What are individual courses?
Individual for-credit courses can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level, although non-degree-seeking students may need to meet certain pre-requisites to take graduate-level courses and be successful.
Individual courses are available in a variety of disciplines, such as cybersecurity, accounting, psychology and nursing. (And many others!) Teachers may pursue continuing teacher education opportunities while other professionals may benefit from non-credit professional development courses.
The biggest difference between degree-seeking students and non-degree-seeking students is often the intent behind taking the courses. Degree-seeking students take courses as part of earning a broader degree, whereas non-degree-seeking students enroll in courses for targeted personal or professional development in a topic area. Individual courses can be a convenient way to upskill without committing to a full degree program, or they may be helpful for individuals looking to complete a degree program started elsewhere.
While individual courses can save time, they vary in length depending on the institution. At University of Phoenix (UOPX), for example, undergraduate single courses can take 5 or 6 weeks to complete.
What are certificates?
Certificates are a different option for non-degree-seeking students, and many such programs can be taken online. As opposed to individual courses, which run a gamut of disciplines and foci, certificates generally focus on a particular skill set. These are often ideal for individuals looking to upskill or meet certain criteria for professional enhancement or certain credentialing and industry certification needs.
UOPX, for example, offers credit-bearing certificate programs in such fields as accounting, cybersecurity, human resource management and project management. Where individual courses can usually be completed in a matter of weeks, certificate programs take longer: usually five to 13 months at UOPX because certificate programs generally comprise multiple courses.
What is a non-degree-seeking student?
Now that you have an understanding of what non-degree programs are, let’s dive into who might pursue them.
A non-degree-seeking student is someone who might enroll at a college or university without planning to complete a degree program. Instead, these students pursue single courses or certificate offerings for personal or professional reasons, often to develop skills in a particular industry or field.
Other non-degree-seeking students might take classes at one institution with the intent to transfer them back to a previously enrolled institution. Just be aware that not all credits are transferrable. Before you enroll, check with your advisor to ensure that the credits will transfer to your institution of choice.