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Key Definitions: Degree, Major, Terms, Credit Hours

Let’s start with the basics:


An academic title granted by a university to a student who has completed a given program of studies.  Examples: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Business Administration


A Faculty is a division of the University. The University of Winnipeg has these Faculties:  Arts; Business & Economics; Education; Kinesiology; Science.

Within each faculty, you’ll find many programs, also known as majors…


A major is a field of study that you specialize in. A few examples are Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, and Developmental Studies.  It is NOT necessary to choose a major in your first year. But if you know what your major will be now, take a look at the department’s website and become familiar with the requirements.

Degree and major. What’s the difference?

You’ll be working towards a degree over time (three years or more); you will have to fulfil certain “general degree requirements” to earn that degree.  

A major is the area you choose to specialize in; there are certain requirements for your major as well.  (You can also choose two majors if you like.)   Remember, you don’t have to choose your major in your first year, but if you are thinking about a particular area, it’s good to take the introductory course and to do some research on which courses you’ll need down the road. 

At the end, you will graduate with a degree with one or more majors. 
Example: You earn a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English.

When you’re choosing your courses, these are important things to know:


The academic year is organized into Terms:

  • Fall Term: September –> December
  • Winter Term: January –> April
  • Fall/Winter Term: spans two terms = September –> April
  • Spring Term: courses start and end at different times between May and August

Credit Hour    

The unit of measurement for the relative weight of courses.  

Most courses are either:

3 credit hours

  • offered for ONE term = either Fall Term (Sept-Dec) OR Winter Term (Jan-Apr)
  • three hours of lecture each week
  • also known as a “half-course”


6 credit hours

  • offered over TWO terms = the Fall AND Winter Terms (Sept-Apr)
  • three hours of lecture each week
  • also known as a “full-course”

Note:  Some courses, especially in science and languages, have Labs.  Labs are mandatory but do not count in your credit hour totals.  

Full courses and half courses can be identified by the number in brackets at the end of their course number.  For example, ANTH-1001(6) is a full course and RHET-1105(3) is a half course.

Requisite courses

These are requirements that must be met in order to take a course and receive credit for it.  They may include pre-requisites (courses that should be completed beforehand) and/or co-requisites (courses to be taken concurrently, including labs).

Some first-level University courses require that you have already completed certain high school courses; this applies particularly to science, business and language courses. Many science and language courses also have labs that must be taken concurrently. Many University courses do not have any prerequisites or co-requisites.

Higher level University courses often require that you complete the first or second-level courses.  Example: Introductory Psychology is needed for all courses at higher levels in Psychology.

Anatomy of a Course Description

Here is a course description of a popular Biology course, published in the Academic Calendar and online in WebAdvisor/Student Planning:

BIOL-1115 (3) Cells and Cellular Processes (3 hrs Lecture | 3 hrs Lab) This course will focus on the structural components, biochemistry, and physiology of cells. Topics to be covered will include structure and function of macromolecules, introduction to metabolism, cells and cell structure, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis and meiosis, life cycles, Mendelian genetics, chromosomes and heredity, DNA structure and replication, transcription and translation, and DNA technology. The laboratory component of this course will both supplement and support the lecture material. The course is designed for students who intend to (a) major in Biology, (b) take a teaching Major or Minor in Biology in the BEd program, (c) take a BSc in Environmental Studies, or (d) take a BA in the B stream of Developmental Studies.

Note: Students who have credit in one of Chemistry 40S and Pre-Calculus Mathematics 40S, but not in both,may, under certain conditions, qualify to register in this course.

Note: Cells and Cellular Processes is a prerequisite for all 2000-, 3000- and 4000-level courses in Biology It is also a required course for entry to Agriculture, Dentistry, Human Ecology, Medical Rehabilitation, Nursing Education, Optometry, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine.

Note: Students must obtain credit in both BIOL-1115(3) and BIOL-1116(3) to satisfy the requirements for a major in Biology. Students can elect to take up to 6 additional credit hours at the 1000 level; however, these additional credit hours will not count towards the requirement for a major in Biology. Students who wish to use BIOL-1112(6) (Human Anatomy and Physiology) as a prerequisite for advanced courses in Biology must obtain the permission of the Department Chair.

Restrictions:  Students may not hold credit for this course and BIOL-1111.

Requisite Courses:  Pre-Calculus Math 40S or Applied Math 40S, and Chemistry 40S (prerequisite) BIOL-1115L (lab) (must be taken concurrently).


IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE in the example above:

  • BIOL=Department name, in this case Biology
  • 1115 = indicates 1st level course
  • (3) = three credit hours, so this course will span one Term (fall or winter or spring)
  • (3 hrs Lecture | 3 hrs Lab)  = 3 hours of lecture plus 3 hours lab each week
  • Notes - read carefully all the notes; these contain important details
  • Requisite Courses = Courses that need to be completed prior to or at the same time as taking this course. Both pre-requisites and co-requisites are listed here.  In some circumstances, these may be waived by the department or instructor. See Requisites for more information on requesting waivers.

University has its own language. If you don't know a word, look it up in the "Glossary of Terms" in the Academic Calendar: Glossary [PDF]  

For more information on the basics, please see:

First-Year Information videos

First-Year Essentials [PDF]

Academic Calendar