Classification of College Courses: Demystifying Course #s and Levels

October 24th, 2013

college

We regularly get asked by our international student applicants what is meant by “lower division” and “upper division.”

In the U.S., undergraduate degrees such as the Associate and Bachelor comprise of a select number of courses with a specific number of credits. In order to qualify for the award of these degrees, students must complete a required number of courses at what is considered to be lower level and or lower and upper levels. Graduate degrees also have a specific number of required courses with corresponding course numbers.

We have prepared the following description and hope you’ll find it helpful!

    Lower-Division Courses

Lower-division courses, typically numbered from 100 to 299, are designed primarily for freshmen and sophomores. Certain classes are closed to freshmen who lack the designated prerequisites or whose majors are outside the units offering the courses.

    Upper-Division Courses

Upper-division courses, are typically numbered from 300 to 499, and designed primarily for juniors and seniors. Prerequisites and other restrictions should be noted before registration. Courses at the 400 level apply to graduate degree requirements for some graduate programs. Always check with the Graduate office at the U.S. institution for information. Generally, upper-division level build upon material taught at the lower-division level in introductory or survey courses. For example, English 101 – Freshman English is a lower level course at the introductory level. Some courses labeled “Introduction to…” can be upper level courses depending upon the university reviewing the course. On a 100-400 numbering system, for example a course titled “Politics 512 – Introduction to International Law” may be offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. It’s clearly “upper level” even though it says “Introduction” in the title. Upper division courses are courses offered at the junior level or higher.  By definition any course taken at a community college is not upper division.  Lower division courses are any course taken at a junior college or community college or courses offered at the freshman and sophomore level at a four-year college or university regardless of the title or content of the course.

    Graduate-Level Courses

Graduate-level courses, are typically numbered from 500 to 799, and designed primarily for graduate students. However, an upper-division undergraduate student may enroll in courses numbered 500-599 with the approval of the student’s advisor, course instructor, department chair and dean of the college in which a course is offered. If such a course does not meet an undergraduate graduation requirement, it may be eligible for use in a future graduate program on the same basis as work taken by a non-degree graduate student.

Alan

Alan A. Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO, ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

2 Comments

Filed under Credentials, Education

2 responses to “Classification of College Courses: Demystifying Course #s and Levels

  1. 10/31/2013
    Thanks for this post…Figuring out college courses and their purpose is a true education in and of itself!!!

  2. Jason Brooks

    We get those questions from domestic as well as international students. It seems no matter how much we explain the system I still have sophomore students who try to enroll in 300-level courses. “But this course sounds interesting”, is the usual response. I point out the prerequisites and they reply “Oh. I didn’t see that”. Many of those students are in such a hurry to complete their studies. They miss the fact that you have to “crawl before you can walk”. The lower level course are designed to prepare them for the more advanced material.

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