Differences Between Degrees - Undergraduate and Postgraduate

First posted on schoolcontents.info
A few people, especially admission seekers, get confused when they hear or read about the terms "undergraduate", "undergraduate degree", "graduate degree" or "postgraduate degree".

Especially when the terms come up when seeking admission, scholarship, or travel opportunities, you may want to know where you belong or if you belong to any at all.

If you're one of these concerned candidates, you'll be enlightened here in detail.

What's an Undergraduate and Undergraduate Degree?

After secondary school, you could be a holder of WAEC, NECO, GCE, or NABTEB. If you make any of these senior secondary school certificates, you're qualified to proceed to a university, polytechnic, or college of education.

Considering Nigeria, seeking admission may require JAMB except you're proposing a part-time programme. However, the type of the prgorammes, if you gain admission to any higher institution, you're referred to as an "undergraduate".

This means any student in a higher institution of learning, be it in the first, second, third, or the last year, is referred to as an undergraduate.

However, very many times, some publications may be specific about university undergraduates. Where that is mentioned, students of polytechnics and colleges of education may not be included.

On this note, it's safe to say that any student who completes his or her 4-5 years university programme i.e. BSC, B.TECH, B.Agric, MMBS, LLB, has got an undergraduate degree or simply Degree.

The certification awarded to any graduate of a university is popularly called a degree. In Nigeria, however, this may include the holders of Higher National Diplomas (HND) who are equally graduating from polytechnics.

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What's a Graduate and Graduate Degree

Needless to repeat, from the points established above, once you're done in a university or polytechnic, you're a graduate.

For some certain advanced openings and opportunities, except if you own BSC, B.Tech, HND, etc., you're not considered a graduate. However, for some loose vacancies and employment, such as Npower, OYES, bursaries, and similar government-sponsored empowerments, the term graduate may include holders of the National Diploma (ND) and Nigerian Certificate of Education (NCE).

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Hence, where the Graduate degree is mentioned, it is meant more for a university graduate than a polytechnic graduate and excludes ND and NCE holders entirely. The graduate degree is another degree acquired to be acquired by those who are already graduates (BSC/HND).

For example, if you complete a BSC/HND in Computer Science, you already hold a degree. After this, if you choose to further your studies, the next study will be called "a graduate degree" i.e., a degree owned or to be owned by someone who is already a graduate.

Examples of graduate degrees are Master's degrees (MSC), postgraduate degrees (PGD), etc. If you're undergoing the studies of a 1-2 year after-BSC/HND programme, it's perfect to call what you will earn, at the end of the course, a graduate degree.

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What's a Postgraduate and Postgraduate Degree?

When you hear graduate degree, what it means is postgraduate certification. Some people prefer calling that a "graduate degree".

In other words, a postgraduate degree (studies) is the same as a graduate degree (studies). Hence, it's acceptable to be used interchangeably. As such, if any publication says postgraduates, it's also referring to graduate degrees and vice versa.


While SSCE holders are qualified to become undergraduates, if admitted to any higher institutions of learning, after their undergraduate degree, the next studies will earn them a graduate degree or postgraduate degree.

An undergraduate degree will be earned usually 4 to 5 years, while a graduate degree or postgraduate degree could last 1 to 3 years.

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