What is a Non-Degree Program at a University?

Not to be mistaken with a vocational course or training, a non-degree program at a university is, in essence, any course or class taken without the goal of accumulating credit hours toward a degree. Students who take non-degree program courses are often those wanting the information for general knowledge or to improve skills for work-related purposes. They have no intention of utilizing the course knowledge toward earning a two-year, a four-year or a post-graduate degree of any sort and often experience difficulties and disappointment if they attempt to transfer a non-matriculated or non-degree course toward a degree program.

Why Is No Credit Given?

All courses are not created equally. Although two classes can encompass the same topic, the information presented within one, while accurate, may not be as detailed as in the other course, for example. An institute may have a dozen courses on child development, for instance, but only two of them meet standards toward transfer credit.

Who Can Attend a Non-Degree Program Course?

Anyone who gains admission to a college or university can request a non-degree program enrollment. Applications are separate from degree-oriented processes, and course quotas are filled with degree-oriented students first. Non-matriculated students often must wait until just before class starts to learn if they can attend it or not. Non-degree program students still pay fees for the courses and must meet all educational standards within the class. They just cannot credit the course toward a degree program either immediately or later.

Financial Aid Impact

Non-degree programs and courses are usually not covered by financial aid. The GI Bill is one exception, but the list of non-degree courses accepted under this federal program are limited toward vocational training courses, not university classes.

Underclass Eligibility Only?

Many students believe non-degree programs at universities are available to only undergraduate students. The truth is that post-graduate students are also able to partake in non-degree courses, but most concentrate on the intensive study require to obtain the master’s degree or doctorate. Those higher degrees are expensive, and fewer post-graduate students accept the expense when the non-matriculated course does nothing to further their immediate goals.

When Non-Degree Program Courses Can Be Utilized

At times, students need specific courses but don’t need the credit hours, such as students applying to post-graduate studies. Taking a needed course to fill an academic requirement fulfills that course need, but the student already has an undergraduate degree, so the credit hours aren’t important. Most of the time, the non-matriculated course is taken between the undergraduate and the post-graduate periods.


If you want to educate yourself on a topic but have no desire or need to work toward a formal degree, you might consider applying for a non-degree program at your preferred university. Understand the application and course fees still apply and that you stand last in the placement priority line, but patience and perseverance often reap rewards.


United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Non-College Degree Program; accessed May 18, 2013;

Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, Non-Degree Program; accessed May 18, 2013; found at http://scs.georgetown.edu/departments/8/non-degree-program.

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