What’s the fuss about Honours?

Figuring out what you want to do once you’ve finished your undergraduate degree can be a daunting prospect. Maybe you’ve always been sure of exactly what job you want. Or maybe, you’ve always known undergraduate study was just the first step in your university journey (bring on that PhD baby).

Or maybe you’re a bit more like myself. On the cusp of graduating, but having such a wide variety of interests that the job market can seem overwhelming.

Well your time at university doesn’t have to end just yet. Honours is your chance to really focus on your passions and hone your skills, making you more prepared to enter the workforce or undertake further postgraduate study.

So let’s keep the student discounts coming and break down what exactly Honours is.

What is Honours?

There are two types of Honours programs at the University of Newcastle: Embedded and End-on.

Embedded is included and completed as part of your Bachelor degree and requires no additional year of study. Make sure to check with your Program Handbook to see if this might apply to you.

End-on Honours is separate to your Bachelor degree and requires an additional one year of full-time (or part-time equivalent) study. However, this year of study is quite different to your previous years in an undergraduate program.

Rather than regular classes, students spend the year creating their own research project under the supervision of an academic in their faculty.

The topic of the research project is entirely up to you and can be tailored to your academic and professional interests. In consultation with your supervising academic, you also design your own research methodology and create a personalised reading list.

Generally speaking, the biggest part of your Honours Degree is the thesis: a document which demonstrates how your research progressed from the initial proposal to final results. Now this is no easy feat, with a typical thesis being around 15 000 words.

Dr. Janet Fulton, a Senior Lecturer and Communications Researcher within the School of Creative Industries, is no stranger to supervising Honours students and is well-versed in how the program works.

“First semester of the Honours year has three courses that students do to prepare them for researching and they learn research methods, how to do a literature review, how to develop research questions, how to research ethically, etc., and throughout this time students prepare, with their supervisor, for the data-gathering phase. Semester Two is spent gathering the data and writing up the findings, again under the guidance of their supervisor,” she explained.

However, it is important to note the exact details of an Honours program differ depending on the specific discipline. For example, students enrolled in the Bachelor of Communication (Honours) program are able to do a Practitioner Based Enquiry (aka make something), and then write a 7000-8000 word exegesis on their creative practice.

But basically, there are two components which make up your Honours degree:

  1. An independent research program which is supervised by an academic in your Faculty
  2. Courses focusing on developing research skills.

How do I enrol in an Honours degree?

To be eligible for End-on Honours, you need to have completed an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 5.0 (credit average).

In order to apply, you need to complete a Honours Direct Admission Application Form and email it to admissions@newcastle.edu.au for approval. This form requires you to submit an outline of your thesis topic, as well as list potential supervising academics. Remember to contact the academics in your faculty BEFORE submitting this form, as no-one likes being caught off-guard and it’s the polite thing to do.

Please note this application process does vary based on Faculty, so make sure to contact your Program Convenor if you have any questions or concerns. For example, some programs require you to submit the Honours Direct Admission Application Form as well as one directly to the Faculty.

If Embedded Honours is available as part of your degree, you should email your Program Convenor to express your interest.

How will Honours benefit me?

In an overcrowded employment market, you need something to give you the edge.

By undertaking an Honours degree, it demonstrates that you’re highly organised, possess a great deal of initiative and are extremely passionate about your field of study.

“Honours shows employers that you are able to work independently, think critically and conduct research, all at a deeper level than an undergraduate degree,” Janet said.

This combination of skills and academic achievement makes Honours graduates highly sought after by employers, often achieving higher positions and salaries.

Aside from enhancing your career prospects, Honours can also act as a launch pad into the world of post-graduate study and research.

As part of your Honours degree, you’re given the opportunity to indulge your interests and become something of an expert in your chosen topic area. You’re able to make meaningful contributions to your field, without the pressure of having to fully commit to a Masters or PhD.

“Students I’ve supervised have got a great deal of satisfaction out of their Honours projects and it is one of the most rewarding teaching experiences as well. Students mature enormously over the year and become more confident in their skills,” Janet said.

Whether you decide to pursue further study or apply for graduate positions, Honours will undoubtedly give you the skills and knowledge to get ahead.

So what are you waiting for? Check your Program Plan to see if you’re eligible at https://www.newcastle.edu.au/degrees.

3 thoughts on “What’s the fuss about Honours?

  1. Does this mean if you are doing an embedded honours, you do not need to do a separate honours degree?

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