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Five differences between an undergraduate and a postgraduate course

When you start a postgraduate degree, there are several differences that will become plainly obvious compared to what you experienced on your undergraduate course. If you’re studying the same subject, there will be familiar aspects and the skills you developed will almost certainly be utilised throughout the programme. Despite this, whether you’re just finishing up an undergraduate degree or you’ve been out of education for a few years and are heading back, the changes you find when starting a postgraduate course can be daunting.

However, being aware of the differences will help you prepare for them and settle into the course easier, so read on to see the changes you can expect between undergraduate and postgraduate study. 


There are many postgraduate courses for every industry you can think of, so you’re certainly not limited in terms of your studying options. There are different qualifications, different levels of studying times, and specialisms that didn’t exist at an undergraduate level – and you get to pick the one that suits you the best. 

Go to: Read about What Are Postgraduate Degrees?


During your undergrad course you probably covered several topics over the course of a few months, and some might have only lasted a few weeks before disappearing from lectures altogether. If you were really interested in that subject area, it could be more than a little frustrating. 

But your postgraduate course is likely to be more specialised in certain subject areas, so you’ll get the most out of a topic that you enjoy. Plus, you’re likely to have to study fewer areas that don’t interest you at all, which is a nice bonus. 

Learning Styles  

Many undergraduate degrees revolve around attending lectures, but postgraduate courses can differ in learning style. Depending on the subject you choose, you may have fewer lectures, fewer hours with your tutors and there is often a heavier emphasis on doing work independently. 

The good news about this is that you can pick a course which suits your studying preferences. Do you want a course filled with lectures? They exist. Do you prefer to learn the basics from teachers and then head to the library to develop your skills on your own? Those courses are awaiting you too. 


You’re probably expecting this, but the workload is likely to be heavier, or at least more intense, on your postgrad course. Gone are the deadlines that can be extended at a moment’s notice and the four months to work on a single 2,000-word essay. You’re unlikely to be able to go partying six nights a week, as postgraduates are expected to read more and work quicker. Sounds scary, but remember your undergrad once felt like this, and you’ll soon adapt to it. 

Go to: Read more about How to Manage Your Time as a Postgraduate Student


Postgraduate funding options are quite different to undergraduate funding options. There are a few more choices available to you this time that are worth checking out. You could apply for bursaries, scholarships, postgraduate loans, and some employers may even sponsor you to study. If you don’t know where to start looking for postgraduate funding information, check out our Ultimate Postgraduate Funding Guide

Next: Read more postgraduate life advice


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