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Graduate vs. Undergraduate: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Graduate refers to advanced academic programs after a bachelor's degree, while undergraduate is the study for a first degree, typically a bachelor's.
Graduate vs. Undergraduate

Key Differences

Graduate education involves advanced academic study beyond a bachelor’s degree, often leading to a master’s or doctoral degree. Undergraduate education is the first level of post-secondary education, typically culminating in a bachelor’s degree.
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The coursework in graduate programs is more specialized and research-oriented, focusing on advanced concepts in a specific field. Undergraduate programs provide a broader education, covering general and foundational subjects.
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Graduate students often engage in original research, contributing new knowledge or insights in their field of study. Undergraduates, however, primarily focus on learning existing knowledge and developing foundational skills.
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Admission to graduate programs usually requires an undergraduate degree and often specific prerequisites or experience. Undergraduate programs typically require secondary education completion and standardized test scores.
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Graduate education often leads to professional or academic careers requiring specialized expertise. Undergraduate education is designed to prepare students for a wide range of careers or further education.
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Comparison Chart

Level of Study

Advanced study after bachelor’s degree
First level of post-secondary education
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Coursework Focus

Specialized and research-oriented
General and foundational education
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Research Involvement

Engages in original research
Focuses on learning existing knowledge
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Admission Requirements

Undergraduate degree, prerequisites
Secondary education completion
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Career Preparation

Specialized professional or academic careers
Wide range of careers or further study
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Graduate and Undergraduate Definitions

Graduate

Having a degree from a university or college.
The job required applicants to be college graduates.
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Undergraduate

A student pursuing a bachelor's or associate's degree.
As an undergraduate, she majored in biology.
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Graduate

To be granted an academic degree or diploma
Most of the entering freshmen stayed to graduate.
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Undergraduate

Pertaining to studies leading to a bachelor's degree.
She participated in undergraduate internships each summer.
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Graduate

To change gradually or by degrees
"The most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other" (Charles Darwin).
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Undergraduate

Before earning a first degree from a university or college.
The undergraduate research project was challenging.
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Graduate

To advance to a new level of skill, achievement, or activity
After a month of diving instruction, they all graduated to back flips.
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Undergraduate

Relating to the first phase of post-secondary education.
He took undergraduate courses in engineering.
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Graduate

To grant an academic degree or diploma to
The school has graduated many gifted chemists.
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Undergraduate

Programs and studies for a first degree in college.
The college is known for its excellent undergraduate programs.
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Graduate

Usage Problem To receive an academic degree from
How many chemists graduated the Institute last year?.
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Undergraduate

A college or university student who has not yet received a bachelor's or similar degree.
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Graduate

To arrange or divide into categories, steps, or grades
Graduate an income tax.
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Undergraduate

Of, relating to, or characteristic of undergraduates
Undergraduate courses.
Undergraduate humor.
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Graduate

To divide into marked intervals, especially for use in measurement
Graduate a thermometer.
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Undergraduate

Having the standing of an undergraduate
An undergraduate transfer student.
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Graduate

One who has received an academic degree or diploma.
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Undergraduate

A student at a university who has not yet received a degree.
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Graduate

A graduated container, such as a cylinder or beaker.
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Undergraduate

Of, relating to, or being an undergraduate.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I embarked on a career in publishing.
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Graduate

Possessing an academic degree or diploma.
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Undergraduate

A member of a university or a college who has not taken his first degree; a student in any school who has not completed his course. Contrasted with graduate student.
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Graduate

Of, intended for, or relating to studies beyond a bachelor's degree
Graduate courses.
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Undergraduate

Of or pertaining to an undergraduate, or the body of undergraduates.
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Graduate

A person who is recognized by a university as having completed the requirements of a degree studied at the institution.
If the government wants graduates to stay in the country they should offer more incentives.
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Undergraduate

A university student who has not yet received a first degree
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Graduate

A person who is recognized by a high school as having completed the requirements of a course of study at the school.
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Graduate

(Philippines) A person who is recognized as having completed any level of education.
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Graduate

A graduated (marked) cup or other container, thus fit for measuring.
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Graduate

Graduated, arranged by degrees
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Graduate

Holding an academic degree
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Graduate

Relating to an academic degree
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Graduate

To be recognized by a school or university as having completed the requirements of a degree studied at the institution.
The man graduated in 1967.
Trisha graduated from college.
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Graduate

To be certified as having earned a degree from; to graduate from (an institution).
Trisha graduated college.
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Graduate

(transitive) To certify (a student) as having earned a degree
Indiana University graduated the student.
The college graduated him as soon as he was no longer eligible to play under NCAA rules.
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Graduate

(transitive) To mark (something) with degrees; to divide into regular steps or intervals, as the scale of a thermometer, a scheme of punishment or rewards, etc.
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Graduate

(intransitive) To change gradually.
Sandstone which graduates into gneiss; carnelian sometimes graduates into quartz
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Graduate

To prepare gradually; to arrange, temper, or modify by degrees or to a certain degree; to determine the degrees of.
To graduate the heat of an oven
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Graduate

(chemistry) To bring to a certain degree of consistency, by evaporation, as a fluid.
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Graduate

To taper, as the tail of certain birds.
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Graduate

(Japanese entertainment) Of an idol: to exit a group; or of a virtual YouTuber, to leave a management agency; usually accompanied with "graduation ceremony" send-offs, increased focus on the leaving member, and the like.
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Graduate

To mark with degrees; to divide into regular steps, grades, or intervals, as the scale of a thermometer, a scheme of punishment or rewards, etc.
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Graduate

To admit or elevate to a certain grade or degree; esp., in a college or university, to admit, at the close of the course, to an honorable standing defined by a diploma; as, he was graduated at Yale College.
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Graduate

To prepare gradually; to arrange, temper, or modify by degrees or to a certain degree; to determine the degrees of; as, to graduate the heat of an oven.
Dyers advance and graduate their colors with salts.
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Graduate

To bring to a certain degree of consistency, by evaporation, as a fluid.
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Graduate

To pass by degrees; to change gradually; to shade off; as, sandstone which graduates into gneiss; carnelian sometimes graduates into quartz.
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Graduate

To taper, as the tail of certain birds.
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Graduate

To take a degree in a college or university; to become a graduate; to receive a diploma.
He graduated at Oxford.
He was brought to their bar and asked where he had graduated.
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Graduate

One who has received an academical or professional degree; one who has completed the prescribed course of study in any school or institution of learning.
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Graduate

A graduated cup, tube, flask, or cylinder; a glass measuring container used by apothecaries and chemists. See under Graduated.
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Graduate

Arranged by successive steps or degrees; graduated.
Beginning with the genus, passing through all the graduateand subordinate stages.
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Graduate

A person who has received a degree from a school (high school or college or university)
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Graduate

A measuring instrument for measuring fluid volume; a glass container (cup or cylinder or flask) whose sides are marked with or divided into amounts
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Graduate

Receive an academic degree upon completion of one's studies;
She graduated in 1990
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Graduate

Confer an academic degree upon;
This school graduates 2,000 students each year
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Graduate

Make fine adjustments or divide into marked intervals for optimal measuring;
Calibrate an instrument
Graduate a cylinder
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Graduate

Of or relating to studies beyond a bachelor's degree;
Graduate courses
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Graduate

A person who has completed a bachelor's degree.
The graduate was proud to receive her diploma.
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Graduate

Enrolled in advanced academic study beyond a bachelor’s.
She is a graduate student in astrophysics.
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Graduate

Pertaining to studies after completing an undergraduate degree.
He attended a graduate seminar in philosophy.
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Graduate

Advanced academic programs after a bachelor’s degree.
The university offers a range of graduate programs.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can graduate students teach undergraduates?

Yes, graduate students often teach or assist in undergraduate classes.
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Are undergraduate degrees required for graduate programs?

Typically, yes, an undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for graduate programs.
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What is a graduate student?

A graduate student is someone who is pursuing advanced studies beyond a bachelor’s degree.
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What is an undergraduate student?

An undergraduate student is someone enrolled in post-secondary education leading to a bachelor’s or associate's degree.
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Do undergraduate and graduate students attend the same classes?

While there can be overlap in some courses, undergraduate and graduate students generally have different course requirements and may not attend the same classes.
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How long do undergraduate programs usually last?

Undergraduate programs typically last 4 years for a bachelor’s degree.
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Can undergraduates conduct research?

Yes, many undergraduates participate in research, though it's usually less complex than graduate research.
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Can "graduate" also be a noun?

Yes, "graduate" can be a noun referring to someone who has completed a degree or a diploma program.
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Are graduate students considered full-time or part-time students?

Graduate students can be either full-time or part-time, depending on their course load and program requirements.
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Can students switch between undergraduate and graduate programs?

Yes, students can transition from undergraduate to graduate programs if they meet the admission requirements and choose to pursue further education after completing their bachelor's degree.
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What is a "graduate degree"?

A "graduate degree" is an advanced academic qualification obtained after completing a bachelor's degree, typically at the master's or doctoral level.
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Is an associate's degree considered undergraduate?

Yes, an associate's degree is a type of undergraduate degree that is typically completed in two years.
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What is the focus of undergraduate studies?

Undergraduate studies focus on general education and foundational knowledge in a specific field.
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What is an "undergraduate student"?

An "undergraduate student" is someone who is currently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program and has not yet completed it.
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What is the opposite of "graduate"?

The opposite of "graduate" is "undergraduate," which refers to students pursuing their first bachelor's degree.
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What does "undergraduate" mean?

"Undergraduate" refers to students who are pursuing their first bachelor's degree at a college or university.
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What are some common undergraduate majors?

Common undergraduate majors include fields like biology, psychology, economics, and computer science.
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Can "undergraduate" also be used as an adjective?

Yes, "undergraduate" can be used as an adjective to describe programs, courses, or students at the bachelor's degree level.
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Nov 18, 2023

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