Difference Between Graduate and Undergraduate with Proper Definition and Brief Explanation

In the United States, an undergraduate or “college student” is a student who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree (usually 4 years) at a college or university or a 2-year associate degree program at a university, community college, or vocational school / technique. A graduate or “graduate student” is a student who, after having earned a bachelor’s degree, is now pursuing a master’s or “graduate degree” in a 1- to 6-year graduate program usually completed in 2-3 years.               Graduate and Undergraduate

These concepts are often confused, because the terminology in much of the rest of the world is different. What is known as undergraduate study in the United States is known as graduate study in most other countries. And the equivalent for graduates (graduate students, graduate studies) in the United States is known as graduates (or graduate students, graduate studies) in most of the rest of the world.

Comparative graph                                 Graduate and Undergraduate

Comparative chart of graduates versus undergraduate students

Graduate Undergraduate
Meaning (in the US) A graduate program is a 1- to 6-year university master’s program, for someone who already has a bachelor’s degree. An undergraduate program is a 4-year bachelor’s degree program or a 2-year associate degree program.
Academic charge 4 courses / 12 credits per semester / quarter 5-7 courses / 15-21 credits per semester / trimester
Registration $ 30,000 + in public colleges / universities $ 40,000 + in private colleges / universities $ 3,000 for Associates / 2-year degree $ 9,000 + for 4-year degree, state residents at public colleges / universities $ 23,000 + for 4-year degree, out-of-state residents at public colleges / universities $ 31,000 + for 4-year degree years, private schools
Admission requirements Bachelor’s degree, application and fee (per school), GRE test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation (may be optional), FAFSA or other financial aid High school diploma, application and fee (per school), SAT scores, ACT scores, TOEFL scores (sometimes), high school transcript, letters of recommendation (may be optional), FAFSA or other financial help

Contents: Graduate vs Undergraduate

  • 1 video explaining the differences
  • 2 higher education programs
    • 2.1 Outside the US
  • 3 admission requirements
    • 3.1 GPA
  • 4 references

Higher education programs

In the US, graduate students attend accredited colleges and universities for 1-6 years (usually 2-3) after earning a bachelor’s degree to specialize in a field and increase their earning power by earning a master’s or doctorate. The general master’s degrees are Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS or MSc); Globally, other more common and specialized titles include

  • Master of Education (MEd)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Music Master (MMus)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Research Master (Mares)
  • Master of Theology (MTh)

College degrees in the US, which are acquired after completing a 4-year college or university program, are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc). There are dozens of undergraduate majors that are called tagged degrees in everything from architecture to information systems, biology to English literature, and management to performance (theatrical).

Two-Year Associate of Arts (AA or AA) also offers dozens of honors. These degrees are primarily geared toward support positions in a variety of fields including automotive maintenance, early childhood special education, culinary arts, healthcare, law office administration, graphic arts, etc.

Outside the United States

While many countries consider US college degrees to be graduate degrees in their country, and US graduates to be postgraduate appointments, degrees earned in the US are widely accepted in all over the world as indications of a graduate knowledge, ability and performance value. In fact, nearly one million of the 4.5 million international students seeking college degrees do so in the United States because of its value in the global job market.

Admission requirements

Generally, undergraduate students pursuing a bachelor’s degree are required to take the Aptitude Test / Academic Assessment (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT). International students may also have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Test scores from all of these exams influence the applicant’s choice of schools and eligibility for them. Some colleges and universities may require a resume or personal profile and letter (s) of recommendation.

College students attending a two-year community college or vocational or occupational school must, in almost all cases, have a 2.0 GPA, a high school diploma. They may also be required to take a school entrance exam and pass the language and communication skills test.

For admission to graduate school, applicants must also have a bachelor’s degree and, in most cases, a high grade point average (GPA) in academic achievement. Applicants are almost always required to take the standardized Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test and submit test scores with the application. The applicant’s bachelor’s transcript and usually the letter (s) of commendation are also required.

Colleges and universities for all degree activities expect the applicant to complete a full application (specific to the school in most cases), and often include an essay on a topic relevant to the applicant’s academic search, as well as a personal profile. These applications come with an application fee of $ 35 to $ 60 on average, although some colleges do not require a fee and others have a higher one. Most schools also require the applicant to apply for financial aid as part of the process; The U.S. Department of Education offers the most comprehensive online application system: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


  • Grad School Admission: Minimum GPA of 3.0-3.3
  • Undergraduate School Admission: Average 3.0 GPA for a large selection of school options, and a minimum of 3.75 for Ivy League and Top 10 schools
  • Vocational / Occupational 2-year grades: 2.0 minimum GPA

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