Difference Between Graduate and Undergraduate

Graduate and undergraduate degrees are among the several options when it comes to higher education. There is confusion regarding these terms, especially because the usage of graduate and undergraduate studies vary between the U.S. and other countries. Here are the differences of a graduate and undergraduate degree in the United States.


A graduate program is a specialized degree that comes after undergraduate studies. The topics covered in these programs are more specific and focused on a particular field. They are also more advanced and are composed of smaller classes, usually even on a one-on-one basis. Graduate programs lean more on research and defense rather than group lectures or tests. Unlike undergraduate studies, the time taken to finish a graduate course can be as fast as several weeks of condensed study or can take up to six years of research.


Undergraduate programs are four-year course studies that can lead to an associate or bachelor’s degree. They are composed of more general studies and typically have larger classes than graduate programs. Aside from the major subjects taken, undergraduate studies also take up more general subjects such as math or philosophy.

Comparison Board

Definition Specialized program that results in a master’s or doctoral degree A four-year course program with a more generalized curriculum that results in an associate or bachelor’s degree
Length From less than a year to more than six years Typically four years, two years in some courses like community classes or vocational school
Tuition Average of $30,000 public, $40,000 private Between $3,000 to $31,000 depending on the type of course and the institution
Prerequisites Undergraduate degree Secondary education
Resulting degree Master’s or doctoral Associate or bachelor’s degree


Venn Diagram