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Undergraduate Vs. Graduate: Know Key Differences

Updated on 05 January, 2024

Pragya Sharma

Pragya Sharma

Sr. Content Editor

Throwing that graduation cap in the air is a feeling of accomplishment, and it is quite fun, right? But to be able to wear that black robe, you need to complete your undergraduate degree. Or was it a graduate degree? This terminology might get confusing, especially if you have been searching for international study programs. These words determine the level of education; to pursue higher studies, you must be familiar with their meaning and differences. This article clearly explains what is the difference between undergraduate and graduate degrees. Let us find out!

What Does an Undergraduate Degree Mean

An undergraduate degree entails a bachelor's or diploma program. It is the initial degree that you take upon entering a university after completing your school. This degree is usually the first level of higher education that a student can earn, and it usually takes around three or four years of full-time study to complete. An undergraduate degree is a foundation that opens the path to advance your studies further. 

What Does a Graduate Degree Mean

A Graduate degree, also referred as a postgraduate degree, is the one you pursue after completing your undergraduate degree. Generally, a graduate degree is of one or two years and is at a more advanced level. It includes a variety of programs like Master's degrees, Doctoral degrees, and Professional degrees.

A graduate degree indicates that an individual has demonstrated mastery of a specific subject area and has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a particular profession or field.

Read on to understand the difference between master’s and bachelor’s degrees. 

Undergraduate Vs Graduate: Key Differences

Understanding the difference between undergraduate and graduate is necessary for anyone pursuing higher education, especially in the United States. Listed below are the key components that will help you get a clear idea of the two. 

Key PointsUndergraduate Graduate
Meaning in the USAn undergraduate degree in the US means a 4-year bachelor's program or a diploma of 2 years. A graduate degree in the US means a master's program of 1-6 years. Students who have already completed their undergraduate studies are eligible for a master's in the US. 
Course Load There are a minimum of 12 credits per semester and 3-4 credits per class. There are usually 5-6 courses that an undergraduate has to tackle. A graduate degree has 3 advanced-level courses and 12 credits per semester. 
Admission RequirementsAlthough the admission requirements vary as per the university, the general idea is that to get admission to an undergraduate degree in the US, you must qualify by taking tests like SAT, TOEFL, and IELTS. Moreover, you need to give proof of your academic qualifications, a letter of recommendation, a photocopy of mark sheets, and proof of financial stability. To qualify for a graduate degree in the US, you must have a bachelor's degree, take the GRE/GMAT test, and have killer letters of recommendation.
Tuition Fees $20,000 - $30,000 $50,000 - $70,000
Professor-Student Relationship Under an undergraduate program, the classes are large, and students work individually. Graduate programs, as these are highly specialized, require the students to work closely with their professors, usually on a one-to-one basis.  
Level of Difficulty Students are restricted to individual classes under a bachelor's or an undergraduate degree. Being at a beginner phase, the difficulty level for an undergraduate degree is comparatively low. A graduate degree is at a more advanced and superior level. Moreover, it is research-oriented and exhibits a higher level of difficulty. 
Flexibility Compared to a graduate degree, changing your major or school for a bachelor's is easy.  For a graduate degree, as there are specializations that may differ per the university, it is difficult to transfer schools. 
Professional Marketability An undergraduate degree allows students to opt for an entry-level job. With a graduate degree, you can explore the job market, increasing your chances of getting hired by potential employers. Furthermore, a master's degree provides better connections and job prospects. 

What do Undergraduate and Graduate Mean Outside the US

Although the basic meaning of undergraduate and graduate is clear, where graduation is done after undergraduation, some countries still have different meanings for these terminologies. Many countries call the US undergraduate and graduate degrees as graduate and postgraduate, respectively. When discussing undergraduate vs. graduate degrees across nations, the terminology, duration, and flexibility are some of the factors that highlight the major differences. 

Conclusion

While both undergraduate and graduate education are important stages in one's academic journey, they differ significantly in focus, depth, and career prospects. Ultimately, the decision to pursue either undergraduate or graduate education should be based on individual goals, interests, career aspirations, and qualifications. Regardless of which path one chooses, however, the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth should always remain at the heart of one's academic journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What academic requirements are necessary to be eligible for an undergraduate degree?

To be eligible for an undergraduate degree, you must complete your school education or equivalent. 

Which is more expensive: An Undergraduate or Graduate degree?

Although the tuition fee of the degree depends majorly upon the subject, as the duration of a postgraduate or graduate degree is shorter than an undergraduate, it is mostly less expensive. 

Pragya Sharma

Sr. Content Editor

Pragya Sharma is a content developer and marketer with 6.5+ years of experience in the education industry. She started her career as a social media copywriter for NIELIT, Ministry of Electronics & IT, and has now scaled up as a 360-degree content professional well-versed with the intricacies of digital marketing and different forms of content used to drive and hook the target audience. She is also a co-author of 2 stories in an anthology based on the theme- women empowerment.

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