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Last Updated: July 09, 2021

Graduate Vs. Undergraduate Studies

The United States still continues to be one of the best places for students all over the world to visit. With universities that are ranked among the top in the world, United States offers some of the best opportunities for all graduate and undergraduate students. While applying to colleges and universities in the US, international candidates will often encounter words like graduate and undergraduate courses which may be used in contexts different from that of common use. Understanding the name of the course and what they imply is important when applying to courses abroad.

The terms undergraduate and graduate both refer to the different levels of education, each of which can provide the candidate with different kinds of benefits once they have been completed. While some courses require candidates to do only an undergraduate program in order to receive high-paying jobs, some other fields of study will require a graduate program in order to receive a similar pay scale. The essential difference between both courses has been listed on this page.

Differences between Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Undergraduate is another term provided for a bachelor’s degree done at any university or college in any discipline. The duration of an undergraduate course ranges between 1 to 6 years where the most common duration of courses is 3 to 4 years. Professional courses at undergraduate levels often have a duration of 4 years whereas arts courses can take up more time and effort. Along with bachelor’s degrees, diplomas, and other associate programs at community colleges and technical institutes or vocational institutes are also referred to as undergraduate courses. In general, it can be stated that the course candidates take right after their high school education is termed to be an undergraduate course.

Graduate programs, on the other hand, are otherwise known as master’s programs and doctoral programs along with professional degrees. The duration of graduate programs can range between 1 to 6 years in general where the most common professional courses take a duration of only 2 years in all. Doctoral programs, on the other hand, can take anywhere between 4 to 6 years or above in all due to their basis in research. Most of the time, graduate programs will require candidates to complete projects or internships specific to the field in order to complete the course.

The concepts can often be confusing due to the terminologies being used differently in other countries across the world. What is known as undergraduate studies in the United States is known as graduate studies in all other countries and students who are deemed to be graduates in the United States are known to be post-graduates in other countries.

Eligibility for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Since undergraduate studies are done right after high school, the eligibility requirements for the same generally range from GPA, TOEFL/IELTS scores, SAT/ACT scores along with other factors like statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, etc. Having a high school diploma completed within a high school or other equivalency certificates like GED can also be submitted for candidates to get admission in undergraduate courses. If candidates require financial aid, they will also have to fill up the FAFSA form in order to be get federal student aid.

Since graduate studies are a level higher than undergraduate studies, it is required for candidates to submit their transcripts from their undergraduate course along with their GPA from the same course. It is also mandatory for candidates to collect their letters of recommendation, and have GRE or GMAT scores along with the TOEFL/IELTS scores. The score range will be specified for different courses and institutions based on which the candidate can apply.

Tuition Fee for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Most graduate programs cost upwards of $30,000 at public colleges or universities while private universities might charge upwards of $40,000. Undergraduate programs cost approximately $3,000 for Associate programs and $9,500 (in-state) and ~20,000 (out of state) for any 4-year degree at public institutions (it can be a lot more depending on College/University). Degrees (4 years) may cost upwards of $32,000 at private colleges.

Coursework for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

The coursework for graduate programs includes 4 courses that allow students to earn 12 credits every semester or trimester depending on the college or university they are studying in. The coursework for undergraduate programs, on the other hand, includes 5-7 courses every semester or trimester that may include anything between 15 to 21 credits. The credits can be earned by choosing subjects as their major and minor both of which have different credit scores and have to be kept track of by the student. The course work involved for both these programs varies in the sense that undergraduate programs are more generalized in nature while graduate programs narrow down the subjects and specialize only in particular subjects.

Though the concepts can be confusing, and whenever candidates are looking for colleges, they need to ensure that they check all the fine details involved. Considering the vast differences between the two, one needs to be aware of all the nuances among graduate and undergraduate degrees. Most students who come to the United States from other countries have a harder time grasping the differences in the education system and should talk to an education expert before applying for any course.

The method of preparation for both these types of programs is also different. Candidates who want to take up graduate programs must keep in mind that an in-depth knowledge of the subject they are specializing in is absolutely necessary to receive admission for the program. This is also because of the tight competition among the candidates considering the number of people applying and the number of seats available. Graduate programs often always have way lesser seats available than undergraduate programs.

Methods of Teaching

Undergraduate programs, due to the sheer size of the classrooms, are usually taken as lectures and class discussions along with group activities. Due to the generalized approach of the course and the basic information regarding the field of study that is being provided, professors often opt for methods of teaching that are both engaging for students and can help them understand the course in an interactive manner. Students will also be provided with assignments and sometimes even impromptu tests which will assess their learning from time to time.

Graduate programs, often have methods of teaching that are suited for smaller classrooms. For master’s programs, there might be lectures as part of the overall structure of teaching, but essentially, classrooms will be more interactive in nature. Teaching often goes beyond what is in the syllabus and healthy discussions will be encouraged for the same. Students and scholars generally have more opportunities of being personally mentored by their professor or guide if they are doing their Ph.D.


While doing both undergraduate and graduate programs, candidates will have the opportunity of doing internships in companies outside the campus. If the candidate is doing their doctoral thesis, they will also have the opportunity of being teaching assistants or research assistants within their own campus. The internships that students get may be both paid or unpaid depending on the place and often involve a lot of paperwork when it comes to being an international student. But candidates who have been able to do these internships and projects will also have better job opportunities since it comes under work experience after the course is complete.

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