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What is an honours degree?

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Have you ever heard someone talking about an honours degree and didn’t know what they meant? We’ve compiled this helpful guide with everything you need to know about studying honours at university.

An honours degree includes an extra year of study at the end of your undergraduate program that sees you completing a thesis or dissertation on a chosen topic. Usually, students pick a question they’re excited to explore and conduct research over the year.


  • Honours is an extra year of study added to the end of your undergraduate degree.
  • For your honours year, you must pose a research question and find a research supervisor.
  • Studying an honours degree is an excellent pathway to postgraduate study and a career in academia or to demonstrate your independence to employers.

What is a university honours degree?

The first thing to understand is that an honours program is available across disciplines and degrees. Chances are, there is an honours program you can enter if you’re planning to study or currently studying for an undergraduate degree at ANU.

A university honours degree expects more independence and self-direction than a typical undergraduate degree. Towards the end of your undergraduate degree, you need to have a concept you want to explore through a lengthy research project during an honours year, then refine all that research into a thesis or dissertation by year’s end.

An honours program is often appended to your undergraduate program as an extra year of study.

An overhead shot of an ANU student studying.

Honours is typically added to an undergraduate program as an extra year of study.

What does studying an honours degree involve?

The first thing you need is a question relating to your discipline. You should want to explore this since answering the question will be the main thrust of your honours year.

After you’ve figured out your proposal, you should take it to academics working in the relevant discipline and find a research supervisor, like you would if you were to study for a postgraduate research degree. You’ll work closely with your supervisor throughout your honour’s year, so it’s best to find someone who’s just as interested in your project and has the expertise to guide you.

Then, under your supervisor’s guidance, you’ll work to investigate your question and create a dissertation or thesis answering it.

An ANU student in a gallery with another in the foreground.

You’ll work closely with a research supervisor during your honours degree program.

Why study a university honours degree?

But you might wonder why you’d want to study an extra honours year. First, it’s a great pathway to further academic study: if you’re considering undertaking a master’s and a PhD, then honours will be fantastic preparation.

But even if you don’t plan to pursue further study after your degree, completing an honours degree shows employers that you’ve attained high academic standards and the skills to manage yourself and complete an ambitious project independently. Writing (Honours) in brackets next to your degree name on your resume will also impress!

The other reason is that it’s fun and an opportunity to dig deeper to explore something you’re interested in. Getting to research and write about something for a whole year is a rare opportunity, and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

An ANU student in a carpentry workshop.

Completing an honours year shows employers that you’ve attained high academic standards and the skills to complete an ambitious project independently.

How to apply to do honours

To apply for an undergraduate honours degree program, look at the programs and courses section of the ANU website to find the discipline for you. Check out the admission requirements: you may need to demonstrate a good GPA or that you met other academic requirements during your bachelor’s degree to go on to study for an honours year.

Then, find a research supervisor. This should be easy if you do honours after completing an undergraduate degree at ANU – you’ll have met academics from across the department over the years and know if any of them would be a good pick. If you’re coming to ANU for an honours year after completing an undergraduate degree elsewhere, discuss your proposal with the academic college that teaches your program and see if they can recommend any good supervisors.

Once you’ve found a supervisor, you can apply for the honours program. You’ll need to upload copies of your academic transcript, graduation certificate and proof of English language competency. Suppose you’re currently studying for your undergraduate degree. In that case, you can upload your most recent academic transcript to your application, but we may require you to upload the final version before making you an offer. Learn more about applying for an undergraduate honours degree program at ANU on our website.

Many ANU degrees have a designated honours year available, so you could plan and apply for one of these degrees and then for the honours year when you’ve completed it.

An ANU student in a small library reading a large book.

Finding a supervisor for your honours year is fairly straightforward, whether you’ve studied for your undergraduate degree at ANU or another university.

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If you’re ready to learn more about studying for an undergraduate or undergraduate honours degree program, head to the ANU Study site.