Undergraduate vs Graduate (What's the difference?)

Undergraduate vs Graduate (What’s the difference?)4 min read

When making decisions about college and majors to study, you may come across terms like undergraduate and graduate programs. This terms might be confusing, and you may wonder what the difference is. Some people will go a long way to compare “Undergraduate vs Graduate” or the find the difference between graduate and undergraduate programs.

Well, in this article, we’ll be discussing the differences between both programs. so, if you want to know them, read on.

What is an undergraduate degree?

An undergraduate degree is a post-secondary educational program that offers general knowledge and qualifies you to be a capable employee. It exposes you to a variety of subjects in one or many fields even if you are majoring in a specific field.

Undergraduate programs (or degrees) are undertaken after high school. They are grouped into two categories: associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree.

What is a graduate degree?

A graduate program is one that offers in-depth and advanced knowledge in a field. Hence, making you an expert in the field.

Graduate programs are undertaken after completing a bachelor’s degree. The grouping is in two categories: master’s degree and doctoral degree. In some countries, graduate programs are called postgraduate programs. There are no differences between both.

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Graduate vs Undergraduate (Differences)

The Degree

As stated above, undergraduate and graduate programs are of two types each. When you complete an undergraduate program of study, you get a Bachelor’s or Associate’ degree. When you complete a graduate program, you get a Master’s degree or Doctoral degree.

Length of Study

The time it takes to award a degree varies considerably with factors such as nature, of course, institution, level of degree, method of study (part-time or full-time), and sometimes country.

  • An associate’s degree generally takes two years to complete.
  • A bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete but takes two years if you already have an associate’s degree.
  • A master’s degree generally takes two years to complete but can be more (three years) or less (one year) depending on your course of study.
  • A doctoral degree can take up to three to six years to complete depending on your course of study.

Undergraduate vs Graduate

Admission Requirement

The entry processes and requirements for undergraduate vs graduate programs are very different.

For undergraduate programs, requirements include:

  • Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores
  • High school diploma
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • For international students, TOEFL or IELTS scores

For graduate programs, requirements include:

  • Graduate Records Examination (GRE)
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • GPS of at least 3.0 or equivalents
  • Research Proposals

Aside from these requirements, colleges and universities have a few peculiar to them.

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One of the prominent differences in comparing “Undergraduate vs Graduate” programs is coursework or load.

Undergraduate coursework varies depending on institution and course of study but is usually around 15 units per semester or 5 to 7 courses per semester.

This coursework is designed to give a general outline to students by incorporating general education subjects (like English, mathematics, science, writing, and history), major subjects related and relevant to their course of study, and a minor which may or may not be a specialized subject related to their discipline.

Graduate coursework on the other hand, though varying also by institution and discipline, specializes more and advanced. The course load is usually around 9 units per semester or 3 to 4 courses per semester.

Graduate students may also have to take comprehensive examinations as well as complete final research or thesis projects.

Undergraduate vs Graduate

Change of Majors

In undergraduate programs, changing majors is relatively easy since the coursework has generalization, and each field of study offer a few similar courses. Transferring to other universities is also more flexible and feasible for undergraduate students as most undergraduate institutions have identical curricula.

On the other hand, changing majors in graduate programs is harder and sometimes impossible as they are more specific and direct. Transferring to other universities is also difficult because the curricula are different and the coursework can take multiple dimensions.

Classroom Environment

The classroom environment is different in comparing “Undergraduate vs Graduate” programs.

At the undergraduate level, there are usually large class sizes which most times leads to less individualized attention from professors or less student-professor relationship.

Lectures and class discussions may involve students expressing their opinions and asking questions, but these are done at a less experienced level. Professors have to play active roles in leading, correcting, and teaching students.

At the graduate level, classes are usually small, and this enables better student-professor relationships. Professors become mentors to students and thus offer advice and guidance. They just show the way and don’t have to lead the students.

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Graduate vs Undergraduate

Final tips:

In comparing “Undergraduate vs Graduate” programs, although both have similar directions, they are unique in their own ways. Graduate programs expose you to programs that you have to offer after getting an undergraduate degree. While the Undergraduate programs are the prerequisite for the graduate program.

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