Students considering education in other countries might be confused with an abundance of new words and complicated names that accompany their search for a potential programme. It is not that easy to grasp the difference between programmes or phrases like undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate. In addition, all these terms might have a slightly different meaning in different countries. The following article will help you to understand the difference between Undergraduate, Graduate, and Postgraduate levels.
All these countries participate in the Bologna Education System, which encompasses three higher education levels: Bachelor's, Master and Doctoral degree studies. The following article will help you decide which level and type of certificate/diploma is most appropriate for your educational pathway.
- Foundation degree (Associate's degree)
- Diplomas and certificates
- Bachelor's degree
- Sandwich degree (Joint degree)
Graduate & Postgraduate degrees
- Graduate diplomas and certificates
- Bachelor's Honours degree
- Postgraduate diplomas and certificates
- Master's degree
- PhD/Doctoral degree
What is an Undergraduate degree programme?
Undergraduate programmes include studying a large number of subjects and creating the initial foundation for further higher education or career development. Undergraduate programmes depend on the country's education system. However, they all lead to a bachelor's degree. These programmes are designed to help school graduates get the first level of higher education.
Bachelor's degree is the first stage of higher education and the most popular among students. This programme lasts from 3 to 6 years, depending on the field of study, and gives the right to gain about 180-240 credits (ECTS), depending on the programme.
* 1 credit = 25-30 hours (depending on the country)
To enroll in a Bachelor's degree programme, students need to have a high school diploma. International students must provide an equivalent document of education according to the requirements of the chosen country. Also, most international students must declare proof of language level for the desired programme.
There are several types of Bachelor's degrees in different study areas, below are the essential degrees:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) - The Bachelor of Arts is awarded to students in the liberal arts and includes theoretical knowledge. Duration 3-4 years.
*In the UK this might be issued in all disciplines
- Bachelor of Science (BSc) - The Bachelor of Science is awarded to students who have completed theoretical and practical natural sciences, computer science, mathematics, and sometimes psychology and social sciences. Duration 3-4 years.
- Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) - Bachelor of Engineering Science is awarded in engineering disciplines. This programme includes extensive practical training of students, which helps students quickly find a job in the future. Duration 3-5 years.
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) - The Bachelor of Business Administration includes budgeting, accounting, risk management, and planning. Duration 3-4 years.
- Bachelor of Education (BEd) - The Bachelor of Education prepares students to work as teachers. Duration 3-4 years.
- Bachelor of Laws (LLB) - The Bachelor of Law is awarded in law sciences. Duration 3-4 years.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BN, BSN, BScN) - The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is awarded in science and nursing principles. The number of courses varies within each Bachelor's degree. Duration 3-4 years.
- Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (BM, BMed, MBBS, etc.) - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery are major medical degrees. However, there may be differences between the British system and the US system. Duration 5-6 years.
- Bachelor of Computer Science (BSC) - The Bachelor of Computer Science is awarded in computer science, including computing's mathematical and theoretical foundations. Duration 3-5 years.
Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland still have a tradition of awarding Honours degrees (Hons.) and simple degrees (Pass Degree). Most commonly it refers to a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree containing a larger volume of material or a higher standard and focus of study, or both, rather than an "ordinary", "general" or "pass" bachelor's degree.
Depending on the educational provider, students have the opportunity to study in two Bachelor's programmes simultaneously, sometimes in different countries, which will allow them to receive two Bachelor's degrees (Sandwich degree or Joint degree or in New Zealand Con-joined degree) upon completion.
In some countries, including Russia, there are still specialist programmes that last for five years. However, most countries participating in the Bologna Process do not offer this degree. According to this system, diplomas with a specialist degree can be equated to Bachelor's or Master's degrees, depending on the country and available credits (ECTS).
Prospects after studying Undergraduate programmes
After completing an undergraduate programme, students choose to start their careers or continue their studies in graduate/postgraduate degree programmes. Many undergraduate programmes include hands-on courses that allow students to have real-world experience and find employment faster. If students decide to continue their education, then, according to the accumulated credits (ECTS), they can apply for the following stages of higher education. It is worth noting that a bachelor's degree gives advantages in choosing a profession. However, for some positions, a higher degree of education is required.
Graduate & Postgraduate degrees
What is the Graduate & Postgraduate degree programme?
Graduate and Postgraduate degrees have many similarities and are used interchangeably. For example, the term "undergraduate" refers to an undergraduate degree, while "postgraduate" is used to describe graduate students studying for a second qualification, usually as a Master's degree. A Graduate degree is considered to be any degree that is higher than an undergraduate degree. Depending on the country of study, the programme may refer to both Graduate and Postgraduate programmes. In addition, in some countries it is customary to refer a Master's degree as a Graduate Degree and a Doctoral degree as a Postgraduate degree, respectively. Graduate & Postgraduate degree programmes aim to prepare research scientists and educators for the higher education system. To avoid confusion, it is best to follow the terms used by the university you apply for.
Postgraduate education begins with a Master's degree designed to make students "masters" in a particular field of science. The duration of this level is from one to two years. In some programmes, students may set up the programme's intensity, which can continue indefinitely until the required number of teaching hours is achieved. (measured in ECTS credits and individually for each programme). Thus, the Master's degree combines the peculiarities of training in undergraduate and postgraduate studies and is considered an intermediate stage.
Master's degree programmes run differently at different institutions and departments, as some programmes require a dissertation, while others do not. Some programmes also include internships and practical research. Medical specialties have several special requirements, such as courses in epidemiology and clinical research. Requirements for Master's programmes may differ depending on the country of study.
PhD / Doctoral degree
PhD is the highest degree in teaching. PhD and doctoral degrees are awarded only after the achievement of a PhD thesis. This programme includes an in-depth specialization or study in a particular field and is designed to demonstrate a significant level of aptitude for the degree holder. A Doctoral degree programme lasts from three to eight years on average, depending on the type of study and programme.
In the European Union countries, only students with Master's degrees have the right to enter and continue their studies in graduate school to reach a Doctoral degree. However, students can apply for the Doctoral degree immediately after completing their Bachelor's degree in the UK and Canada.
Prospects after Graduate & Postgraduate programmes
Graduates with higher qualifications usually have higher-paying jobs. They tend to have more job opportunities as the Postgraduate qualification helps employers identify more qualified candidates in a competitive labour market. After completing the Postgraduate study, graduates have advanced knowledge in a particular area that allows for self-realization or career growth. Having received an appropriate degree, graduates can work as teachers in higher educational institutions and contribute to the accumulation of knowledge and the development of science in general.