opportunities a couple of years from now?
posted by rylan to Education (16 answers total)
 
Are you in the US? Because I've never even HEARD of an Honors Degree.

If someone put one on a resume, I'd say, "hmmm." But that's about it.

Not worth it, unless you want to work for Google and if it's not from Stanford or Harvard, I doubt they'd care.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2012


My alma mater (a state school) had an honors program. I didn't join, but one of their selling points was that graduate programs were automatically not considering applicants from state schools unless they had an honors degree.

I can't speak to the truth of this. I haven't applied to any graduate programs.
posted by mkb at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2012


Beyond that, I don't have any recent volunteering or internship experience.

This will hold you back a lot more than honors or no honors. Whatever option you pick, fix this ASAP.

I used to work sifting through resumes in a number of jobs, and I can't say that the "with honors" (or cum laude or whatever) part ever made or broke a potential applicant. In fact, I've rarely ever checked for anything outside of a completed degree. "With honors," in many hiring situations, will certainly not make up for a lack of experience, and it would have to be a pretty specific hiring situation where its absence would seriously hold you back. I mean, I conceive of a situation where you have two absolutely identical candidates and the "with honors" is, literally, the only difference between the two, but at that point it may as well be a coin flip.

In all my interviewing, I was asked my GPA (which is basically the same question as "did you graduate with honors?") exactly once and I sincerely doubt anyone actually called the school to check. Mainly because the school is not allowed to reveal that information to anyone who calls up. If they're really concerned about grades, they'll ask for a transcript.

Also they didn't even put it on my degree. I assume I graduated with honors because I fulfilled all the requirements, but as I didn't go to graduation, it isn't officially recorded anywhere.

I can't tell you anything about the academia aspect.
posted by griphus at 1:44 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I graduated with a Computer Science degree out of a state school and one of the top ten (public and private) in the US. There was an honors program but I did not apply for it. It did not affect my job opportunities at all. I have not applied to grad school, so can't speak to that.

I would say the overall quality of the department and your work/internship experiences are probably more interesting to HR than if your degree has "honors" or "not".
posted by ethidda at 1:44 PM on November 12, 2012


If you are in Canada and you wish to attend a graduate program, most require an honours degree (as it is four years, as opposed to three years).

The grade cutoff for most graduate programs in Canada or the US is higher than the difference between the two programs you cited. Most have a minimum GPA cutoff of B or B+ (though for many you actually require an A- or A to be accepted) - in Canada, a B is 75%, in the USA a B is 85%.
posted by jb at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But our answers won't make much sense unless you can let us know what country and education system your university is in. As noted, in Canada an honours degree is a different type of BA degree (4 years instead of 3), not just a distinction on a BA. Thus, one can graduate from a non-honours B.A. with honours, or from an honours degree without honours.
posted by jb at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2012


Thanks for the answers so far, I should clarify that I'm in Canada.
posted by rylan at 1:52 PM on November 12, 2012


In that case my answer is irrelevant.
posted by griphus at 1:53 PM on November 12, 2012


Ditto.

Our University is 4 years automatically and you earn honors by achieving a high G.P.A.

You can get into grad school by blowing out your GRE/GMAT (I'm here to tell you.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:03 PM on November 12, 2012


If the school is one where an honours degree is just more classes, it doesn't matter as much. If it's one where you need to write some kind of thesis, then you probably should go for the honours degree if you ever think you might want to do research. (Alternately, if the honours has a fieldwork component, same thing.)
posted by jeather at 2:11 PM on November 12, 2012


As noted, in Canada an honours degree is a different type of BA degree (4 years instead of 3), not just a distinction on a BA.

I don't think you can generalize this to all of Canada - isn't it just McGill and a few Ontario universities that do this?

3 year bachelor's degrees weren't offered at UBC or the schools my friends went to (all on the West Coast).
posted by ripley_ at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2012


US honors degrees aren't necessarily just a distinction, either -- mine involved different classes plus a thesis (though it was 4 years just like a normal bachelor's degree). As far as I know, it did help me get into my grad school of choice, but that was in California, not Canada.

>in the USA a B is 85%.

what? This depends on the school. (It could be 80%, 83%, or something else, but 80% is most common. I've never encountered 85%, though according to Wikipedia, it's standard in high schools in a handful of states.)

Good luck. :)
posted by wintersweet at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2012


On the West Coast, honours degrees involve more credit hours. It's not the same as the "pass" degree you get (or used to get) back East. I've never heard of any graduate program or employer rejecting someone from the West for their 4-year regular degree. It's not the same as the 3-year degree from the East. I don't think it will hurt you. It didn't prevent me from going to grad school.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:20 PM on November 12, 2012


* To clarify, West Coast honours degrees involve more credit hours than a regular degree, but they are still four year degrees. You also write a thesis, which is not part of the regular degree here. But it isn't an extra year of school - and we haven't had Grade 13 in 40 years either, which might have something to do with all this. Ontario phased out Grade 13 more recently.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:22 PM on November 12, 2012


As mentioned above, in general an honours degree (the big difference being that it includes thesis work) is required for admission into graduate programs in Canada. There may be a few exceptions to this but if you think graduate school could be in your future, don't close that door by skipping the honours program.

Also a general degree can come in either 3 year or 4 year lengths depending on the school. The thesis is the big difference between the 4 year general and the 4 year honours.
posted by saradarlin at 1:05 AM on November 14, 2012


I don't think you can generalize this to all of Canada - isn't it just McGill and a few Ontario universities that do this?

Good point. But mostly, I was just wanted to note that in Canada, it could be a different type of degree, rather than merely a distinction. It sounds like elsewhere, it's matter of course hours and thesis, rather than a whole year's worth of credits as it was in Ontario.

But to the OP: you need to look at the requirements of the graduate programs you are interested in. If you are in Ontario, you probably require an Honours degree for most graduate programs -- certainly, a few years ago, it was required for academic masters or PhD programs. There may be exceptions for professional programs like education, law or medicine. But you may still need an honours degree to be competitive. (I knew people who were getting their masters to try to get into medicine).
posted by jb at 8:08 AM on November 14, 2012


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