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Academic Options

Academic Options

Apprenticeship Training

Apprenticeship training programs are approved through the Apprentice Division of the Virginia State Department of Labor and Industry. Formal apprentice training programs are subcontracted by the Virginia Community College System to local school boards. These programs include approved on-the-job experiences and related instruction classes. NOVA offers many of the related instruction classes specified in apprenticeship programs. In addition, NOVA offers certificates associated with apprenticeship programs in air conditioning and refrigeration at the Woodbridge Campus and culinary arts at the Annandale Campus.

Cooperative Education and Internships

Cooperative Education and Internship courses provide the opportunity for students to apply the concepts and skills learned in the classroom to a job situation. The professional and technical experience gained through Cooperative Education establishes a record of performance in one's career field and eases entry into a permanent career position. Students who co-op with a federal government agency can be retained noncompetitively in a permanent position upon graduation.

To be eligible to participate in Cooperative Education or Internship courses, students must have:

  •  declared a major in a NOVA degree or certificate program;
  •  successfully completed 15 semester hours of college work or the equivalent, including transfer credit;
  •  successfully completed a minimum of two courses in a major area of study at NOVA;
  •  obtained a 2.00 or better grade point average; and
  •  obtained divisional approval after a review of the student's academic/employment record and a determination of his/her potential for success in a co-op position or internship.

Credit earned in Cooperative Education and Internship courses may be used as a substitute for up to 10 credits of coursework in selected degree programs if approved by the student's academic advisor, used for elective credit, or earned as additive credit. For more information, see the Cooperative Education website.

Developmental Studies

Developmental courses are offered to prepare students to succeed in the College transfer and career/technical programs. These English (ENF) and mathematics (MTT) courses are designed to develop the basic skills and understanding needed for success in other courses and curricula.

After taking the placement test, advisors will help students determine which ENF and MTT courses they may need. In some cases, students must complete developmental courses before enrolling in certain courses or being admitted to a curriculum. In other cases, students can take college-level courses along with developmental courses.

Credits earned in these courses are not applicable toward associate degree, certificate, or career studies certificate programs.

A wide variety of instructional methods and materials are used at the College for developmental courses. ENF courses are offered in a variety of formats. MTT courses use individualized technology-based instruction. Students who have any questions should check with a counselor or academic advisor.

NOVA Online

The NOVA Online offers online learning courses. NOVA Online courses are designed to offer “anytime access” to higher education from the convenience of one’s home or office. Online courses are primarily web-based and require access to the Internet. Courses are designed to do the following:

  • create a community of learners
  • support communication between student and faculty
  • guide students to valuable and appropriate resources

Some things to consider when choosing an online learning course are the following:

  • To be successful, students need strong reading and time-management skills, and must be self-disciplined and motivated.
  • Additional technology may be required, including web conferencing software for live meetings or office hours, using live chat or social media tools like Twitter, or using interactive websites in addition to accessing materials in Blackboard.
  • Some online courses require in-person meetings or labs, and some require live meetings attended from home via web conferencing.
  • All NOVA Online courses require at least two proctored exams. Students should follow the instructions in their course syllabus for specific requirements. Examinations in NOVA Online learning courses can be taken at any NOVA campus Testing Center during open Testing Center hours. Individuals living outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area may arrange to have exams proctored by a NOVA-approved proctor. Exams in most courses may also be taken from home using NOVA’s online proctoring service.
  • Some online learning courses allow students the flexibility to work ahead on their own and complete a course early, while others require students to keep the same basic pace as their classmates. Be sure to check individual course descriptions for specific requirements or contact the individual instructor with questions.

Program Administration

Degrees and certificates offered by NOVA Online are administered by NOVA campus academic divisions. Students may complete a NOVA degree or certificate program entirely through NOVA Online, entirely through a campus, or by combining NOVA Online and campus courses. Prospective degree candidates should contact a NOVA Online counselor, a campus counselor, or an academic advisor to plan their program of study.


Textbooks for NOVA Online courses might not be the same as those used on campus, so students should check the NOVA Online bookstore specifically when looking for textbook information. NOVA Online books may be purchased or rented through the Alexandria Campus bookstore or ordered online, by fax, or mail. Typically, books ordered from the bookstore by mail are shipped the same day.


Students are required to submit assignments by specific due dates. Students who do not submit these assignments on time can be dropped from the course with a grade of “W.”


Qualified, highly motivated students may enrich their study through participation in NOVA’s Honors Program or by enrolling in individual Honors courses. Honors advisors and Honors counselors are available at each campus to help students decide if the Honors Program or specific Honors courses are a good choice. The Student Services Center, Counseling Office, and Honors campus chairs can provide students with further information.

Honors courses differ from regular sections in that goals and assignments are more centered on the student's evolving interests. Students are encouraged to think independently and critically, to participate actively in discussions, and to learn in collaboration with their fellow Honors students. Honors courses stimulate broader and deeper consideration of the subject matter and encourage the exploration of the interrelationships of ideas across disciplines. All Honors and Honors option courses focus on leadership, research, rigorous academics, and enrichment beyond the basic course material.

Each Honors course has a special transcript indicator. Universities and employers often favor students who seek the greater challenge offered through Honors courses.

Honors course offerings may vary from campus to campus. Typically, Honors courses are offered as follows:

  • Honors Courses: special sections are designated as full Honors courses with an average of 16–20 students in a seminar-style setting.
  • Honors Options: regular course sections in which Honors students participate while also completing special Honors components of the course.

Eligibility for Honors Courses

Students must complete all course prerequisites AND meet at least ONE of the criteria listed below:

  • score at least 1200 out of 1600 on the SAT critical reading and math sections or at least 1800 out of 2400 with a score of at least 600 on each section; OR
  • score at least 26 on the ACT English examination or score at least 26 on the ACT Composite examination; OR
  • place into Honors English and/or Honors math based on placement test scores as indicated by a Testing Center representative; OR
  • document a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 at the last academic institution attended (high school, college, or university); OR
  • provide recommendations from two instructors, counselors or advisors based on any course taken in high schools, college, or university; OR
  • provide a recommendation from the Honors chair, Honors counselor, or Honors instructor teaching the requested Honors course(s). This recommendation should indicate the student’s life experience, special aptitude, or interest that indicates potential for success in an Honors course.

Eligibility for the Honors Program

Students who meet at least one of the criteria listed above must request an interview with a campus Honors chair to be considered for admittance into the Honors Program. Depending upon other factors, students may be required to have successfully completed at least 6 credits of Honors courses in order to be admitted to the Program.

  1. To be eligible for the Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar, students must have completed a minimum of 3-6 semester hours in Honors courses. Campus Honors chairs have lists of courses that may be offered as interdisciplinary seminars.
  2. Elective credits may come from any discipline offering an Honors course.
  3. At least 9 credits of full Honors courses must be applied toward the total Honors Core Curriculum credits. Other courses may be Honors option or full Honors courses.
  4. NOVA Online Honors courses will be considered on a case by case basis (contact a campus Honors chair for more guidance).

Honors Program

The Honors Program provides a comprehensive, educational experience for Honors students and allows them to interact as a community of learners. The Honors Program is designed to provide motivated students with an enriched program of study that includes, but is not limited, to:

  • academic scholarships
  • field trips
  • campus and community service projects
  • internship
  • leadership opportunities
  • campus- and College-wide honors events
  • exemplary guest speakers
  • letters of recommendation
  • Campus Honors Club
  • special transfer opportunities to selective institutions

The Honors Program is distinguished by its Honors Core Curriculum, comprised of specific courses within the categories listed in the following chart:

English 3
Humanities/Fine Arts 3
Social/Behavioral Sciences 3
Physical and Life Sciences/Mathematics 3–5
1Interdisciplinary Seminar or 200-level Honors course that is part of a learning community
or Honors Study Abroad or Approved Honors Internship
2 Electives 3–4
3  Total 18–21

1 To take the Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar, it is recommended that students have completed a minimum of 3 semester hours in Honors English and 3 semester hours of the humanities, social/behavioral sciences, and/or math/science Honors unit.
2 Elective credits may come from any discipline offering an Honors course.
3 Only 9 credits of Honors option courses can be used toward the total Honors Core Curriculum credits.

Honors Program Completion

Students may satisfy the requirements of both the Honors Program and their degree program by enrolling in the Honors or Honors options courses within the degree program requirements. Campus Honors chairs, advisors, and counselors can assist students with course selection.

Continuation in the Honors Program is contingent upon a student maintaining good academic standing and adhering to the Student Code of Conduct. Receiving more than one grade lower than a “C” in an Honors course will result in dismissal from the Program or probation based on GPA status. To graduate with Honors, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher AND an Honors GPA of 3.275 or higher with no Honors course grade below a “C.”

Completion of the Honors Program will be designated on the student's official transcript and diploma. Students will also receive the Honors Certificate of Completion. This represents a significant enhancement of one's academic credentials.

Learning Communities

Learning Communities are part of an innovative program for enriching student success. NOVA offers selected pairs of courses that form learning communities by linking developmental studies, Honors courses, or courses related to a particular major. A common cohort of students enrolls in the linked classes and works together with faculty on shared assignments and learning opportunities. Learning Communities will focus on helping students become a better learner, while learning more about themselves and how they learn. This is an opportunity for students to get to know their professors and classmates better, to build a supportive academic network, and to improve their study skills to become a successful college student. The Student Services Center on each campus has more information about Learning Communities at NOVA.

Military-Related Programs

ROTC (Army/Air Force)

NOVA, the Air Force ROTC, and the University of Maryland have established an agreement to make the Air Force ROTC General Military Course and/or Professional Officer Course available to qualified NOVA students who wish to earn an appointment as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. For more information, contact the University of Maryland Air Force ROTC office.

Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC)

NOVA has been designated as an institutional member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), an association of more than 1,900 colleges and universities providing voluntary postsecondary education to members of the military throughout the world. As an SOC member, NOVA recognizes the unique nature of the military lifestyle and has committed itself to easing the transfer of relevant course credits, providing flexible academic residency requirements, and providing credit for learning from appropriate military training and experiences. SOC has been developed jointly by educational representatives of each of the Armed Services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and a consortium of 14 leading national higher education associations; it is sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

In addition to its SOC membership, NOVA is one of approximately 50 institutions providing career and flexible Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Associate Degree (SOCAD) programs on more than 500 Army installations worldwide. These programs lead to associate degrees and most of them correspond to enlisted and warrant officer job specialties. Through prior agreement, students in SOCAD programs qualify to:

  • have residency credit limited to one-fourth of total degree requirements taken at any time;
  • be awarded credit for experience in their military occupational specialties (MOS) and service schools as appropriate to their program;
  • be awarded credit for nontraditional learning based on results of national tests, such as CLEP and SSTs, as appropriate to their program;
  • have a SOCAD Student Agreement completed as their official evaluation stating remaining degree requirements and eliminating the need for reevaluation of previous credit; and
  • be guaranteed that courses listed in transferability charts in the SOCAD Handbook will be accepted for degree requirements within each curriculum area.

Professional Studies Coursework

Some individuals may wish to prepare for study leading to advanced professional degrees in such fields as dentistry, law, medicine, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, and veterinary medicine. Through NOVA, students can pursue some foundation coursework to facilitate this goal.

NOVA does offer a number of programs in the allied health professions; however, these programs have restricted admission. Visit the Medical Education website to learn about admission to these programs.

Students who wish to meet professional goals by enrolling in nonrestricted foundation coursework should consult an advisor or counselor.

Study Abroad

NOVA offers occasional study abroad opportunities under a variety of disciplines. They are treated as regular credit courses, requiring registration for the course, satisfaction of prerequisites, and assignments completed for a final grade. Study abroad courses count toward the residency requirement for program completion. The related travel expenses are the responsibility of the student. Contact the instructor or academic dean for information about study abroad.

Weekend Courses and Programs

Weekend courses and programs provide students with additional opportunities to pursue their education. Weekend courses are offered at all campuses. Students may accelerate work toward a degree or seek professional enrichment and growth in a time frame conducive to their professional and personal lives through weekend courses. Any student can register for weekend classes; there is no special permission required.

Some campuses offer programs leading to a degree or certificate entirely through weekend coursework. The Annandale Campus offers a Weekend Express Program and a Weekend Studies Degree Program. For further information about these programs, go to the Weekend Studies website. The Woodbridge Campus offers weekend programs in Business Administration and Information Technology. Weekend courses and programs may be found in the regular course listings in the Schedule of Classes.

Workforce Development, Continuing Education, and Community Education Services

The Workforce Development Division helps to plan and provide many types of credit and noncredit programs to meet special interests within the community. The topics vary from job skills to personal enrichment interests. Various community education programs and seminars focus attention on social issues. Workforce development services for business, industry, and professional organizations provide special courses at NOVA for their employees. These programs can be taught at the College or in the workplace.

Many noncredit programs are offered each semester to serve special community service needs. A listing of the continuing and community education courses offered at each campus can be found online.

Courses and workshops often result from requests by individuals or groups within the community. The programs pay for themselves through fees charged to participants. State funds are not used for setting up or offering a course or paying the instructor. Fees for community education courses vary depending upon the actual cost of each course. Community education course information and registration instructions are available at each campus Workforce Development Office.

Payment for courses may be made by cash, check, money order, contract, Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Checks and money orders (payable to NVCC or NOVA) can only be accepted for the exact amount due. A fee is charged for any check that is dishonored, except when the bank is at fault. Requests for refunds must be made at least four calendar days before the date of the first class meeting.

Cultural affairs are available through short courses, special lectures, music presentations, and art festivals. Community groups and organizations may also make special arrangements to use facilities of the College for their own programs or meetings.

To qualify as a community education College course, the following standards must be met:

  • The noncredit activity is planned in response to an assessment of educational needs for a specific target population.
  • There is a statement of objectives and rationale.
  • Content is selected and organized in a sequential manner.
  • There is evidence of preplanning.
  • The activity is instructional and is approved by an academic or administrative unit of the institution best qualified to affect the quality of the program content and to approve the resource personnel utilized.
  • There is provision for enrollment for individual participants.
  • Evaluation procedures are utilized.
  • Criteria are established for awarding Continuing Education Units to individual students prior to the beginning of the activity.

Continuing Education Units (CEU) for Noncredit Courses

The College awards Continuing Education Units (CEU) upon completion of most noncredit courses. One CEU represents 10 hours of participation in workforce development and continuing education courses. CEUs are a nationally recognized standard unit of measurement that has been adopted for postsecondary courses not carrying academic credit. Permanent CEU records are maintained by NOVA. CEUs are increasingly accepted as evidence of educational accomplishment and for professional certification.