Are you wondering whether you should extend your studies and enhance your job opportunities by completing an honours program?
We asked two Business School honours graduates why they decided to study an honours year and what the top benefits were.
But first, let’s discover what an honours degree is and what the difference is between honours and master’s degrees.
What does an honours degree mean?
An honours degree or program is an additional year of study that equips high-performing, ambitious students with additional skills after completing their bachelor’s degree. During this year, you'll gain the advanced knowledge and analytical skills that will make you stand out to employers. You'll also hone the research skills you'll need to pursue a PhD.
Class sizes in an honours program are generally much smaller than in undergraduate programs. This allows for highly interactive discussions and more opportunities to build relationships with peers and lecturers.
What’s the difference between honours and master’s degrees?
A key difference between honours and master’s degrees is the structure of each type of program and what you’ll learn. During an honours degree, you’ll build on the skills and knowledge gained during your bachelor’s degree by completing a self-directed research project.
Students enrolled in an honours program at the Business School complete compulsory research methods training. This will teach you the practical skills required to design and undertake quality research projects. You can also focus your studies on the area you wish to specialise in.
Master’s by coursework programs are designed for students seeking depth of knowledge and confidence in a particular field (which may or may not be the field as their undergraduate degree) in order to advance or alter their career trajectory. If you enrol in a master’s program, you’ll study a mixture of core courses, electives and major fields of study. Some master’s programs also have capstone courses that focus on practical employability skills.
Another key difference between honours and master’s degrees is the time investment. Master’s degrees are completed over 2 years full-time while honours programs take 1 year.
The UQ alumni in this article
5 reasons you should consider studying an honours degree at UQ
1. Develop strong professional networks
Honours degree students at the Business School benefit from being part of a small cohort. This means they get to enjoy engaging, interactive discussions and the opportunity to build connections with peers.
"The interactive nature of the coursework enables an entirely different learning experience to an undergraduate degree," says Fraser.
"The small cohort means that you form extremely close and life-long friendships; the times spent together over the honours year are some of my fondest memories of university."
Victoria agrees, adding that the honours program allows students to make great contacts with peers and lecturers who will be invaluable throughout your career.
2. Learn from leading experts
During your honours degree, you’ll work closely with academic staff to reach your full potential. Again, because of the small cohort, you’ll benefit from a "more personalised experience and more 1-1 time with academic staff," Victoria says.
The Business School hosts a regular research workshop series to showcase the work of leading national and international researchers. These seminars offer honours students the opportunity to meet and learn from leading practitioners, researchers and academics.
3. Enhance your research skills
A major focus of the honours program is completing your thesis. This research project will strengthen your research skills and knowledge in an area you’re passionate about. At the end of your honours year, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your research to faculty and peers while receiving support and constructive feedback at the annual Research Colloquium.
Do you want to pursue a research career after your honours year? You’ll be excited to learn that students who earn Class I or Class IIA Honours qualify for most PhD programs across Australia and some internationally.
"The ability to research a topic I was passionate about that later helped me advance in the workforce is one of the main reasons I recommend others undertake the honours program," says Fraser.
"When paired with the ability to work closely with industry-leading professors and revered academics, the opportunity is truly unique."
4. Hone core business communication and analytical skills
Your research skills aren’t the only capabilities you’ll enhance during an honours program. You’ll also gain exceptional problem-solving, leadership and analytical skills while learning to challenge the status quo.
"The honours year improved how I structure my thinking and analyse ideas," says Victoria.
"It also developed my confidence in presenting – all critical skills I use today."
Fraser believes one of the most important skills he developed in his honours year was the ability to evaluate and critique statistical studies and research papers.
"These skills have helped me significantly during my time in the industry," he says.
"Data analysis and evaluation was another core skill I developed throughout the honours program that is directly transferable into industry."
5. Gain a professional advantage over the competition
Employers highly regard honours graduates because of their exceptional problem-solving and analytical skills. UQ honours graduates use their qualifications to distinguish themselves in a competitive job market or as a stepping stone to a career in research in industry or academia. They have a distinct advantage when applying for professional roles and find employment at high levels, both in Australia and overseas.
"A large misconception is that the honours degree is only for students wanting to advance into research fields," says Fraser.
"My honours thesis and degree were major talking points in several job interviews and provided me with a way to stand out from other applicants."
"The targeted nature of your research topic provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the field."