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What is the Difference Between Undergraduate and Postgraduate Studies?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

There are many differences between undergraduate and postgraduate studies, though in general postgraduate work is often more focused on a particular field of inquiry. Undergraduate and postgraduate studies also differ in the amount of work and research students must do in and out of the classroom. Other differences between undergraduate and postgraduate studies include class sizes and the requirements to complete such studies and earn a degree.

One of the major differences between undergraduate and postgraduate studies is the focus of the classes students take in these programs. Undergraduate students often take classes in their subject area, as well as other areas to gain a more well-rounded and general education. Postgraduate students, on the other hand, tend to focus more on their particular subject area, often with an emphasis on one particular aspect of their subject area.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

While both undergraduate and postgraduate studies often include attending classes and completing work outside of a classroom, there are a number of differences between how students complete these studies. Undergraduate work is often done primarily in the classroom. Though professors regularly assign work to be done outside of class, which can include writing papers and completing other assignments, students mostly learn within the classroom. Work done outside of the class usually serves to reinforce what students learn within the classroom.

Postgraduate work, on the other hand, often takes place outside of the classroom. This includes not only assignments or papers written outside of class, but a great deal of research and individual learning that occurs outside of class as well. While group discussions and learning from a professor are still typically involved in postgraduate work, many professors expect postgraduate students to take on a great deal more responsibility for their own learning.

Another difference between undergraduate and postgraduate studies is the amount of research required for classes in such programs. Undergraduate students typically perform research for papers, but this research is often much less than what is required of postgraduate students. Many postgraduate students are expected to perform individual research to establish original ideas and findings, which they are expected to report upon to an advisory professor.

Classroom sizes can also be different between undergraduate and postgraduate studies, with undergraduate classes commonly being much larger. Undergraduate students typically receive their degree for completing the classes necessary for the program in which they are majoring. Postgraduate students, on the other hand, typically have to complete the classes necessary for their program, and then either pass a test to receive their degree or prepare a thesis through research and extensive writing that they present prior to completion of a program.

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Discussion Comments


Another difference is that it's much easier to get funding for postgraduate work. There is a better ratio of scholarships available for students and if you achieve well you can almost always work as a teaching assistant and have your classes paid for that way.

It's a bit of extra work, but postgraduate studies are so expensive, I'm not sure many people could afford them, otherwise.


@Iluviaporos - Generally, though, I'd say I enjoyed the postgraduate classes I've done much more than the undergraduate, just because they were usually more about discussion and actual research, rather than just listening to someone else lecture us.

If you've gotten to the postgraduate level they know that you can handle some real work, so they don't coddle you. The professors expect good things of you and therefore they provide you will chances to do good things.

Plus, there is much more of an element of choice involved. Although I have to confess that by the time I finished my postgraduate studies I was sick of what I had chosen to do, but I think that would have been true of any subject!


It depends a great deal on a lot of things as to what your studies will be like in each case. I've been to a few different universities and taken a lot of different classes, both postgraduate and undergraduate. Some of my undergraduate classes were very intimate and well supported and conducted mostly through field-work and some of my postgraduate classes were basically just anonymous lectures.

It also depends on whether you are completing a thesis or if your school requires you to take certain classes. If you have to complete certain classes then they are probably going to be huge and fairly impersonal, because a lot of the people taking them don't want to be there.

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