What Is a Non-Degree Seeking Student?

What Is a Non-Degree Seeking Student?

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If you have filled in a college application, you might encounter ‘non-degree purposes’ in the text. Non-degree students take the same modules as traditional students but have different needs from degree-seeking individuals. 

A non-degree student seeks tertiary education without needing college credits. Often, student non-degree education enhances employability, improves their education portfolio, and increases their chances of promotion. Non-degree programs demand less time and are often cheaper than degree courses. 

Non-degree tuition offers many advantages for individuals who require a more flexible study program. These courses can enhance your expertise or allow you to upskill and keep up with the accelerated advances in the digital age. If you are thinking of broadening your education or honing a particular skill, here are some reasons why non-degree studies might be the right choice for you. 

What Exactly Is a Non-Degree Seeking Student?

Non-degree seeking students are students who further their tertiary education through selected courses offered at college or online. These students often seek to supplement their education, vocational, and employment skills without committing to full-time study programs. 

The National Skills Coalition reports that technological advances will impact at least 60% of workers’ future employment. Modern workers will need to constantly adapt their skillset to advance alongside digital, automated, and intelligent systems.

 With many jobs in the firing line of AI and automation, it has never been more necessary for employees to upskill to adapt to the workplace changes the future has in store. Non-degree programs allow students to focus on specific areas of expertise directly related to their job environment in a cost-effective and less time-consuming manner than degree courses. 

Courses learned while in employment may also facilitate the transition that many people will face as their job description adapts to the changing face of commerce and society. Non-degree students embark on their studies without an expectation of college credits for several reasons.

Non-Degree Seeking Student Advantages

Non-degree students can enjoy some benefits that degree-seeking students do not have.

Non-Degree Studies Are Cost-Effective

Degree students often study for several years, and the institution awards them either a Bachelors, Master’s, or Ph.D. certification. Non-degree students spend much shorter times at college, making it particularly viable for those already in a full-time job or those who don’t have the finances to pay full degree tuition. 

Non-degree students typically pay a fraction of full-time degree studies and pay per credit taken. Although non-degree students will not receive college credit for their courses, many colleges or online college portals bestow certification on students who complete a non-degree course. 

With the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and micro-masters courses, institutions like MIT and Columbia University have made their courses available to everyone online. Pursuing further education at one’s own pace from home allows students to study while they occupy full-time working careers. 

The non-degree study also carries less student debt that cripples many students when they finally reach employment. Paying as you learn ensures that you don’t have to spend the first several years of your working life paying for your college tuition. 

Non-Degree Studies Allow Real-World Job Experience

Full-time degree students often leave college after several years and find it challenging to enter real-world employment. Graduates may lack the social skills to interact with the variety of personalities one encounters in the workplace. 

Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in the employment sphere, with employers overlooking graduates with high GPAs for candidates with real-world working experience. Non-degree students often study part-time while maintaining full-time occupations that may improve their employability.

Hard skills refer to the specialized and technical knowledge that graduates bring to their employment, while softs skills are primarily untaught. Soft skills involve cognitive ability and workspace behaviors that one develops in the workplace. These skills include:

  • Workplace behaviors
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Team working abilities
  • Communication skills

While your hard skills show your success in a measurable ability, soft skills reflect your ability to work with others in a job environment. In the emerging digital age, jobs are becoming increasingly team-oriented. They require soft skills as much as hard skills for employees to work in a collaborative environment. 

Non-Degree Courses Increase Your Chance for Promotion

Occupying a career position without furthering or updating your education in your chosen field is no longer enough to guarantee you will advance in your career. With the rise of the remote worker, employers are no longer as reliant on a local workforce.

Many virtual employers choose to engage international prospects or outsource freelance workers to fulfill certain aspects of their services. As jobs become increasingly scarce, job seekers have never needed to stand out more to potential employers than they do today.

Non-degree credits demonstrate initiative and increase the value of an employee to their employers. By isolating what is lacking in your office, you can be proactive and update your CV to include the skills that might best help your employer achieve your financial goals.

By keeping abreast with industry advances, you bring your employers up to date and create potential financial gains. When promotion time comes around, a proven track record of engaging in studies on-degree relevant to your industry will certainly tip the scales in your favor. 

Enrolling in the relevant non-degree courses increases your value as an employee and makes you stand out from other employees for potential promotion. By embracing the changing shape of technology and commerce by taking non-degree courses, you may fast-track yourself for future promotions. 

Non-Degree Studies Enhance Your Career Prospects

In the highly dynamic and information-based age, a university bachelor’s degree no longer has the prestige it once held. Employers seek candidates with advanced degrees or even multiple degrees in the competitive modern job market. 

In the changing face of society, artificial intelligence and automation are replacing many once human-based entry-level careers such as data capture and frontline customer support.

Employers are increasingly giving preference to job candidates who show a greater diversity in their education portfolios. A non-degree course is an excellent way to expand your skillset without committing to the full three- to five-year degree.

As careers become increasingly multidisciplinary, the job market favors employment candidates with a more broad skillset to cope with the challenges of the changing face of employment. The days of getting a degree and resting on your college education are a thing of the past.

A degree is no longer sufficient to embrace constantly evolving methods of communication and technology. Employers expect graduates to continue to update their knowledge to keep up with the accelerated curve of innovation. 

A non-degree course offers workers a means to keep abreast of the latest advances in their chosen field and is an excellent way to make yourself stand out in the job market. 

For instance, those in STEM fields may take courses in communication or business-related courses, and those with social science degrees may supplement their resumes with quantitative research methods or enhanced computer skills.

Non Degree Courses Equip You for a Career Change

Many graduates find themselves highly disappointed by the realities of their studies in the real world. Often degrees that seem challenging and novel on campus are far from what students expect once they enter the job market.

One changes a lot from one’s college years, with life experience and evolving responsibilities such as children and aging parents. One may find one’s interests and expectations change over the years, and you may no longer find your career challenging or financially viable.

Non-degree courses are a brilliant way to change and adapt your resume to prepare you to enter another related field to increase job satisfaction. With non-degree courses, you may study without having to leave full-time employment and essentially ‘learn while you earn.”

Because non-degree courses do not require rigorous academic entry requirements, you have the opportunity to choose a discipline outside of your initial skill set and further your potential employability.

Non-Degree Studies and Lifetime Learning

Your non-degree studies need not be a means to enhance your employability or further your job mobility. At any stage of your life, learning something new or something useful can be an invaluable experience. 

Several American colleges offer lifetime learning courses in fields as diverse as:

  • Acting
  • Art appreciation
  • Personal finance
  • Photography
  • Creative writing
  • Public speaking

These courses offer recreational value over academic advancement and may enrich your life and open up new fields of interest. Furthering your education as you grow older may also increase your cognitive health.

Non-Degree Study May Improve Your Health

A clinical study in 2017 found a 24% decrease in the incidence of dementia for over 65s. The study partly attributed the candidate’s increased duration of tertiary education. Research suggests that study induces the brain to create more synapses and improves the cognitive reserves to help delay dementia.  

Learning also has a causal relationship to a decreased risk of coronary disease. A clinical study conducted on 543,733 candidates found researchers linked three to six years of additional education to one-third lower risk of coronary diseases. 

Other studies have also documented that individuals with higher levels of education are likely to have fewer depressive symptoms than those with lower education levels. One particular study conducted on 231 twins supported the evidence that tertiary education reduces the incidence of depressive symptoms. 

Often those in retirement age may languish without the challenges and interactions of their work environments. Engaging in the course of study that interests you can provide mature students with stimulation and enrich their retirement lives with new and interesting pastimes and skills.

Non-Degree Student Disadvantages

Following the usual degree program does have not advantages for degree-seeking students.

Financial Aid Does Not Cover Non-Degree Study

Typically, financial aid does not cover non-degree programs and courses. Except for the GI Bill, the federal program covers university classes but not non-degree classes. However, the substantially lower price of non-degree classes makes it more affordable to the average student. 

The decreased tuition fees mean that students can often afford to finance their studies. The shortened course time and the flexibility of the pay per credit model also allow students to maintain employment while furthering their studies. 

Some colleges offer their internal institutional funding for non-degree purposes, but this is generally not the norm in financial institutions. Students can use Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which offer many courses for free and charge only a comparatively cheap fee for certification of completed programs. 

Non-Degree Credits Are Often Non Transferable

Non-degree students do not generally receive college credits for the completion of their courses. To take the non-degree seeking options, students forgo the college accreditation system. However, transfer of credits may be possible according to the particular departmental approval of your selected educational institution.

If you foresee the possibility of furthering your non-degree study in the future, you should ensure that you register with an institution that allows such transfers. You should engage with the particular department of your field of study to ensure that you may transfer the credits in the future. 

What Is a Non-Degree Certification?

Although you will not receive college credits for your non-degree courses, many colleges and online tertiary education portals offer course certifications. 

Certificate courses usually cover the requirements to work in a particular industry and offer skills to use in your chosen field. Degree courses cover a broader approach to a subject matter and engage students in aspects of the subject that are not strictly employment-related. 

Degree courses also focus more on critical thinking skills and analytic skills.

Contrary to what many people think, non-degree certificates offer substantial economic benefits to students. A study conducted on 50,000 working adults between 24-64 confirmed the value of such certification increases employability, higher potential earnings, and greater personal satisfaction than those without any certification credentials. 


Whether you want to enrich your life with further study in fields that excite you or wish to increase your job prospects, non-degree study is a valuable course of action.

With the rapidly evolving job market demands, non-degree study can keep you up to date with advances in technology and communication. Although you may not receive college credits, non-degree certification may be your ticket to success in the modern workforce.

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