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When to take single courses in college

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At a glance

  • Single courses are college-level classes you can take independently without enrolling in a full program, often taken to further a skill set in a specific area or to transfer the credits.
  • Before choosing to pursue a single course, identify your personal goals and whether you have the time and finances to dedicate toward them.
  • The benefits of taking a single course include schedule flexibility, cost-effectiveness and a short-term commitment.
  • University of Phoenix currently offers more than 600 single courses in a variety of subjects. Explore online courses at UOPX!

Higher education looks different for everyone. From traditional college students to lifelong learners and those seeking to transfer credits, there are many ways to pursue educational goals. Single courses can be a way to find the perfect fit for your career ambitions and personal development.

What are single courses?

Single courses are college-level classes you can take independently without enrolling in a full program. Courses can range from general education like biology, English composition and creative writing to industry-specific topics like managerial accounting, business law and information systems governance to more specialized subjects such as pathophysiology, counseling crisis intervention and trauma and ethics for support services professionals. This type of learning allows students to customize their education according to their personal needs and professional interests.

Single courses can also benefit those already enrolled in a degree program and looking to transfer credits. Many universities provide information on their websites about flexible course scheduling options, making it easier than ever for students to complete the required credit hours for their degree without taking on a full-time load. It’s often possible to enroll to take single courses online.

Explore more than 600 credit-bearing courses to help you meet your educational goals


When to take single courses

A single course makes sense in a wide range of circumstances. Some students use single courses to complete their prerequisites for a degree program or to complete an undergrad degree on their way to a master’s. Others may use single courses as transfer credits to a new school or to finish a class they may have missed, failed or dropped for personal or academic reasons. Online single courses can provide a flexible option for students who need to take a course over the summer or are in a rush to meet a deadline.

Single courses can be useful for completing general education courses, like biology or math. They can also be useful for the sciences, like nursing or healthcare, or for people looking for additional credit requirements for testing and licensure. Some occupations require employees to continually upskill to meet industry requirements and stay up to date with the latest education and practices. Teachers routinely have to go back to school to update their credentials, for example.

Can you take college classes without enrolling?

Generally, taking single courses is less involved than enrolling in a full degree program. There are usually fewer admission requirements and no need to fill out a formal application.

Depending on where you take your single course, the first step may be to contact the admissions office. You can either make an appointment with the admissions counselor or apply online. You will need to provide documents such as transcripts, an application fee and other materials the school requests. Once your application has been accepted, you will need to officially register for the course by submitting required forms and fees. At University of Phoenix the process is as easy as adding online courses to a shopping cart and checking out.

When considering taking a single course, it’s important to ask questions about prerequisites, grading scales and terms, transferability, and whether online options are available. Additionally, depending on where you are located, research whether your chosen institution is accredited by an agency such as the Higher Learning Commission for your credits to transfer elsewhere if desired.

How many classes is considered full time?

The biggest difference between taking single courses and enrolling in a more traditional college program is how many classes are considered full time enrollment. Generally, taking four courses or 12 credit hours is considered a full-time student load.

While this may seem intimidating for someone looking to dip their toes into higher education, it’s essential to keep in mind that single courses can be taken at your own pace, allowing you to set a comfortable workload that fits your lifestyle.

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How to choose a single course

Here are some tips for choosing a single course that will be most useful to you:

Identify your personal goals and motivations: Consider why you want to take the course. Is it for career advancement, academic enrichment or something else?

  • Research different courses: Look at course descriptions and syllabi to decide if the material fits your needs.
  • Evaluate whether the course is online or in person: There can be advantages and disadvantages with either option, so consider which might work best.
  • Think about the cost of tuition and other fees: Before deciding on the right course, make sure you can afford it.
  • Check the prerequisites to see if they’re achievable or already accomplished: To ensure successful completion, meet any required qualifications.
  • Talk to people who have taken the course: They can provide insight into how the course is structured and how much time it requires.
  • Look for payment options: Depending on your needs and financial situation, you may have options.

By assessing these factors, you can find a single course that will best meet your needs.

What are some examples of single courses?

Here are examples of courses that have a broader reach:

  • Principles of Biology: This course primes students on major topics such as cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, evolution, physiology and ecology.
  • Introduction to Computer Applications and Systems: This course gives students a broad and impactful view of essential business tools such as the Microsoft 365 suite of programs, presentation software and emerging technologies.
  • Critical Thinking in Everyday Life: This course focuses on developing tools to analyze problems and make decisions in academic, professional, social and personal situations.
  • Finance for Business: Students learn the essentials of business finance, including financial planning, financial statements analysis and international finance.
  • Managerial Accounting: This course covers the fundamental concepts of accounting, such as stockholder equity and short- and long-term financial assets.
  • Small Business Marketing: Students learn how to grow a customer base and drive business through effective pricing and advertising strategies.
  • Contemporary Nursing Practice: This course introduces conceptual perspectives in nursing to guide research and interpretations in nursing practice.

Each provides a solid foundation in marketable skill sets that can open up potential opportunities in their respective fields. So, whether you’re looking for a career change or just want to expand your knowledge and skills, single courses can provide an accessible way to explore the world of higher education.

Benefits of taking a single course

Taking a single course may provide several benefits, such as:

  • Flexibility to pursue topics you’re passionate about: Taking a single course allows you to explore different fields and hone your knowledge in an area that interests you.
  • Opportunity to enhance your career path: If the course has a specific application or skill set that benefits your job, it can help you jump-start your professional development.
  • Cost-effectiveness compared to full-time study: Taking one or two courses at a time can be more affordable than a full-time degree program immediately.
  • No long-term commitment: You don’t need to commit to multiple semesters, so it’s easier to pace yourself.
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking: Taking a single course can help you develop your analytical and creative thinking skills, which can be beneficial in various fields.

Taking a single course can not only help you reach educational and professional goals, but it can also be an enriching experience that allows networking opportunities.

Who can benefit from single courses?

Single courses can be beneficial for a variety of people, such as:

  • Professionals who are looking to stay current on trends in their field.
  • People who want to explore a new area of study or gain a deeper understanding of an existing one.
  • Non-degree-seeking students who are interested in taking college classes without enrolling in a degree program.
  • High school students looking to get a head start on college general education courses or specific courses within a particular field.
  • Adults looking to return to school and pursue higher education on their own time.
  • Adult learners who want to gain new skills or refresh existing ones.

Because college credits typically don’t expire, single courses can be a great way to earn college credit that can later be applied to a degree program.

Challenges in taking a single course

As with any undertaking, there are potential challenges to consider when taking single courses. These can include:

  • Time commitment: Depending on how many classes you take and how the course is designed, it may require more time than you anticipated. It’s important to be realistic about how much time you can devote to studying each week.
  • Accessibility: Depending on how the course is offered, there may be limitations on how and when you can access it. For instance, you must ensure you have reliable internet for an online course.
  • Financial commitment: A single course may require an upfront payment or ongoing installment payments, depending on how it’s structured. Ensure you understand how the cost and payment schedule.
  • Competing course schedules: If you plan to take multiple courses at once, you may encounter scheduling conflicts. Check all course schedules before committing to ensure there are no overlapping times or days.

While some of these issues can be mitigated with planning, they’re still important to consider when deciding whether taking a single course is right for you.

Is there a limit on how many classes you can take?

Generally speaking, there’s no limit on how many classes you can take as a non-degree student. There may be an 18-to-19-hour course limit, but this varies depending on your school. However, each college or university may have its own policies regarding how many courses you can take in any given semester. So, as you’re looking for the best courses to take, keep in mind that you may need to pace out courses over several semesters.

How many classes does it take to get a degree?

It typically takes about 120 credits to obtain a bachelor’s degree, which you can achieve by taking about 40 classes (assuming a standard semester system). Single classes usually award between two to five credits.

Credits may be measured differently depending on the school or program you are in; for instance, some schools follow a traditional semester calendar with two regular semesters each year, and an optional summer term. Other schools break courses into quarter terms, with three standard quarters each academic year plus an optional summer quarter term.

To put that into perspective, most students take four or five classes per semester and complete their undergraduate degree within four years. The number of credits required for a degree can vary depending on the program and level of study.

Ultimately, single courses gives you the flexibility to expand your knowledge and life at your own pace.

Single courses at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in exploring single, online courses that are only five weeks long, to expand your knowledge and skill set, consider browsing through the many options at University of Phoenix. Here are just some of the sought-after single courses offered:

  • Principles of Accounting I
  • Government and Non-Profit Accounting
  • Contemporary Auditing I
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Finance for Business
  • Intermediate Financial Accounting I
  • QuickBooks


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