October 24th, 2013
We regularly get asked by our international student applicants what is meant by “lower division” and “upper division.”
In the U.S., undergraduate degrees such as the Associate and Bachelor comprise of a select number of courses with a specific number of credits. In order to qualify for the award of these degrees, students must complete a required number of courses at what is considered to be lower level and or lower and upper levels. Graduate degrees also have a specific number of required courses with corresponding course numbers.
We have prepared the following description and hope you’ll find it helpful!
- Lower-Division Courses
Lower-division courses, typically numbered from 100 to 299, are designed primarily for freshmen and sophomores. Certain classes are closed to freshmen who lack the designated prerequisites or whose majors are outside the units offering the courses.
Upper-division courses, are typically numbered from 300 to 499, and designed primarily for juniors and seniors. Prerequisites and other restrictions should be noted before registration. Courses at the 400 level apply to graduate degree requirements for some graduate programs. Always check with the Graduate office at the U.S. institution for information. Generally, upper-division level build upon material taught at the lower-division level in introductory or survey courses. For example, English 101 – Freshman English is a lower level course at the introductory level. Some courses labeled “Introduction to…” can be upper level courses depending upon the university reviewing the course. On a 100-400 numbering system, for example a course titled “Politics 512 – Introduction to International Law” may be offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. It’s clearly “upper level” even though it says “Introduction” in the title. Upper division courses are courses offered at the junior level or higher. By definition any course taken at a community college is not upper division. Lower division courses are any course taken at a junior college or community college or courses offered at the freshman and sophomore level at a four-year college or university regardless of the title or content of the course.
Graduate-level courses, are typically numbered from 500 to 799, and designed primarily for graduate students. However, an upper-division undergraduate student may enroll in courses numbered 500-599 with the approval of the student’s advisor, course instructor, department chair and dean of the college in which a course is offered. If such a course does not meet an undergraduate graduation requirement, it may be eligible for use in a future graduate program on the same basis as work taken by a non-degree graduate student.
Alan A. Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO, ACEI, Inc.