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Life as a Phoenix

Learn from our students and alumni who pursued their educational goals at University of Phoenix while balancing school, work and life.

What is a non-degree-seeking student?

By University of Phoenix

At a glance

  • A non-degree-seeking student is an individual who takes single courses or earns a certificate because they want to learn about a specific field or skill without committing to the time and cost of a degree program.
  • Taking a single course or joining a certificate program can teach students new skills they can showcase on their resumé and share with employers in interviews.
  • Depending on the program and institution, financial aid is sometimes available for single courses.
  • Discover how you can enhance your skill set through online certificates and more than 600 individual courses at University of Phoenix!

Nontraditional higher education opportunities like online learning, micro-credentials, self-directed learning and apprenticeships provide direct benefits for many students. Students who have trouble with traditional schooling because of their field, learning style, availability, stress or financial difficulties can develop skills through alternative academic opportunities.

Non-degree courses represent another form of nontraditional education, creating cost-effective learning opportunities for students who might not thrive within a traditional learning environment. Students can take courses with a more flexible schedule in their preferred field without the pressure to progress toward a full degree.

Explore more than 600 credit-bearing courses to help you meet your educational goals. 


What is a non-degree-seeking student?

A non-degree-seeking student will enroll at a college or university without planning to complete a degree program. Instead, these students take classes for personal or professional reasons, often to develop skills in anticipation of a particular career. Other non-degree-seeking students might take classes at one institution before transferring to another.

Instead of pursuing a full degree, many of these students will instead obtain an online certificate or other form of accelerated education. For example, they might participate in an online cybersecurity or cloud computing certificate program to learn job-ready skills in less than a year.

Other students participate in online courses that offer additional flexibility and let them specialize in a field without obtaining a full four-year diploma.

Non-degree-seeking students often prioritize time over other considerations. For example, if an employer is seeking someone with experience over degrees, a certificate, certifications and experience just might be enough in certain roles or industries.

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Where are non-degree courses available?

Individual courses are available at a wide range of academic institutions today. Many colleges and universities now offer these opportunities alongside full degree programs to satisfy students who might have different long-term career interests.

Similar offerings may also be available at private learning institutions. For example, you might find a course at a local music academy, language learning center, art studio or trade school.

Students can find single courses in a variety of ways. You can search online for a specific topic that might interest you or contact a school directly to find out if it offers a program in your chosen field.

How to take a non-degree course

Taking a non-degree course can provide a combination of skills, experience and potential contacts to help connect students with professional opportunities in a field that interests them.

Here are a few steps to follow when following a non-degree-seeking path:

  • Research different non-degree offerings to find one that’s right for you.
  • Review the program’s prerequisites and requirements.
  • Submit an application for your preferred course, including transcripts, test scores and any other required materials.
  • Make sure your preferred institution is accredited before you apply. If you plan to eventually transfer to a new academic institution, make sure the credits you earn will transfer with you.

It’s also important to consider public opinion before starting a non-degree course. Take time to learn what past students thought of the program. Read reviews and ask questions to better understand a non-degree program before you decide to jump in.

Can you get credit for non-degree courses?

Many students who participate in a non-degree course will not receive credit for the courses they take. However, there are exceptions. Some institutions accept courses that students completed on another campus. University of Phoenix does have some non-credit courses, but most of the courses are for credit at all levels.

What classes can non-degree-seeking students take?

Colleges and universities often include a range of courses, some of which are not available to students participating in a four-year degree program. Unlike a traditional course that counts toward a degree program, a non-degree course typically focuses on specific skills or knowledge that a student can apply without additional courses.

Education available to non-degree-seeking students often includes courses in professional development, certificate programs, language lessons and online instruction. You can find non-degree classes in many industries, each engineered to help students retain knowledge they can use in their professional careers. However, some courses require prerequisites and potentially specific education levels prior to enrollment. It’s best to speak with an academic advisor to see which classes are available specifically to you.

Taking a single college course also can be valuable for some students. Students who need to gain one or two new skills can take a single college course to complete their portfolio. You also might take a single college course to complete your degree requirements or simply because you find the course material interesting.

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When is a non-degree course valuable?

Students might participate in non-degree courses for many reasons. It can potentially create career opportunities, improve personal development and teach new skills in your field of expertise.

Students often view non-degree courses as a viable alternative to a more traditional degree program. Many institutions offer individual non-degree courses, allowing students to pay for an individual course instead of an entire degree. Non-degree courses are typically more flexible than a traditional course and are particularly valuable for students who already have education in the industry and are looking to brush up on their skills.

What financial aid is available?

Financial aid for non-degree courses can vary depending on the program and the institution offering it. Potential financial assistance packages might include scholarships or grants, low-interest loans and work-study programs that allow students to work part time while pursuing their educational goals. University of Phoenix does not offer these options at this time.

There are several ways to make academic goals attainable through whatever your budget may be. You can also reach out to your academic institution directly and request more information about its funding options outside of financial aid through the federal government.

Individual courses at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in exploring single, online courses that are only four to seven weeks long to expand your knowledge and skill set, consider browsing through one of University of Phoenix’s more than 600 options. Here are just a few sought-after single courses offered:

  • Principles of Accounting I
  • Government and Non-Profit Accounting
  • Contemporary Auditing I
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Finance for Business
  • Intermediate Financial Accounting I
  • QuickBooks

University of Phoenix also offers over 45 certificates across nine fields if you’re looking for a specific an online program.


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