Academic Program Definitions

In most instances, programs are comprised of a degree plus a major. A degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education. A major is an area of focus within a degree, usually in a single discipline but interdisciplinary majors are possible. A major has a core set of required courses as well as electives to provide student flexibility in choosing courses based on interest. Additionally, concentrations are sometimes part of academic programs. A concentration is a specialized area of focus within a major field of study and is recognized on a student’s transcript. Two types of concentrations exist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC): (1) Major-based, which are open only to students majoring in the unit offering the concentration; (2) Floating, which are open to students in more than one major. Graduate concentrations require a minimum of 12 credit hours. Undergraduate concentrations require a minimum of nine hours.

Further, a minor is an optional opportunity to study at some depth subject matter that is outside of the major field of study and is recognized on a student’s transcript. Undergraduate minors are generally between 16-21 credit hours, with six credit hours of upper-division coursework at the 300- and 400-level that must be distinct from credit earned for the student’s major or another minor. Graduate minors have a minimum of 12 credit hours.

IPEDS Degree Definitions

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) gathers information from every institution of higher education that participates in federal student financial aid programs. To ensure that data is reported consistently across institutions, IPEDS provides definitions for key terms in the IPEDS Glossary. Below is a set of more commonly used degrees at UIUC, along with UIUC parameters for each. For more information regarding graduate programs, review the Graduate College Handbook.

DegreeIPEDS DefinitionUIUC Parameters
Associate DegreeAn award that normally requires at least 2 but less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college work. UIUC does not offer associate degree programs.
Bachelor’s DegreeAn award (baccalaureate or equivalent degree, as determined by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education) that normally requires at least 4 but not more than 5 years of full-time equivalent college-level work. This includes all bachelor’s degrees conferred in a 5-year cooperative (work-study) program. A cooperative plan provides for alternate class attendance and employment in business, industry, or government; thus, it allows students to combine actual work experience with their college studies. Also includes bachelor’s degrees in which the normal 4 years of work are completed in 3 years.
  • 120 credit hour minimum;
  • 60 hours must be completed at UIUC (on-campus or online)
Post-Baccalaureate CertificateAn award that requires completion of an organized program of study beyond the bachelor’s. It is designed for persons who have completed a baccalaureate degree, but does not meet the requirements of a master’s degree. NOTE: Even though Teacher Preparation certificate programs may require a bachelor’s degree for admission, they are considered sub-baccalaureate undergraduate programs, and students in these programs are undergraduate students.
  • called “CERT” or Campus Graduate Certificate;
  • Transcriptable;
  • 12 credit hour minimum
Master’s DegreeAn award that requires the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full-time equivalent of 1 but not more than 2 academic years of work beyond the bachelor’s degree. Some of these degrees, such as those in Theology (M.Div., M.H.L./Rav) that were formerly classified as “first-professional”, may require more than two full-time equivalent academic years of work.
  • 32 credit hour minimum;
  • at least 12 hours must be in 500-level or greater courses;
  • 8 of the 12 hours must be in the major field
Post-Master’s CertificateAn award that requires completion of an organized program beyond the master’s degree but does not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctor’s level.
  • Called Certificates of Advanced Study;
  • 32 hours beyond a master’s degree, which is required for admission
Doctor’s DegreeThe highest award a student can earn for graduate study. The doctor’s degree classification includes such degrees as Doctor of Education, Doctor of Juridical Science, Doctor of Public Health, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in any field such as agronomy, food technology, education, engineering, public administration, ophthalmology, or radiology. There are several types, including:
*Doctor’s degree-research/scholarship: A Ph.D. or other doctor’s degree that requires advanced work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement. Some examples of this type of degree may include Ed.D., D.M.A., D.B.A., D.Sc., D.A., or D.M, and others, as designated by the awarding institution.
*Doctor’s degree-professional practice: A doctor’s degree that is conferred upon completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credential, or license required for professional practice. The degree is awarded after a period of study such that the total time to the degree, including both pre-professional and professional preparation, equals at least six full-time equivalent academic years. Some of these degrees were formerly classified as first-professional and may include: Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.); Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.); Law (J.D.); Medicine (M.D.); Optometry (O.D.); Osteopathic Medicine (D.O); Pharmacy (Pharm.D.); Podiatry (D.P.M., Pod.D., D.P.); or, Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), and others, as designated by the awarding institution.
  • Doctor’s degree research/scholarship: 96 credit hour minimum and overseen by Graduate College.
  • Doctor’s degree professional practice:
    Juris Doctorate (90 credit hour minimum); Doctor of Medicine; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Not overseen by Graduate College.

Additionally, UIUC offers the following:

TypeCampus Definition & Parameters
Dual Degree
  • Undergraduate Dual Degree is two bachelor’s degrees where requirements for both degrees are fully met and the curriculum offered for the second degree includes at least 30 hours of UIUC credit not counted for the other degree. The degree maybe be earned concurrently or subsequent to the first degree. These are typically across colleges. (e.g., a B.S. in Crop Sciences and a B.S. in Chemistry)
  • Graduate Dual Degree is completion of two graduate level degrees, without overlap. The second degree may be earned either concurrently or subsequent to the first degree.
  • College awarding the degree sets admissions standards.
Double Major
  • Two majors within the same college (e.g., B.S. with a major in Crop Sciences and a major in Animal Sciences)
  • College awarding the degrees sets admission standards.
Joint Program
  • Connects a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree or connects two graduate level degrees. Can be in the same field of study or outside of it.
  • Bachelor and Master Joint Programs must be 140 discrete credit hours at a minimum. This assumes the minimum hours for graduate degree is 32 hours, with 12 hours shared by both degrees at the advanced level (400- or 500-level courses).

Updated 5/18/2023