Graduate vs Postgraduate: Are They Any Different?

After students acquire their undergraduate degree, they usually have two options; to get a job or continue into advanced studies. But there is a lot of confusion about what a graduate and postgraduate degree are.

One of the reasons for the confusion is that countries have different names for their undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degree programs. The term “graduate” is also different from “postgraduate”.

However, you should note that both a graduate degree and a postgraduate degree mean the same thing in the United States. You can use them interchangeably to refer to any degree above the undergraduate degree.

That said, let’s examine the details of a postgraduate or graduate degree in this article.

Difference between a graduate and a postgraduate?

A graduate is someone who has satisfied the requirements for the award of a degree after completing a course of study in a university or college. Graduates are those with a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree.

On the other hand, postgraduates are students who are undergoing further studies after completing a bachelor’s degree. In other words, anyone running a master’s or doctorate degree program is a postgraduate.

Although associate’s degree holders are considered graduates, they are not postgraduates if they decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Anyone running a bachelor’s degree program is still an undergraduate.

What is a graduate degree?

A graduate degree is any degree program that’s higher than a bachelor’s degree. The Graduate degree program aims to give students core and in-depth knowledge in an aspect of their field of study.

Both master’s degrees and doctoral degrees fall into this category. A master’s degree program takes one to two years of study. Some programs may require that you write a research paper or thesis to graduate.

In contrast, a doctorate is the highest level of education for students. It prepares you to become an expert or specialist in a field of study.

It takes four to six years of study to complete. Students are usually required to write a dissertation as a criterion to graduate from a doctoral degree program.

To get accepted into a graduate degree program, students must have earned a bachelor’s degree from a college or university.

What is a postgraduate degree?

A postgraduate degree actually means the same as a graduate degree. You could refer to a master’s degree or doctorate as a postgraduate degree.

Like graduate degrees, post-graduate degrees allow students to continue in specialized studies and enhance their knowledge and expertise in a career path.

Through research publications, postgraduate studies also add to the knowledge in a field of study leading to the discovery of new knowledge and helping further research.

Let us look deeper into what a master’s and doctoral degree entails to understand postgraduate programs better.

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is the first graduate degree program you’d take after earning a bachelor’s degree. Most of them require you to write a thesis to graduate.

Most master’s degree programs also require 40 hours of credit and run for a year in the US and UK, apart from professional master’s programs like architecture and engineering which run for two to three years.

Master’s degrees are categorized based on discipline, and they include:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MSc)
  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  • Master of Research (MRes)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)

1. Master of Arts (MA)

Those who study courses within the humanities and social sciences like linguistics, history, political science, etc. are usually awarded a master of arts degree.

However, some universities may offer a master’s of art degree to students within mathematics and national sciences disciplines. Getting this degree may or may not require writing a thesis.

2. Master of Science (MSc)

The master of science is a master’s degree awarded to students studying science, engineering, and medicine.

But like masters of art, some universities may award the degree to students with the humanities and social sciences disciplines. Unlike an MA degree, students must write a thesis to qualify for an MSc degree.

3. Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

MPhil also known as postgraduate research master’s is considered the most advanced master’s degree for students. It involves carrying out independent research as a master’s student and less taught units and assessments.

Unlike other masters, MPhil is purely a research degree. Students undertake their work under the guidance of a supervisor but there will be no scheduled classes or assessments.

A Master of Philosophy looks more like a Ph.D. program than a master’s. So, you can study it as a standalone qualification or as part of the steps toward Ph.D. registration.

4. Master of Research (MRes)

Like MPhil, a master’s of the research program is heavily based on research but it will include some taught units. It helps to prepare students for doctoral research in most cases.

It can also be useful in non-academic career paths that value high-research skills but don’t necessarily require a doctorate degree.

Additionally, some disciplines like Anthropology undertake practice-led research. As such, students may mean to enroll in an MRes degree program.

5. MEng and MArch

Apart from the benefits of gaining more knowledge and expertise in a field through further studies, students take masters in fields like architecture and engineering as part of the process of becoming a professional in their field.

Specialized courses as these could take up to two years to complete. Students who possess these types of degrees also enjoy better career prospects and better pay than those with a bachelor’s degree.


A doctoral degree or Ph.D. is the highest level of academic qualification available. It is for students who want to study more after completing their master’s degree program.

Many students undertake Ph.D. programs for the sake of enhancing their professional careers in teaching or research. Some do it to gain more expertise in careers outside of academics while some pursue a doctorate degree for personal fulfillment.

Whatever the case, a Ph.D. requires students to undertake a dissertation which is extensive research on their field before graduating.

Postgraduate Diploma

These are postgraduate programs that do not require students to write a dissertation or thesis. They offer the same level of qualification as a master’s degree but are relatively shorter since they do not require a dissertation.

If you’re interested in doing a master’s but finishing within a shorter frame and skipping the stress of writing a thesis, a postgraduate diploma is perfect for you. PGDip takes 30 weeks, divided into two terms to complete.

Individuals who want to switch careers can also take this route to get a master’s degree in a new field. A popular example is the postgraduate diploma in education for those who didn’t study education but wish to enter into the teaching profession.

Postgraduate certificate

This is the shortest postgraduate program with as 15 weeks of completion. It is similar to a PGDip only that you finish in less time.

Enrolling for a PGCert is great for those who are shuffling studies with work and family. It is also an avenue for individuals who wish to switch careers and it opens up opportunities for better jobs.


Are graduate and postgraduate the same?


Both graduate and postgraduate can be used interchangeably. They refer to degree programs advanced or higher than bachelor’s degrees.

Is Ph.D. a postgraduate?


A Ph.D. is the highest postgraduate degree program.

Is a graduate degree higher than an undergraduate degree?


Graduate degrees which include master’s and doctorate are higher than bachelor’s or associate degrees.

What are the entry requirements for postgraduate degrees?

You need to have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree program before you can be accepted into postgraduate education.


Now that you know that both graduate and postgraduate degrees mean the same thing, you should begin working on getting yours for better career prospects.

You don’t even have to quit your job to enroll as a full-time student, there are many part-time master’s degree programs for you.

If you’re someone who is working in the academia or research field, going for a doctorate will be really beneficial. You may read the article on the meaning and requirements of a research professor.

I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.