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Honors vs. Masters: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on June 5, 2024
Honors refers to a distinction for high academic achievement in a degree, while masters is a postgraduate academic degree following a bachelor's.

Key Differences

In the world of academia, the term honors typically signifies a distinction given to students who achieve at a high level within their undergraduate studies. These students often have to meet certain GPA requirements, may take specialized courses, and might conduct research or complete a thesis. On the other hand, masters refers to a specific postgraduate degree that students can pursue after completing their bachelor's degree. This degree generally requires a dedicated study over one to three years, depending on the course and region.
Honors programs or courses are often found within bachelor's degrees. They provide academically talented students with the opportunity to explore their undergraduate subjects in greater depth. Some institutions also have an 'honors college' which offers an enriched academic environment. Masters, however, is a whole separate degree. It delves deeper into specialization than a bachelor's, allowing students to gain more advanced knowledge in their chosen field.
The word honors may also be used in other contexts, such as graduating "with honors", indicating a student has achieved a particular GPA or other academic milestones during their degree. Meanwhile, masters strictly speaks to a level of graduate or postgraduate study, often culminating in a thesis, project, or comprehensive examination.
Honors distinctions might require students to undertake additional coursework, complete an honors thesis, or maintain a particular GPA. It stands as a testament to a student's dedication during their undergraduate studies. A masters degree, meanwhile, can open doors to doctoral studies or provide specialized skills and knowledge beneficial for certain professions.
It's also worth noting the regional differences. In some parts of the world, an honors degree might add an extra year of study to the regular bachelor's degree. In contrast, masters degrees tend to have more consistent durations globally but can vary in their requirements and structure.

Comparison Chart

Level of Study



Recognize high academic achievement
Provide deeper specialization


Part of bachelor's duration
Typically 1-3 years after a bachelor's


High GPA, possible thesis or project
Coursework, possible thesis, project, or comprehensive exam


Distinction in undergraduate degree
A separate advanced degree

Honors and Masters Definitions


A distinction given for superior performance in an academic setting.
She graduated with honors in biology.


A person who has mastery or proficiency in a subject or skill.
He is a masters of the art of negotiation.


An advanced level of undergraduate study.
She's in the honors program at her university.


A title given to someone in authority or control.
He's the masters of the house.


Special recognition for exemplary behavior or achievements.
He received honors for his contributions to the community.


A postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities.
She earned her masters in psychology.


A ceremony or ritual that confers distinction.
The honors ceremony will be held in the main h


The original of a document or recording from which copies can be made.
We have the masters tape in the vault.


A title of respect and courtesy.
We paid honors to the visiting dignitary.


A term to address or refer to a man in a courteous or respectful way.
May I help you, masters?


High respect, as that shown for special merit; recognition or esteem
The honor shown to a Nobel laureate.
The place of honor at the table.


Plural of master


Great privilege
I have the honor of presenting the governor.


A master's degree.


Good name; reputation
I must defend my honor.


United States poet (1869-1950)


What does graduating with honors mean?

It means a student has achieved high academic standards, often denoted by a specific GPA or completion of additional projects.

Is an honors degree better than a regular degree?

It represents a higher academic achievement, but "better" depends on the context and purpose of the degree.

How long does it typically take to complete a masters?

Usually 1-3 years, depending on the program and region.

Can you get into a masters program without having honors?

Yes, admission criteria for masters programs vary, and honors is not always a prerequisite.

Are honors courses more difficult?

They can be more challenging, offering in-depth exploration of subjects.

Can you pursue a doctoral degree after a masters?

Yes, a masters is often a stepping stone to a Ph.D. or other doctoral degrees.

What jobs can you get with a masters that you can't with just a bachelor's?

It varies by field, but some specialized roles or managerial positions may require a masters.

Can you get honors in a masters program?

Some institutions may offer distinctions for high achievement in masters programs, though it's less common than in undergraduate studies.

Is a masters degree the same globally?

The concept is, but the structure, duration, and requirements can vary by country.

Can honors be in non-academic fields?

Yes, it can denote special recognition in various arenas, from military to arts.

Are there online masters programs?

Yes, many universities offer online masters programs across various fields.

How many types of masters degrees are there?

There are various, like Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Business Administration (MBA), etc.

What's the primary goal of an honors program?

To provide academically talented students with deeper, enriched study opportunities.

Why pursue a masters degree?

For advanced knowledge, career advancement, or preparation for doctoral studies.

Are honors programs more expensive?

Costs vary, but honors programs may have additional fees or be part of prestigious institutions with higher tuition.

Can you switch from a regular track to an honors track in college?

Policies vary, but many institutions allow transitions based on academic performance and other criteria.

Is there a GPA requirement for honors?

Most institutions have a GPA threshold for honors distinction.

Do employers value honors distinctions?

Yes, it can indicate strong academic performance and dedication.

How does an honors degree differ globally?

In some regions, it might add an extra year of study or have different GPA criteria.

What's the benefit of a masters in the job market?

It can offer specialized skills, open opportunities for higher roles, and increase earning potential.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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