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Athabasca University

What is the difference between a course and a program? : Current Student Non-Program


course covers a particular topic within a disciplinary area. Courses generally have specific learning objectives and outcomes. Learning is assessed using a variety of tools such as the completion of essays, quizzes, projects, exams, or portfolios.

Some courses have a prerequisite. Prerequisites ensure you have the required background to successfully complete a given course.

Some courses require professor approval. Click on this link for more information on course prerequisites and how to obtain professor approval.


program includes a number of courses and leads to the awarding of an academic credential such as a bachelor's degree. A program generally has a set of learning outcomes and established regulations that are applied in awarding the credential. The type of program you choose depends on your goals.

Undergraduate Programs

There are three main types of undergraduate program at AU:

  • university certificates
  • university diplomas
  • bachelor degrees

For more information about the wide array of AU programs, visit our Undergraduate Program page.

Graduate Programs

Most graduate programs at AU require you to have completed an undergraduate and/or a graduate degree for admission. Admission and credit completion requirements vary depending on the program. The types of programs at AU include:

  • post-baccalaureate certificate
  • post-baccalaureate diploma
  • masters degree
  • post-masters certificate
  • post-masters diploma
  • doctorate

For more information about AU's graduate programs, visit our Graduate Program page.

Updated September 22 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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