undergraduate vs. postgraduate

Undergraduate vs. Postgraduate, which level?

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The next stage of education after earning an undergraduate degree is postgraduate studies.

There are a few significant distinctions between undergraduate and graduate study to keep in mind when choosing a postgraduate program. The primary distinction will likely be a subject’s greater specialization and attention in a postgraduate course.

A postgraduate degree expands on your prior knowledge in a particular sector and enables you to pursue further research and study to gain more in-depth information. However, it is feasible to choose an alternative path and pursue a bachelor’s degree in a completely unrelated field.

We go over the main distinctions in this guide to help you prepare for the change from undergraduate to postgraduate studies.

undergraduate vs. postgraduate

Uundergraduate vs. Postgraduate

A bachelor’s degree is typically referred to as a “undergraduate qualification,” and it takes three years of full-time study to complete. Students must have received acceptable grades in two or three A-levels or equivalent credentials, such as an IB (International Baccalaureate), in order to be eligible to study for a bachelor’s degree.

The phrase “postgraduate qualification” refers to a variety of degrees that are all typically earned following a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree is the most typical postgraduate degree. PGCert, PGDip, and PhD are additional postgraduate degrees that may be earned. A satisfactory grade in a pertinent bachelor’s degree is typically required to study for a postgraduate qualification, while in some cases relevant job experience may allow a student to study at the postgraduate level.

Let’s examine the key distinctions between undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

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Level of expertise

Significant distinctions between undergraduate and graduate studiesPostgraduate degrees will require a higher level of subject-matter competence than undergraduate degrees, which is the main distinction between undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

With regard to the experiences that students are expected to bring to a postgraduate course, each subject will have different expectations, but for the great majority of courses, everyone is expected to have earned an undergraduate degree. Many students will also be able to draw from a wealth of work experience.

Instead of addressing the broad topics that an undergraduate degree would cover, a postgraduate course will have a more deeper investigation and require specific research of the subject. After completing a postgraduate degree, students should have a solid comprehension of the subject and the specialized knowledge necessary to be regarded as an expert or specialist in that field.

Learning experience

The learning process will be distinct from that of an undergraduate degree because postgraduate courses are taken at a much deeper, more focused level of research into a particular topic. Postgraduate students will typically conduct more independent research, and not every student on the course will concentrate on the same topics.

Students participate and engage in tutorials more than was possibly anticipated for undergraduate students. There will still be a significant amount of independent learning in addition to the lectures and classes if the postgraduate course is totally taught.

Whatever the postgraduate qualification, postgraduate students will need to be very self-motivated and disciplined in order to succeed in their studies. Undergraduate programs – even those taken via distance learning – are almost entirely teaching-based with plenty of guidance from academic staff. Some postgraduate degrees, such as Masters of Research (MRes) or PhDs – are entirely self-driven.

Length of time

A postgraduate course could last as little as a year, as opposed to the three or four years of an undergraduate degree (but the course lengths are much longer if you wish to pursue a PhD!).

When comparing an undergraduate degree with a postgraduate degree in the same field, don’t assume that this indicates it is a simple quick-fix choice. Most courses do not allow for the free time that could have been present during many undergraduate degrees, and students are expected to already be able to read and write at an experienced academic level.

Since the majority of students have chosen their future career routes or have taken time off work to complete the course, many postgraduate courses are highly intensive.

Length of academic year

The academic year for master’s degrees is a little bit longer than for bachelor’s degrees, and the summer is frequently used to write up a substantial piece of scholarly research.

The academic year for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees typically begins in September or October, depending on where you decide to enroll, unless you pick a January start date (which is becoming a more and more common choice). The academic year normally concludes in May or June if you select the more common autumn/fall start date.

You’ll spend more time studying at the postgraduate level over that year than is customary for an undergraduate student because a postgraduate programme is often only a one-year program.

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Shorter postgraduate programs

There are other possibilities for postgraduate study outside a master’s degree, such a PGDip (Postgraduate Diploma) or a PGCert (Postgraduate Certificate).

If a student choose to continue their education after completing a course, these courses can lead to a master’s degree because the credit system typically counts toward the master’s degree.

Students will spend less time studying masters-level topics with PGDips and PGCerts.

Contact times

Students at the postgraduate level typically interact with the institution and academic staff less frequently than undergraduates. In fact, a postgraduate program may only need a few hours per week of contact time with professors and peers, depending on the discipline.

Less time is often spent in lectures, seminars, and tutorials during a postgraduate program and more time is dedicated to independent study. You will probably spend more time interacting with a master’s degree subject if it involves lab work, such as a medical profession or some STEM subjects, than if it is in the humanities or social sciences.

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Entry Prerequisites

Significant distinctions between undergraduate and graduate studiesThe prerequisites you must meet in order to enroll in the course are one of the primary distinctions between undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

Students must have the necessary GCSEs and A-levels, or an equivalent exam like the IB, to be eligible to study for an undergraduate degree. Universities may admit applicants who have professional expertise in a relevant discipline.

The undergraduate degree grades are important for admission to a postgraduate program. Students typically need a 2:1, though occasionally a 2:2 will allow them to enroll in the programme. Depending on the individual course requirements, some colleges will accept any standard of undergraduate degree; nevertheless, a student is often only taken into consideration if they also have relevant work or career experience.

undergraduate vs. postgraduate

Research Techniques

Postgraduate research will often use many of the approaches used in undergraduate research. Basic research techniques are taught to undergraduates, and the majority of their time is spent analyzing previous study findings.

Graduate students learn more sophisticated research techniques, conduct more independent study, and frequently seek to validate their own findings.

Contact with Academic Staff

Students’ interactions with lecturers and other academic staff gradually shift to a relationship closer to that of colleagues after they enter postgraduate studies. It makes sense that students would have gotten to know their professors if they were staying at the same campus.

Academic staff will be on hand to support students as they delve further into a subject they are passionate about, creating a relationship that is distinct from that of an undergraduate. Academic staff who are absolute experts in their disciplines will frequently be matched with students or chosen by them to work with them. Staff lecturers will similarly frequently select their students based on dissertation or thesis ideas, which means they will have a very specific area of mutual interest.

At the graduate level, classes are typically smaller, allowing students to work more closely with professors.


You will be required to write longer, more in-depth essays at the postgraduate level than you would at the undergraduate level. For instance, essays between 1,000 and 3,000 words are typically required of college students. Essays for postgraduate students may be up to 5,000 words or longer.

Another frequent issue for students is to write brief essays that succinctly explain a difficult subject. You might be expected to create a poster, a presentation, a brief written report, or an independent study journal, for instance.

A postgraduate degree will feature a wider range of essay lengths than an undergraduate degree to help students advance their communication and academic writing skills.

Postgraduates are less likely to be handed essay questions and subjects that have already been decided upon, which is another important distinction between undergraduate and postgraduate evaluation. Instead, they should anticipate being given their own separate fields of study to write about and do research, with assessments more likely to be based on their findings.


Dissertation length

The length of the dissertation or thesis is a significant distinction between postgraduate and undergraduate expectations. Although it varies depending on the course, master’s degrees typically need a longer dissertation.

A master’s dissertation will typically be 15,000 words long, compared to an undergraduate dissertation’s 10,000 words.

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Financial differences

Significant distinctions between undergraduate and graduate studiesAnnual fees for many postgraduate programmes are higher than for undergraduate ones. For home students in the UK, the cost of undergraduate degrees is currently capped at £9,250 per year. In particular for international and EU students, postgraduate courses can cost more money annually and have no tuition caps.

Even though postgraduate students typically don’t have the free time to take up part-time employment, it can be less expensive to study a postgraduate course for one year as opposed to three or four as an undergraduate.

Many courses also include extra financing sources, such as completely sponsored spots, bursaries, or scholarships for large numbers of students. This indicates that funding and finances are more complicated for graduate students than for undergraduates.

Both undergraduate and graduate programs can get funding. For instance, in the UK, student loans for undergraduate degrees are now capped at £9,250 for tuition costs, with additional maintenance loans available to those who qualify.

For master’s degrees, student loan borrowing for first-time postgraduate students in the UK is now capped at £11,570; however, this sum may not necessarily pay the entire course fee. However, postgraduate students frequently have access to additional support in the form of bursaries, scholarships, and grants. Additionally, some postgraduate students may qualify for studentships from the university that will cover the whole cost of their enrollment in the program.

undergraduate vs. postgraduate

Are postgraduate credits different from undergraduate?

A standard undergraduate degree requires 360 credits to complete, which are divided equally across the three years and increase by 120 credits per year.

180 credits make up a typical full-time master’s degree; these credits are earned over the course of just one year.

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