Getting a First-Class Honours Degree: What Does it (Actually) Mean? (2024)

First-Class honours degrees are widely regarded as a respectable, impressive, and advantageous achievement to acquire. However, what is a 1stclass honours degree? How can you acquire one? What does it really mean? All of these questions are answered in the paragraphs below!

A First-Class Honours Degree is awarded to a student who has accumulated an average percentage grade of 70% or above during their years at university.A 1st class honours degree takes 3 years to complete as a full-time student, and 6 years to complete as a part-time student. Getting a First-Class Honours Degree effectively means a student has achievedthe highest grade possible for their university course.

First-Class (1st)70%+
Upper Second-Class (2.1)60-69%
Lower Second-Class (2.2)50-59%
Third Class (3rd)40-49%

This article will answer all your questions surrounding the topic of a 1stclass honours degree.Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

What is an Honours Degree?

Priortoattendinguniversity in the UK, youare obligatedto select which degree youwillstudy during your time there. There aremultiple different classes of degree available,however this article is going to focus mainly on a normal degree and an honours degree (plus the various types shortly!).

Anhonoursdegreehasan amplifieddifficultlylevel– the courseworkismore demandingthan a normal degree.It is worth 360 credits as an oppose tothe 300 credits that come with a normal degree(each credit is worthan estimated 10 hours of learning, meaning that an honours degree comes with an extra 600 hours ofeducation!).

At the end of yourhonours course,you will be assigned a special project or dissertation, which isexcluded from the normal degree,which further adds to the challenge ofthehonoursdegree!

Honour’sdegrees are not availableeverywhere;however,it is very rareto come across auniversitythat does not offer this type of degree.Honours degreesaregenerally perceived ascustomaryat universitiesacross the UK,which iswhy it is uncommonto see a universitywithout them.

What Are the Different Types of Honours Degree?

There area multitude ofhonours degrees one can achieve. Below is an explanation of each individual honours degree you could receive once you graduate:

Ordinary Degree

If someonefails tomeet the requirements for aThird-Classdegree, they will be awarded with an ordinary degree. However, they must have onlymissed out onThird-Classhonours by a small margin to be presented with this degree. Otherwise, they will simply fail the course.You could also just have applied to study this degree, and graduate without honours.


AThird-Classdegree is the lowest honours degree someone canattain. To be given this degree a student will have had to accumulate a percentage between 40 and 50%.They can also be referred to as a 3rdor ‘third’.People with aThird-Classdegree are at a disadvantage when it comes to employability, as most employers are looking for someone with a higher degree, as they are more likely to do the job better.


ASecond-Classdegree can be split into two main sections: lowerSecond-Classhonours and upperSecond-Classhonours.

A lower Second-Class honours degree is achieved by students with a final percentage of between 50-60%.They are also known as a 2:2, or ‘two-two’. This is the lower of the two Second-Class degrees. You are also at a disadvantage with this degree, although not as much of a disadvantage as people with aThird-Classdegree.

An upperSecond-Classhonours degree can also be referred to as a 2:1, or ‘two-one’.This is the higher of the twoSecond-Classdegrees and is awarded to those who gained a final percentage of between 60-70%.People with this type of degree are at more of an advantage when it comes to job interviews, as this is the type of degree many employers are looking for.


Finally, aFirst-Classdegree. AFirst-Classdegree, commonly known as a ‘first’ or 1st, isthe highest honours degree achievable, and is well respected by employers.Students must get a percentage above 70% to be awarded this degree, thus it is very challenging indeed. This degree is widely respected in the working world and puts you at a great advantage in job interviews, as you are more likely to be prioritised for the role.

How Do You Achieve a First-Class Honours Degree?

To be awarded a 1stclass honours degree, you must accumulate a percentage of 70% or above. To a student who is not in university currently, this may not seem to difficult, however when you take into accord that the average student scores between 50 and 60%, it suddenly becomes a more challenging goal to complete.

How Long Does It Take to Get a First-Class Honours Degree?

The majority ofindividuals go to university for years, and this applies to those aiming for aFirst-Classdegree too. If you are aspiring toacquireaFirst-Classdegree,you do not need to go to university for any longer than any other bachelor or honours student.

Since you don’t apply for aFirst-Classhonoursdegree (it depends on your grades whether you are given one) it means you have to be at university for the same amount of time.

If studying full-time (estimated at around 32-36 hours per week studying and learning),gaining a bachelors or honours degree will take you 3 years, clickhereto find out more.If studying part-time (an estimated 16-18 hours of studying and learning per week)it will take you a total of 6 years to complete– this is double the amount of time. Checkthisarticle to find out more.

How Common is a First-Class-Honours Degree?

Receiving a First-Class honours degree is a relatively rare thing to achieve. In 2018 and 2019, only 18% of students received a First-Class honours degree. This is a number that has been gradually increasing since 2015. See thislink for more details.20% of females received a First-Class honours degree, whereas only 16% of males did in 2018/19.

The leading university isRoyal Academy of Music,as 70.6% of their students qualified for a First-Class honour’s degree.

Second isImperial College London, with 44.7% of their students receiving First-Classhonours.

They are followed by:University of Surrey(44.4%),Royal College of Music(42.1%),University College London(39.5%) andConservatoirefor Dance and Drama(38.3%).The statistics mentioned arecited fromthis website.

Law is the hardest subject to receive 1stclass honours in, as this degree is already notorious for its extremely difficult coursework and heavy workload. Only 6% of graduates graduate with a 1stclass degree. Subjects following Law are Mass Communications and Documentation (9.6% achieved 1stclass honours), Business and Administrative Studies (10.3%) and Education (10.6%).

Mathematics is the easiest degree to get First-Class honours in statistically, as 30% of students achieved this. Mathematics is followed by Engineering and Technology (21.6% achieved First-Class honours), Physical Sciences (20.3%) and Computer Science (18.4%).

What Are the Advantages of a First-Class Honours Degree?

Achieving aFirst-Classhonours degree requires ample hard-work, time, and effort, but is all this exertion worth it in the long run? What are the advantages of this type of degree?

The most prominent advantage of a First-Class degree is employability. Attaining one gives you a higher chance of success at job interviews. Employers are searching for the best workers to fulfil the available role, and someone with First-Class honours is definite to outshine someone with a lower qualification, such as a 2ndorThird-Classdegree.

If you are looking to enter into a highly competitive work industry, such as Hospitability or Law, gainingFirst-Classhonours does put you at a higher advantage and develop a higher likelihood of acceptance.AFirst-Classhonours degree puts you one step ahead of the game and means you have more priority for a role in the workplace.

What Are the Disadvantages of First-Class Honours Degree?

The main disadvantage of aFirst-Classhonoursdegree is that although you are most likely to be given higher priority when it comes to being employed, it is not always a certainty the company will employ you.

Various people with aFirst-Classhonoursdegree have struggled to find a job despite their achievements- it just depends on the circ*mstances at the time.The employer may not feel you are well-suited for the role, or maybe they are looking for someone similar, but just not quite you. These are issues you cannot control but unfortunately will most likely come across in your life, regardless of whether you have obtained aFirst-Classhonours degree or not.

Can You Fail Your Honours Degree?

The short answer is, unfortunately yes.If you did not attain the minimum percentage needed(40%) you will most likely be awarded a degree without honours. Although this will not be perceived as afailureby employers,itcan be disappointing for those who aspired to graduate with honours.

You can alsofail completely and not achieve adegree at all, if your percentage was too low to be considered for a normal degree. If you want to find out more about your options if you fail your degree then check out this student article here.

Can You Do a Master’s Degree Without First-Class Honours?

A master’s degree is thenextstep up from abachelor’sdegree and is thesucceeding stagefor those who have finished their undergraduate course and would like tofurther continuetheir higher education.

Are you eligible for a master’s degree if you didn’t getFirst-Classhonours?The short answer is yes!Anyone with a degree is eligible for amaster’s.

However,if you do not have an honours degree, youmaystill be eligible for a master’s degree,althoughyou may have to have attained a higher percentage than those who graduated with honours.

On rare occasions, you may be accepted to do a master’s degree without attaining a bachelor’s previously, however this circ*mstanceis extremely uncommon.

Can You Still Get a First-Class Honours Degree If You Drop Out?

Unfortunately, no.Achieving a First-Class honours degree, or any honours degree at that, means staying at university for the entirety of the course.

If you drop out after your first year of study as afull-timestudent, you will be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education, and 120 credits.If you drop out after your first year as a part-time student however, you will not be awarded anything as you haven’t accumulated enough hours of study and credits to be awarded this certificate.

If you drop out after your second yearas afull-timestudent, you will be awardedtheDiploma of Higher Education and 240 credits. If you drop out after your second year as a part-time student you will be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education, which is explained above.

By your third year as a full-timestudent,you will have finished the course and been awarded your bachelors/honours degree. As a part-time student,you will have to complete 4 years of university to be awarded the diploma of higher education, and then a further 2 years to amount to 6 yearswhen you will be awarded your final degree.

Dropping out in the middle of the school year before the school year has ended means you will not qualify for the certificate you would have been awarded at the end of that year.For example, if you were afull-timestudent who dropped out in December of their second year, you would be awarded the Certificate of Higher Education instead of the Diploma as you haven’t accumulated enough credits.

Getting a First-Class Honours Degree: What Does it (Actually) Mean? (2024)


What does it mean to get a first class honours degree? ›

A first-class degree is generally seen as an impressive and beneficial achievement for any student. First-class Honours degrees are awarded to students who have accumulated a minimum of 70% or higher during their academic year.

Does having a first class degree make a difference? ›

A 2:1 or even a first-class degree is not enough to impress employers. It is certainly a great personal achievement and testament to your strong work ethic. However, as tens of thousands of graduates achieve these grades each year, it is no longer a differentiator.

How hard is it to get a first class honours degree? ›

To get a first-class degree at university, you'll usually need an average of around 70 percent or above overall. This average is calculated across coursework, presentations, projects and exams, so you'll need to achieve consistent good grades throughout university.

What percentage of students get first class Honours? ›

The proportion of students attaining a first class degree has increased every year since 2010-11, from 15.7 per cent to 37.9 per cent in 2020-21.

Is first class honours the same as distinction? ›

In a majority of universities this is the highest honours that can be attained with roughly only 10 % of students reaching this level. It is however only a small number of universities that award graduates a First-Class Honours with Distinction which is also sometimes known as a starred first.

What mark do you need to get a first class honours degree? ›

First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above) Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2. i) (60-70%) Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2.

What is the hardest degree to get a first in? ›

What are the hardest degree subjects? The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy.

Does an honours degree matter? ›

The Honours degree itself is a strong indicator that the student has earned admission to, and completed the requirements of, an advanced, highly selective program of study and research.

Is graduating with Honours important? ›

An academic honour is a noteworthy achievement. As such, having an academic honour can contribute to a sense of personal fulfillment or pride for some people. Graduating with honours may serve as a recognition and reward for your hard work, discipline, and commitment to your studies.

How many people get first class honours UK? ›

The proportion of students in England awarded first-class degrees has more than doubled in a decade, the university watchdog says. About 36% of students were awarded the top grade in 2019-20 and 38% in 2020-21, according to analysis by the Office for Students (OfS). In 2010-11, it was just under 16%.

How do you pass first class honours? ›

As a whole, you'll need 70% or more to achieve first class with honours. But each course will get there in different ways. Understand whether your course uses mostly exams, coursework, group work, work placements, closed book exams, open book exams or something else entirely.

How do you write first class honours on a CV? ›

How to Write a First-Class Honours Degree on Your CV (The Proper...
  1. There are many variations and abbreviations of the words 'first-class,' however, the way we recommend is writing simply '1st' or 'first'. ...
  2. [Degree Type] [Degree Name] (Degree Class), [Years Attended] ...
  3. BA (Hons) History and Politics (1st), 2017-2020.
9 Feb 2022

Is a first class honors good? ›

First-Class Honours (70% and above): a first class degree, usually referred to as a 'first' or 1st, is the highest honours degree you can achieve. Upper Second-Class Honours (60-70%): there are two levels of second class degree.

What is the hardest degree in the UK? ›

Medicine. What's the hardest degree to study in the UK? Well, many agree that it's Medicine. It should come as no surprise that Medicine tops our list as one of the hardest degrees in the UK.

How hard is it to get a first at Cambridge? ›

Assuming you have already been admitted, statistically speaking approximately 31% of students (just under one third) who graduate will graduate with a First. If you haven't gotten in yet, then approximately 26% of applicants (just over one quarter) will be offered a place on the course.

Which is better distinction or honours? ›

The Honours Award recognizes those students who have obtained an average mark of 80.0% to 84.9% in their course of studies in each of grades 9-12. The Honours with Distinction award recognizes those students who have obtained an average mark of 85% to 100% in their course of studies in each of grades 9-12.

What are the 4 types of degrees? ›

There are generally four categories of college degrees: associate degree, bachelor's degree, graduate degree, and doctorate or professional degree. Each category comes with its own particular subcategories, and there are some subtle differences between a doctorate and a professional degree.

What does graduating with Honours mean? ›

Completing honours shows you have achieved high academic standards and gives you an honours-level award. An honours pathway can open the door for further research study, equipping you with the prerequisite research skills to undertake a research degree such as the PhD.

What happens if you fail honours? ›

If you fail an honours course, your enrolment will be cancelled unless there are extenuating circ*mstances, and your candidature can be terminated.

Can I do masters without honours UK? ›

It depends on how much work experience you have, what type of work you have been doing and the subject you want to apply for. Each year we do manage to get students on to Masters degrees without an honours degree. However in most cases, you will need to complete a Bachelors degree before being accepted on a Masters.

How is honours degree calculated? ›

a combined average numeric grade, weighted 75% (i) and 25% (ii); the candidate's Honours classification will be considered on the basis of this combined average numeric grade.

What are the top 5 hardest degrees to get? ›

What Are the 10 Most Difficult College Majors?
  • Economics – 2.95.
  • Biology – 3.02.
  • Geology – 3.03.
  • Philosophy – 3.08.
  • Finance – 3.08.
  • Physics – 3.10.
  • Computer Science – 3.13.
  • Mechanical Engineering – 3.17.
1 Nov 2022

What is the most powerful degree? ›

RankDegree subject% high meaning
1Petroleum Engineering72%
2Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS)44%
3Applied Economics and Management69%
4Operations Research48%
6 more rows

Which uni year is hardest? ›

University is a big step and it can feel like a very stressful time. For many, it's the first time they'll have lived away from home.

Is an honours better than a masters? ›

1. Master ranks higher than honours bachelor in the AQF chart. 2. You may freely choose your profession in Master degree, unlike bachelor that limits to your bachelor profession.

Is an honours degree better than a bachelor? ›

An honours degree is an undergraduate one that is designed to be at a higher standard than a general Bachelor degree. In these degrees, the curriculum requires a higher level of achievement while still at an undergraduate level.

Is it hard to graduate with honors? ›

Again, only the top 30% of most graduating classes in most universities graduate with honors, so that's not a lot, but enough so that even summa cum laude graduates have a hard time finding employment.

Does graduating with honors look good on resume? ›

Honors are always a good thing to add to your CV, especially if you graduated with honors. Not only does the word mean that you have the best grades compared to the other students in your group, but it also shows employers or your college that you are likely to be diligent and do your work well.

Does honors college look good on resume? ›

But you do have other achievements and accomplishments to show that you are a good candidate for the jobs you are applying for. In particular, any awards or honors you have received make a great addition to your resume and help you stand out from other applicants.

What are the benefits of taking honors? ›

While the academic expectations are higher in honors classes, colleges offer many benefits to these students to aid their studies including smaller class sizes, networking opportunities, research opportunities, extracurricular academic opportunities, and early class registration.

What percentage of UK degrees are firsts? ›

CharacteristicFirst class (1st)Third class (3rd/pass)
6 more rows
26 Apr 2022

Is first class the highest degree? ›

First class honours degree (70% and above) – A first class degree (or first), is the highest honours degree you can get. Upper second-class honours (60 – 70%) – An upper second class (or 2:1) degree.

What percentage of students get honours? ›

Generally, the requirements for each academic honor are: Cum laude: Top 20% of students or those with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.7. Magna cum laude: Top 10% of students or those with GPAs from 3.8 to 3.9. Summa cum laude: Top 5% of students or those with a cumulative GPA of 4.0+

Do you put BA Hons after your name? ›

First, put your qualification abbreviation with no punctuation, such as John Smith BA. If you want to include honors, it would read John Smith BA (Hons). Remember to capitalize the H and contain the distinction in parenthesis.

Should you put your degree after your name? ›

The only academic credentials (degrees) that you should list after your name at the top of the résumé should be doctorate level degrees, such as MD, DO, DDS, DVM, PhD, and EdD. A master's degree or bachelor's degree should never be included after your name.

Do you put a bachelor's degree after your name? ›

If you have a degree, start by listing the highest degree you've earned immediately after your name, such as a master's degree, bachelor's degree or associate degree. If you have multiple degrees, you may choose to list only the highest degree you have earned since this often eclipses previous degrees.

What are the benefits of having a first class degree? ›

Advantages of acquiring a first-class degree

Potential employers may select candidates with higher GPA scores, especially for entry-level positions. In the absence of work experience, your average grade is the only tangible criterium companies can apply.

Does your first degree matter? ›

For the first five years or so, it will matter what you did as an undergraduate—GPA, leadership roles in organizations, and one's major will be of interest to employers. Your friendships will “really matter” all your life — and those are most likely to emerge when you've been with people all four years.

Is 1 degree a big difference? ›

Is there really a noticeable difference of one degree of temperature? Yes, a change of 1° F or C can cause big changes in some processes. You need to be more specific to get a better answer. If you're talking about human perception of air temperature, 1° may be barely noticeable.

How common is a first class degree? ›

About 36% of students were awarded the top grade in 2019-20 and 38% in 2020-21, according to analysis by the Office for Students (OfS). In 2010-11, it was just under 16%.

How would you describe a first class degree? ›

A 'First' is the highest grade achievable for a UK undergraduate degree. This typically represents a score of 70% or more. An 'Upper second' (2:1) is the next highest band, typically representing a score of 60%-69%. A 'strong upper second' would typically be taken to mean 65% or more.

Do jobs care about what degree you have? ›

And remember those critical skills employers are looking for? Having a degree demonstrates that you have those. Many employers are even willing to leave a job unfilled longer so they can fill it with the right degree-qualified candidate. Your future employer cares about your degree, and so should you!

Is a first degree hard? ›

As a rigorous academic honour, gaining a first-class degree takes hard work and dedication. They are not given easily and will require you to spend a significant amount of time studying and doing wider reading and work to engage in your subject to the highest level.

Do degrees mean anything anymore? ›

While a college degree still holds value among employers, many jobs that used to require a bachelor's degree now require a master's. In today's economy, this means most college students must spend more time preparing for their dream jobs.

Is 1 degree very cold? ›

It's cold. Depending on where you live you might consider it very cold. It's 1 degree above the freezing point of water.

Is there a degree higher than a first? ›

A Master's degree is the most common type of postgraduate qualification, and involves a more in-depth level of study than a Bachelor's degree.

What percentage of the UK population has a first class degree? ›

First Class Honours, referred to as a 'first', is the highest honours classification and indicates high academic achievement. Historically, First Class Honours were uncommon, but as of 2019 are awarded to nearly thirty percent of graduates from British universities.

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