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The differences between undergraduate and graduate schools are many but often they’re not that obvious. Some differences are more subtle, such as the classroom environment and cost.; others tend to be more pronounced.

So, what is the difference between undergraduate and graduate students, their workload, admission requirements, and career options? What does graduate level mean? Read on to find out.

1. Types of Degrees They Offer

Both undergraduate and graduate schools offer a number of different degrees. For undergraduate studies, you can get one of the following degrees:

  • An associate degree is the first level of higher education, which involves general learning and a few specialized courses which can help students’ professional development.
  • A Bachelor’s degree is the second level of higher education and although it involves general subjects as well, students can choose a specific major which will help them with their career in the future.


As for graduate studies, the degrees that fall in this category are:

  • A Master’s degree is a graduate degree that usually focuses on a specific area of research and it’s career-specific, which then allows students to either enter the workforce or continue with doctoral studies.
  • A doctoral degree is the highest degree students can earn and it means Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. Students with such degrees go on to either become professors or researchers.
  • A professional degree is also a doctoral degree that is awarded to specific fields. For instance, Doctor of Medicine for physicians, Juris Doctor to practice law, Doctor of Pharmacy for working in the pharmaceutical industry, and Doctor of Education for educational leadership roles, etc.

2. Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for an undergraduate program are relatively simple. You will need a high school diploma or the equivalent, an ID, copies of high school transcripts, etc. 

At Bay Atlantic University, you will also need a personal essay, a completed online application, two letters of recommendation, and the application fee. Also, if you’re an international student looking to start your studies at BAU, you will need an official evaluation of the high school transcript, a passport, a bank statement, and proof of English proficiency.

As far as admission requirements for a graduate program go, it’s a little more difficult than undergraduate. The main requirement is a bachelor’s degree. Often, GRE standardized test scores, statements of purpose or research proposals, and writing samples will be required to apply for a graduate program.

At BAU, you will need a completed online application, undergraduate transcripts, a photocopy of government-issued ID, two letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. For international students, they will also need a bank statement, an official bachelor’s degree transcript, and English language proficiency proof.



3. Program Length

The length of a study program varies depending on numerous factors, such as the status of the student (full-time or part-time), if they’re transferring schools, changing majors, etc. However, that mostly happens in undergraduate studies, since graduate programs are harder to switch because of the specific nature of the program.

An associate degree program will usually last around two years to complete, and a bachelor’s degree program usually takes around four years to complete. In case someone transfers from an associate degree program to a bachelor’s, they will need to complete two additional years.

Most master’s degree programs take around two years to complete, but in some cases, it can take up to four years depending on how in-depth the studies are. While professional degrees take three to four years to complete on average, doctoral programs can take six or more years to finish due to the specialized nature of said programs.


4. Coursework

Another one of the key differences between undergraduate and graduate programs is the coursework required for each. While an undergraduate course is more general and involves more classes, graduate programs often have three to four specialized classes per semester.

An undergraduate program will usually require around 15 credits per semester, while a graduate program requires 9 credits. 

5. Workload

Although a graduate program requires fewer credits per semester, graduate courses frequently involve more reading and research to complete. 

In a graduate program, there will be fewer courses, and consequently fewer papers and exams to take. However, since these are few, they call for a level of expertise, and students are expected to demonstrate their proficiency in the given subjects.

6. Classroom Environment

Although classroom size and general environment may differ depending on the university, there are some general differences between graduate and undergraduate classrooms.

Undergraduate classes tend to be bigger in size and there is usually a professor who leads the class, while students work individually. Although many courses encourage students to participate in class, there are courses specifically built for students to ask questions and discuss class materials.

As opposed to undergraduate classes, graduate ones are often smaller in size and they are more likely to be intensely focused on a certain field with increased difficulty. These classes are usually built around interactivity and the professor expects students to be prepared and contribute to class discussions. Also, it is not unusual for students to ask professors to be their mentors.



7. Career Options

Career options might be one of the more obvious differences between graduate and undergraduate degrees. Usually, graduates have more job options and higher salaries than those who finished undergraduate studies.

For reference, the average salaries according to a survey by the BLS are:

8. Cost

The tuition cost for graduate and undergraduate programs varies greatly, depending on the institution, the state it’s in, scholarships, grants, etc. However, on average, graduate programs tend to cost less than undergraduate studies. In addition, graduate loans may be easier to pay off due to the majority of graduate students working at the same time while getting their degree.


From the types of degrees included in undergraduate and graduate studies, to program length and admission requirements, we saw the many differences between these programs. Even the classroom environment changes as you go up in high education levels; however, there are quite a few similarities to them.

If you have any further questions or want to enter in one of the aforementioned degrees at BAU, feel free to contact us!



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