Higher education qualifications vary both in their level and how long they take. First higher education qualifications are usually described as undergraduate.
Bachelors’ degree (e.g. BA/BSc)
This takes three years (or four years in Scotland) if you’re studying full time. You usually choose one subject and study a variety of topics within that. If you want to choose more than one subject, you can do a joint or combined honours degree.
This usually takes two years, is more vocational and involves work-based learning. It is designed for people who want to study alongside their work. It is possible to ‘top up’ to a full bachelors’ degree with a further year of study.
Higher National Certificate (HNC)/ Higher National Diploma (HND)
These are work-related qualifications in vocational areas like accounting, photography or construction. If studied full-time, HNCs take one year to complete, and HNDs take two years.
Some first degrees take longer to complete than the typical bachelors’ degree, such as those in medicine or dentistry.
In some subjects, it’s possible to take an integrated masters’ degree. Instead of studying two separate degrees, you’ll study a single, longer programme. This combines undergraduate and masters’ study and leads to a masters’ qualification. You might do this if you want to become a chartered engineer, for example.
There are other shorter higher education qualifications available, such as the one-year Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), and it is sometimes possible to study individual units of a course.