Undergraduate/ Graduate / PostGraduate

Discussion in 'English Only' started by droopycom, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. droopycom New Member

    France / French

    I'm not familiar with the US education system. So I'm trying to find out exactly what is a Graduate/Postgraduate student/course in the US system?

    For now I'm assuming the following:

    Once you graduate from High School, you become a Graduate. To obtain a Bachelor degree, you follow Graduate courses (as a Graduate Student). Once you get your Bachelor degree you and want to get a Master, you go do some Postgraduate Courses as a Postgraduate Student.

    Is that correct ?


    -- F.G.
  2. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English

    This is my understanding. When you graduate high school you might be referred to as a "graduate" for a very short period of time, but as soon as you matriculate and begin Unversity classes, you are an undergraduate.

    Grades 9-12: high school student

    First 4 years of College: Undergraduate Student

    Working on Masters degree : Graduate Student

    Taking courses after completing your Masters degree: Postgraduate, or Doctoral Student.
  3. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    In the US, Graduate School refers to education betwen the BA and the PhD. PhD candidates are still called graduate students in my experience. I've not heard postgraduate used in the US.

    In the UK, however, if you continue your studies after the BA you become a postgraduate. The American 'graduate' is catching on, though.

    So for me: US graduate = UK postgraduate
  4. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    After "graduating" (which sounds silly, really) from high school, one holds a high school diploma.

    When working on an undergraduate degree (usually a bachelor's degree) at a college or university, one is called an undergraduate.

    Eg: I did my undergrad work at XX university.

    When working on a graduate degree (a master's or doctorate [Ph.D.]), one is considered a graduate student. When he obtains that master's or doctorate, then he holds a graduate degree.

    Only after obtaining the Ph.D. and further studying in the area of the Ph.D. is one considered a post-graduate student. Also, another term we us is post-doc (for post-doctoral).
  5. swift_precision Senior Member

    Yep, modgirl is correct.
  6. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Postgraduate is very common in the US in my experience, describing education post-Masters level (and getting a Masters is graduate education, as has been said). I was just surprised to see that in your experience somewhere in the States it is not used.
  7. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    My firsthand experience:
    The term "graduate" refers to both MA (and equivalents) and PhD in the U.S.
    "Postgraduate" exists in some fields, but not as a study program. One can obtain a postgraduate fellowship (which is usually project driven) before one gets fully immersed the regular teaching&research chores.
    Outside the U.S., or more precisely in Europe (I am not that much aware of the classification of academic degrees elsewhere) "postgradual" often means PhD but not MA. Very few people graduate just with a BA in Europe. MA is a standard for a vast majority of university students. But the American system has been taking root in Europe and many European study programs are being re-modelled.
    Off topic: There has recently been a most interesting survey on university education in The Economist.

  8. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    Does that include Britain? If I'm not mistaken, Cambridge still has many, many undergraduate students.
  9. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Let me clarify: A majority of European students obtain their BA and almost automatically proceed to the MA degrees. BA is not considered a full-fledged terminal degree in Europe, although it is terminal formally.

  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In the UK, most Bxxx degrees are recognised as terminal.:D
    Oxford and Cambridge graduates will either be Mxxx or become Mxxx in time. Elsewhere, getting to Mxxx requires additional study and examination and/or thesis.
    This is probably a serious over-simplification - especially in relation to the arcane practices of Oxbridge.
    Put even more simply, though, most people I know who went to university have Bxxx degrees only.
  11. DesertCat Senior Member

    inglese | English
    There is also the term "doctoral candidate" though it's meaning may vary by school. But, I think of it as the person who has taken all of their formal classes and is working on the thesis portion of their PhD.
  12. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    You probably knew this, but to clarify for others, a doctoral thesis is a dissertation.
  13. Barking Mad New Member

    I would agree with Modgirl regarding the informal us of graduate. Her reply is a good guide to using it to distinguish where one is in the US higher education (ie, post-high school), scheme of things.

    It is, though, commonly and properly used with respect to completion of secondary education (ie, high school); eg, a "high school graduate."
  14. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    Yes. A doctoral candidate is someone who has satisfied all requirements for obtaining the PhD other than the dissertation. Usually this means coursework and prelims (exams). In other words, they're ABD (all but dissertation), a stage which is almost a qualification in its own right and at which plenty of people stop.

    (UK thesis = US dissertation (at the PhD level))

    (PS for lsp: my experience is in the upper midwest. I find it interesting that it varies.)
  15. ell62 New Member

    Afrikaans and from South Africa
    So, if I understand correctly. If I only have my high school diploma I would then be a graduate according to the UK qualifications. But on entry to a college/university I would then start with a post graduate course?
  16. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    A person who has "graduated" with a US High School Diploma is definitely not a graduate in UK.

    At the end of high school in UK, you get a GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education.

    In the UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand you graduate from a university.
    A student at a university reading/studying for a degree is called an "undergraduate".

    If a job ad asks for a 'graduate' it means a person with a university degree.
  17. Dear forum members!!!

    Recently I posted a thread dealing with the name of a person who in charge of students at a college, university or institute. It turned out that such people are called in the UK and the USA in a different way (advisor and tutor, respectively). Now I want to specify one more aspect which is closely connected with studying since it might also be found ambiguous.

    1) Graduate - someone who has finished a school, a university, a driving school etc.

    2) Undergraduate - a person studying at the last course of a University or in the last form (grade) at school and who is defending his graduation project or taking his final (graduation) examinations in a year

    3) Postgraduate - someone who has been already confered on a master's degree and who is know continuing his education further with the intention of defending a thesis at the end of studying.

    Have I defined these notions correctly, as they are used?
  18. Eigenfunction Senior Member

    England - English
    In the UK:
    Undergraduate - a student studying for their 1st degree, usually a bachelors lasting 3 years. They could be in any of the years of their course.

    Graduate - someone who has passed their undergraduate course (graduated), whether they stay in academia or get a job elsewhere.

    Postgraduate - someone who has graduated and is now studying for a further degree, usually a masters or PhD.

    a slightly more obscure term that is related is:
    Graduand - and undergraduate who has passed their course but not yet graduated in a graduation ceremony.
  19. Now I am studying for a master's degree. Am I a postgraduate? I thought I am undergraduate now, when I am awarded a degree I will be a graduate and if I decide to go on studying for PhD I will be a postgraduate. Is not it so?
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you are studying for your masters I assume you already have a primary degree?
    If so, you are a postgraduate student, you are not an undergraduate.
  21. Eigenfunction Senior Member

    England - English
    It depends if you've already done a bachelors or if you've jumped straight in and are doing an 'undergraduate masters'. If you have already attended your graduation ceremony, you're a postgraduate. If not, you're an undergraduate.
  22. Yes, I have already got a bachelor's degree. Now I am studying for my master's one. For this reason, I am a postgraduate, according to your definition
  23. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    In the United States, those who have their bachelor's degrees and who are studying either for master's degrees or doctorates are called graduate students.

    The terms graduate student at a university and university graduate do not mean the same thing.
  24. kamillagraven New Member

    Hello, I would like to help clarifying this as I was also confused when I first came to the UK.

    From the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition:

    1.A.1 A student in a university who has not yet taken a degree, and thus is still below the academical standing of a graduate.

    1.B.1 One who has obtained a degree from a university, college or other authority conferring degrees.

    B.B n. A student who takes a post-graduate course, or continues his studies after graduation.

    The main difference about British and American terminology is:

    UNDERGRADUATE and POSTGRADUATE studies in the UK versus UNDERGRADUATE and GRADUATE studies in the USA

    * In the UK you hold an undergraduate degree (also "university degree") after you complete your Undergraduate studies and a postgraduate degree after your Postgraduate studies.
  25. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It may seem strange, but I have never seen the term "undergraduate degree" before.
    On looking around, it appears to be a common expression where UK courses are being described or promoted to overseas students.

    The term "undergraduate degree course" is familiar, but that is a degree course for undergraduates as opposed to graduates, not a course leading to an undergraduate degree.
    The term seems to me an oxymoron.
  26. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    As a former highschool graduate, university undergrad, grad student and holder of a PhD I am surprised at the term "postgraduate" to mean someone who is working toward a degree higher than Master's-- such a person is still a grad student, even if he has a paid position as a Teaching Assistant.

    "Postgraduate" can mean further formal study by someone who has completed all the degrees it is possible for him to work toward. But if I had taken a graduate-level (post-BA) course of study in Law I would be a graduate student, in spite of my doctoral degree in, say, English.

    In AE a terminal degree is a doctorate, with some exceptions. A Master of Fine Arts, for example, is a degree created for artists who don't have a gift for "academic" studies. It has requirements beyond an MA in poetry, pottery or whatever-- and is considered a terminal degree. As far as I know there is no DFA available, and no doctorate in business, hence the creation of the MBA, which is also a terminal degree.

    A terminal degree is a certification sufficient for gaining a teaching job at the university level.

    "Postgraduate" is in my experience an informal term. For example, when I did research at the U of Iowa for a novel I'm writing, and needed a library card, I said it was for "postgraduate study."

    Winning a terminal degree is a gruelling experience, and sometimes people need a year of recuperation before taking up their academic careers. A summer of hiking in the Himalayas in this context might be called a "postgraduate sabbatical."

    In no case, in my experience, does "postgraduate" refer to graduate-school level coursework taken outside one's field. People taking such courses are still grad students.

    Recent changes in the order of things, of course, are always taking me by surprise.
  27. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think even in the US, if you have a high school diploma, you are not called a graduate, although you can say that you have graduated from, say, the Southwestern Academy in California. (Confusing, isn't it?) A graduate is someone who has received a degree from a university or college.

    Only to add that an MA (and there is also MA Honours) is also a first degree in Scotland and New Zealand.

    In the UK, a dissertation is a shorter piece, so you can have undergraduate dissertations as well as MA or MSc dissertations; but you write your MPhil or PhD theses.
  28. wayland76 New Member

    English - Australian
    Just as a note, I studied at an Australian institution which made the following distinction:

    Undergraduate award: A coursework qualification which requires no prior qualifications (other than eg. High School and English-language skills).

    Graduate award: A coursework qualification for those who have a Bachelor's in another field (ie. Bachelor of Arts -> Master of IT).

    Postgraduate award: A qualification (whether coursework or research) which requires a prior degree *in the same field* (ie. BA -> MA).

    I can't promise that this is standard usage, but I thought I'd add it to the mix so that people are aware of it.

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