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Undergraduate degrees in the USA and Canada

In the North American university system, your first step towards the career you seek is to earn an undergraduate degree. The universities we help you apply to offer excellent bachelor's degrees.

Happy students at Long Island University in USA Students graduating from James Madison University in USA

Types of undergraduate programs

Bachelor's degree

The most common type of undergraduate program is a bachelor's degree, usually awarded after four years of successful study. A 3-year bachelor's degree is available at Royal Roads University in Canada.

There is a huge choice of bachelor's degrees in North America - learn how to choose a major. Depending on your major, the type of degree you earn may be a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS/BSc), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), or another type of award.

Associate degree

Associate degrees are awarded after two years of undergraduate study at some US colleges. Associate-level majors are usually in vocational areas such as health sciences, computer information systems, accounting, graphic design, or hospitality management.

Associate degrees are an option if you do not want to commit to four years of study in the USA. On completion, you may transfer to a four-year program, and earn a bachelor's degree after two further years of study. 

Pre-professional program

A pre-professional program prepares you for advanced study and a specific career, commonly in law, engineering, medicine and health-related fields. It is a set of appropriate courses that qualify you for admission to a professional degree program, at Law School or Medical School for instance, after you graduate.

Students on campus at Royal Roads University Happy student at James Madison University


Progressing through American university

As you progress through your undergraduate degree, your status as a student will change from Freshman, to Sophomore, to Junior, to Senior. In general, here's what to expect:

Freshman: In your first year, the focus is on introductory courses in a wide range of subjects. There are usually required core academic courses. You will get a solid educational grounding and build the foundation from which to expand your knowledge and skills. You will also take introductory courses in what you hope will become your main program of study (known as your major) e.g. you might take Economics if you wish to do a Business major.

Sophomore: In your second year, you will complete the core courses and advance in some subjects to the next level. If you have decided on a major, you may begin taking prerequisite courses at this time. You will be able to choose electives in subjects that especially interest you.

Junior: By your third year, you will have declared your major. Your study will become more focused and in-depth as you begin taking the advanced courses for your major.

Senior: In your fourth year, you will complete your final courses and take the last exams required for your Canadian or US bachelor's degree.


Courses within a degree program

When you go to a Canadian or American university, you will take a variety of courses that will lead to your degree. In general, the courses will be divided as follows:

Core courses

Also known as 'general education' courses, these classes provide the foundation for your university education and are required of all students. You can expect to take courses in several subject areas, including mathematics, humanities, physical sciences, and social sciences.

Major courses

In North America, your major, or 'concentration,' is your main subject area during your undergraduate studies. When you begin to take major courses (usually at the start of your third year), certain courses will be required, and you will be able to choose from others related to your major.

Minor courses

A minor is a secondary field of university study that involves a smaller number of required courses than a major. You may take minor courses to explore a different subject area to your major, to pursue personal interests or to specialize within your main field of study.

Academic tracks

Once you declare your major, you may be able to follow a particular 'track.' An academic track is a group of courses that focuses on a specific sub-discipline within a major and can be tailored to suit your specific interests - for example, a marketing track within a Business major.

Co-operative education/internships

It is possible to combine your studies with professional experience. At some universities you can gain first hand paid work experience through a Co-operative Education Program, where work becomes an integral part of your degree. Unpaid internships can also provide valuable experience and are often eligible for credit towards your degree (for example at Royal Roads University and James Madison University).