What Is the Difference Between a Degree and an Honors Degree?

A degree is an award signifying that a graduate has completed an institution’s course of study, and an honors degree indicates that the student has exceeded the expected requirements. Most institutions set criteria marking the difference between a degree and an honors degree. For instance, to earn an honors degree instead of a regular degree, the student might have to maintain a certain grade point average or take advanced courses.

There are several different types of degrees including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctor’s and law degrees. If these degrees are honors degrees, they are usually followed by the Latin words cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude. Respectively, these phrases translate to “with honors,” “with greatest honors” or “with highest honors.” For example, someone who has earned an undergraduate Math degree with honors is said to have a B.A. cum laude.

Although grade point average is often considered when deciding if one is eligible for an honors degree, it is not the only factor. In fact, if two people had the same grade point average, one could be awarded a regular degree, while the other one could be awarded an honors degree. However, the student who was awarded the honors degree would have to complete more rigorous classes than the other student.