Karen Lomas
November 9, 2021

Choosing Study Pathways after year 12 – Higher education courses explained

When your child is in school they may not know what they want to study beyond their senior secondary compulsory education. So how do they go about choosing study pathways? In this blog I’ll briefly explain some higher education course titles and definitions.

Higher Education explained & our Podcast with Kate Pease

In our latest podcast, we talk to a past client of mine. Kate came to see me in 2017 when she was in year 12 (for clarity, in the UK the final year is year 13). Kate had an interest in studying either an Arts degree or a Commerce degree but needed help in making a decision. Kate is based in Victoria, Australia, and as she mentions, was interested in a really comprehensive course at the University of Melbourne. Kate referenced our work together and how important it was for her to find clarity around her options and then within her course of choice, her core subjects and other study options.

So what we then discussed in the podcast was some of that ‘language’, or terminology, of degree courses.

To be clear, higher education study is not for everyone, however, for Kate, she felt that a 3-year bachelor degree would be interesting. For this reason, she had made particular subject choices in year 10, which is when your child’s school will require them to choose from a long list of study preferences for their formal senior secondary qualifications. She knew that for some areas of study she needed to complete certain subjects in her final school years, years 11 and 12.

So in brief, in this blog, I’ll summarise higher education course terminology.

Higher Education courses explained

Comprehensive Courses – Broad courses with lots of choice of study areas – Examples are: Arts, Science courses

Specialist Courses – Well defined courses with a fairly clear employment outcome – Examples are: Education, Medicine, Marine Engineering, Cyber Security, Supply-Chain Management courses

Here is a really helpful Youtube video, which explains the distinctions well.
(NB No preference is intended in the institution referenced herein)

Dictionary of degree courses

  • Bachelor degrees – extended programs of generally 3 duration comprising 24 units of study
  • Honours degrees – a bachelor degree with an embedded/incorporated extra year of specialist study, the 4th and final Honours year
  • Double degrees – 2 bachelor degrees intersecting, typically of 4 years duration. Example; Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science
  • Associate Degrees – extended programs of 2 years, so shorter in duration than a bachelor degree. On completion a student may choose to continue to study in the same topic areas, ie complete the third year and graduate with the bachelor degree
  • Core or Prerequisite subjects – units of study, which are standard requirements for satisfactory completion of the extended program
  • Majors – a Major stream of units of study is a defined area within the broader course. Within a bachelor degree of 24 units, for example, a Major stream comprises 8 of the total. Some students may opt to complete two Majors or a Double-Major
  • Minors – a Minor stream of study is made up of 4 units, so less emphasis is placed on this realm of study than that placed upon the Major study focus
  • Electives – single units of study.
  • Free Electives, University Electives or Breadth Subjects – units of study from outside of your chosen course. For example, Kate studied Commerce and was able to study electives from the Arts or Science courses
  • Post-Graduate degree – After graduating, that is, becoming a Graduate of a bachelor program, a student may choose to continue studying. For example, Masters programs of 2-years duration

There is more to tell you. I haven’t touched upon Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas here, but that’s a topic for another day. Also, you can read other blogs in this series, which will cover other definitions and other topics, such as university rankings.

So listen to our interview with Kate and the discussion between myself and the KYCC Podcast Hosts, Lachlan Watts and Jemima Nash.

Click here to listen:



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