This article gives insight into the differences between undergraduate and graduate study and the professional paths to which they lead.

There are several types of higher education you can seek that offer foundational experience in a field or discipline and educate you for your planned profession.

An undergraduate degree can deliver you the comprehensive knowledge and educate you to be a competent employee in one or several fields. A graduate degree can challenge your present knowledge to make you a professional in a particular field.

Differences Between Undergraduate And Graduate

Major Differences Between Undergraduate And Graduate Study

In the United States, the undergraduate study indicates the period students use in attaining a degree after finishing their high school education. Graduate study in the U.S. however, indicates the period students use in seeking a different, higher degree after finishing a bachelor’s degree. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Australia, use the terms “graduate” and “postgraduate” instead of “undergraduate” and “graduate.”

Although undergraduate and graduate studies both steer towards college degrees, they have many differences. Determining which degree to attain depends on what you would prefer to do with your education. Below are seven key differences between undergraduate and graduate degrees:

  1. Types of degrees

Undergraduate studies propose two general degree types:

Associate degree

An associate degree is the initial level of higher education, mostly given by community colleges or technical schools. This degree enables students to study general education subjects in addition to some particular courses in disciplines associated to their professional goals. You can pass into the workforce in a variation of fields or proceed with studying at a four-year college or university after attaining this degree type. The most popular associate degrees are an Associate of Arts, an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science.

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is the second level of higher education, proposed by four-year colleges and universities. Though general education courses are mandated, students concentrate on their studies by choosing a major in a specific subject relevant to their career goals. A bachelor’s degree is the most popular category of a college degree, and it can educate you to enter the workforce in an entry-level position or to proceed with studying at the graduate level. Popular types of bachelor’s degrees comprise a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a Bachelor of Applied Science.

Graduate studies belong to two general categories, but the second category is additionally categorized :

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is directed on a distinct area of research and is mostly career-specific. It can help you to enter the workforce at a developed level or to seek a doctoral degree. The most popular master’s degrees comprise of a Master of Arts, a Master of Science, a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Fine Arts.

Doctoral degree

A doctoral degree is the most avant-garde degree you can attain. Graduates with these degrees are professionals in their fields. An academic doctoral degree is a Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. These degrees are directed mainly on research in a certain field, and the people who attain them often become professors or researchers.

Professional degree

A professional degree is similarly a doctoral degree, but one that is mandated for specific careers. Popular professional doctorates include of a Juris Doctor to practice law, a Doctor of Medicine to become a physician, a Doctor of Education for educational leadership roles, and a Doctor of Pharmacy to work in the pharmaceutical industry.

Admission prerequisites

To pass into an undergraduate program, you must possess a high school diploma, GED, or another coequal to secondary education. Particular admission prerequisites differ depending on the college or university, but they often implore students to submit scores from systematic

Tests like the SAT or ACT, a personal essay, letters of recommendation and high school transcripts.

To pass into a graduate program, you must have attained a bachelor’s degree. Graduate programs often mandate GRE systematic test scores, writing samples, statements of philosophy or research proposals, and letters of recommendation in addition to undergraduate transcripts.

Length of study

The time it takes to attain a diploma can differ depending on various factors, such as whether a student attends college part-time or full-time, switches schools or changes majors. In a graduate setting, it is much more difficult to change programs or transfer to a different school, since the curriculum is the focus rather than generalized and differs by the university.

For undergraduate degrees:

An associate degree generally takes two years to complete.

A bachelor’s degree mostly takes four years to finish, or an extra two years if you already have an associate degree when you begin to seek a bachelor’s.

The time to finish graduate degrees varies widely, depending on the program prerequisites and level of degree.

Master’s degrees mostly take two years to finish, but some programs can take one year or three years.

Professional degrees can take three to four years to finish classwork and exams. Some programs, particularly in medical fields, need extra years to finish residencies or internships.

Academic doctoral degrees mostly take four to six years or more, since programs frequently need learning various foreign languages or comprehensive research and writing projects.


A full undergraduate course load differs by school and program, but it is mostly around 15 credits per semester or four to six classes. Undergraduate coursework often comprises a variety of writing assignments, projects, and other subject-specific undertakings, and many courses need students to pass an exam to earn credit. The types of courses these students receive comprise a mixture of the following:

General education subjects

Students receive these courses prior to seeking courses associated to their career professions and comprise a variety of subjects, with most programs obliging students to finish courses in English, history, science, and mathematics.

Major subjects

Undergraduate students are urged to choose a “major,” a subject or discipline to specialize in. They enroll in courses that pertain to the questions, themes, and ordeals applicable to their major. Some majors may have co-occurring courses in general education prerequisites, while others need courses adapted to particular career goals, such as those in science, engineering, and business.

Minor subjects

Students may prefer to further adapt their degree program by choosing a “minor,” a second, slightly strong specialization that enables them to take extra courses in a different discipline. Some students seek minors directly associated to their career paths, while others select minors in subjects of subjective interest.

Graduate coursework

Graduate coursework is much more technical and avant-garde than undergraduate work and generally follows a track of classes or required subjects designed by the university or program. Though a full course load differs by university and program, students generally take about nine credits, or three or four classes, per semester. These students may take extensive exams for the degree as well as exams for each course. Alternatively, they may finish large final projects, writings, portfolios or other qualifying exit assignments.

Classroom environment

The conventional classroom environment of undergraduate and graduate studies vary widely.

Students at the undergraduate level may encounter the following elements in the classroom:

Bigger class sizes

Class sizes differ from school to school and from class to class. Some undergraduate courses may adopt more students for certain courses, such as those in the general education part of a degree program that every student must take. Larger class sizes may suggest less individualized attention from professors.


Some courses may be arranged with the professor overseeing the class and the students taking notes and attaining assignments independently. Professors may motivate students to partake and ask questions, but some classes may have students interacting more with a teaching assistant who enables the professor to grade assignments and execute more personalized small group sessions.

Class discussions

While many courses may motivate student contribution, some professors oversee courses particularly built around students asking questions and communicating class materials, such as lectures and assigned readings. These courses may pertain to more individualized attention from professors.

Graduate degrees are less popular, resulting in the following classroom elements:

  • Smaller class sizes: Graduate classes incline to be smaller, mostly because schools accept a restricted number of students or engaging more professors to guarantee increased individualized attention.
  • Progressive discussions: These courses are also concentrated in a particular field and of further complication, and they incline to be more interactive, with professors requiring the students to be educated, contribute to the knowledge and apply information. The discussions depend on the content of the degree program, course, and students’ academic interests.

Mentoring with professors: Students mostly work together with professors as their mentors and mostly meet with them when conducting research, creating portfolios, or taking independent study. These mentorships also occur in conventional classes.

Potential job earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that obtaining a higher degree of education is associated with higher potential job earnings. Particular degrees allow you to work in fields that are more technical and make more fortune on average because of comprehensive training. Some employers might value education in their industry and pay those with higher degrees a higher salary.

Tuition costs

Tuition costs for college degrees differ gratefully according to some factors, including scholarships, grants, in-state vs. out-of-state tuition, whether classes are carried out online, and whether the school is public or private. It is vital to evaluate your potential job earnings prior to determining the category of investment you want to put in your education.