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What Are University and College Courses?

College and university courses are the basic building blocks of higher education. Students in a degree program usually complete some combination of general education, major and elective courses to earn their degree. All types of degree programs, including associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees are made up of college and university courses.

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College and University Course Overview

Every university and college has its own system for organizing courses, majors, degrees and departments. Understanding the basics of college and university courses can help make the enrollment process easier.

Course Detail

Courses themselves are commonly designated with a combination of numbers and letters. The letters usually refer to the department or the program, while the number indicates where the course falls in a sequence of courses. For example, in AAE 200, 'AAE' indicates the course is part of the aerospace engineering program and the '200' denotes that it is the core 200-level course. At the undergraduate level, courses usually are 100-, 200-, 300- or 400-level. Generally, the higher the course number, the more advanced the course.

As part of a degree program, students must complete both general education courses and their major program requirements. Students' general education courses are commonly lower level, introductory courses and, thus, may be numbered at the 100- and 200-level. Students are required to complete more and higher level courses within their major field of study, and during students' junior or senior year, they may be taking 300- and 400-level courses in their field.

Academic Colleges and Schools

A university is made up of multiple colleges or schools. For instance, a single university may contain a college of liberal arts, a college of business and a college of engineering. Colleges, in turn, are frequently made up of multiple departments. A university's college of engineering could contain a department of aerospace engineering, a department of computer engineering and a department of mechanical engineering.

Departments, in turn, offer courses that students complete as part of a program or major. Colleges, as compared to universities, function similarly in that they have multiple departments that offer programs and courses; they differ in that there is usually a single college without the overarching structure of a university.

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