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Key Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate Study

Key Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate Study

Many fields of study can take years, sometimes more than a decade, to master in terms of theoretical and practical knowledge. Completing a degree is an accomplishment on its own, but many do not look forward to additional time spent at college to take it further.

Therefore, it is important to know the Key Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate Study and how they benefit your career going forward.

key differences between undergraduate and graduate study

What Is Undergraduate And Graduate Study?

The language can get confusing if you aren’t already in college, or pretty new to it. In many other countries, what is known as undergraduate studies in the United States are called graduate degrees, and our graduate studies are called postgraduate degrees.

You can’t apply for postgraduate studies without completing an undergraduate study pertaining to the field. Thus, to enroll in postgraduate studies in science, you will have to complete undergraduate studies in science first.

The order they follow in…

A bachelor’s degree (undergraduate) can be followed by a master’s degree (postgraduate). A master’s degree will involve research in the field. A doctorate follows a master’s degree. This is usually more research with the fancy word you hear in shows like Bones; a “thesis” or “dissertation.”

This refers to you making a statement and then proving or disproving the statement with your research. After obtaining a doctorate, you will be considered an expert in your field.

When alternative degrees are needed…

An alternative to a master’s and doctorate, you may choose to continue your studies on a professional degree level required for certain professions. Medical doctors and law practitioners are expected to have specific professional degrees. They are regarded to be on the same level as doctorates.

What’s The Difference When It Comes To Learning?

If you thought that getting into college was hard, getting into a postgraduate study program is much harder. It is very exclusive. There are limited spots open, and you will have to compete for them. This has a direct effect on the sizes of your class.

Consider your first year of college. Say, there were 400 students in your first class in Engineering 101. By the time you reach the second semester, some of your classmates will have dropped out. And the end of your second year, some will have flunked, and more will have dropped out.

By graduation, perhaps only 200 of you made it. Of those 200, maybe only 50 will be approved for a master’s degree. And perhaps only ten will get doctorates.

Undergraduate = More time in the classroom

Your undergraduate classes will largely consist of a lecturer teaching and learning from them, while also participating in group projects, writing term papers, and completing exams on the content you have learned. Your subjects will cover a variety of subjects, with core majors and a few minors.

Many who go the grad-student route after completing their degree will have more time in small groups or one-on-one with their lecturer, but ultimately a lot less time in the classroom.

key differences between the undergraduate and graduate study

Work in your field while you study!

It is very specialized, focusing on one particular core major. They will likely be doing practical work for research purposes or independent study in the chosen field only.

It is not uncommon for those in graduate studies to have a full-time job in their field of study, as a basis to work towards their doctorate. Some students often choose to return to their studies a few years after working as well.


The undergraduate degree is often more expensive than the graduate degree. This is likely because large classrooms are no longer needed, and you will have fewer classes to attend. Those who choose to continue their studies after graduation are also likely to be academic over-achievers. This will sometimes qualify them for scholarships and research grants, which will aid in covering their tuition costs.

Life After College

It goes without saying that a doctorate will earn you significantly more than a bachelor’s degree will. However, it is important to research the job markets before deciding on what degree you will get, and where in the world you intend to work.

For example, China has a surplus of engineers. The job market is competitive, and some would say that they are underpaid for their level of education. However, the same field has a great demand in the United States, and engineers are paid well.

the key differences between the undergraduate and graduate study

Whether You’ve Decided To Study Or Work

Firstly, check out my in-depth guide on What Is A Post Graduate Degree for additional information on the benefits and what it entails. Our website also covers High Paying Jobs Requiring A Bachelors Degree or Companies That Hire For Online Teaching Jobs once you’ve graduated.

For non-degree holders, we do have options! So, take a look at my High Paying Tech Jobs You Can Get Without A College Degree, the Top High Paying Jobs Without A Degree, or perhaps even the Top Highest Paying Retail Jobs, the Jobs That Can Make You A Millionaire that don’t necessarily need you to study first!

We also went online for some guidance while getting through your post-graduate. Why not try reading Reroute: Post Grad Guide to Success – Physically, Mentally and Financially, or Beyond the Diploma: Portraits of the Post-Grad Adventure, as well as The Craft of Research, all available in 2023.

Don’t forget The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2023: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes, wherein the opportunities are endless!

Final Thoughts

There are, unfortunately, some fields of study that do not hold any great demand anywhere, even at a doctorate level. However, it is often for the sake of learning itself that these studies exist, and they are valuable in their own right.

You will even find that particular job opportunities, say online teaching or teaching overseas, requires only an undergraduate (bachelors) degree no matter what field it pertains to.

Good luck in your studies and future career!

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