A bachelor's degree is usually an undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course or major that generally lasts three or four years. (Note that some postgraduate degrees are entitled Bachelor of ..., e.g. the University of Oxford Bachelor of Civil Law and Bachelor of Philosophy.)
Honours degrees and academic distinctions
Under the British and Hong Kong systems, undergraduate degrees are differentiated by performance: they are awarded either as pass degrees or as honours degrees, the latter denoted by the appearance of "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation. An honours degree generally requires a higher academic standard than a pass degree, and in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada an extra year of study which may involve independent research and the writing of a thesis. An honours degree is sometimes accepted in place of a Master's degree as prerequisite for Ph.D. study. In the University of Dublin, the equivalent of honours is known as moderatorship , abbreviated "(Mod)". Honours and moderatorships are often divided into first, second upper, second lower, third and (sometimes) fourth classes.
Under the American system, bachelor's degrees within a certain course of study are not ranked or differentiated since the undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA) is usually used to measure performance. However, Latin honors are given at graduation based on class rank, with the highest ranked graduates (based on GPA) given the distinctions (in descending precedence), summa cum laude ("with most praise"), magna cum laude ("with high praise"), and cum laude ("with praise"). These distinctions do not have the significance that honours degrees have under the British system. Notably, the state of California has largely abolished the use of Latin in its legal system, which means that the University of California cannot use Latin honors and must use the English translations (i.e. "highest honors", "high honors", and "honors") instead.
Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees
Today, the most common undergraduate degrees given are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A. or A.B.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. in Commonwealth usage or B.S. in U.S. usage). Originally, in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge all undergraduate degrees were in the Faculty of Arts, hence the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Since the late 19th century, most universities in the English-speaking world have followed the practice of the University of London in dividing undergraduate degree subjects into the two broad categories of arts and sciences, awarding the degree of Bachelor of Science to students of the latter category of subjects.
New bachelors' degrees
The University of Cambridge is perhaps unique today in awarding the B.A. for all undergraduate degrees. However, in many universities over the last hundred years the range of bachelors' degrees has expanded enormously, especially in Australia and New Zealand, where the B.A. degree is increasingly uncommon.
Some of these new degrees and their abbreviations include:
A full list of British degree abbreviations is also available.