What is the actual meaning of a graduate program? Is it Masters? Or Ph.D. or Both? Does the definition vary from country to country?

  • 7
    Note that in some countries (e.g. UK, Aus, NZ), the term "postgraduate studies" is often used for beyond Bachelor level.
    – J W
    May 30, 2021 at 11:09
  • 1
    All master's (MA, MBA, MFA ...) and doctorate programs (MD, DO, DNP, ...) are graduate programs. I think "graduate" is most common in the US but "postgraduate" is definitely understood @JW May 30, 2021 at 17:53
  • I know of one university where all MSc and PhD go to the graduate programm and becoming a 'full' PhD student required a certain GPA and passing the Qualifying Examination QE after 2 years or so; otherwise you had the only option to completer your Masters degree.
    – lalala
    May 31, 2021 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


It means both. It just means any programme that requires an undergraduate degree (such as a Bachelors: BSc, BA etc.) to enter.

It can be a taught course or a research programme, as there are both taught and research masters degrees. One has to look at the programme details to discover more.

I believe the definition does not vary from country to country as it just relates to the semantics of the English word.

  • 3
    This is correct, but it is worth noting that you cannot necessarily infer whether a degree is a graduate (BrE 'postgraduate') course from the course name. For example, in the UK there are now many 'integrated masters' courses which are a first degree and have names like MMath. There are isolated special cases too like the Oxford BPhil which is a second degree or Scottish MAs which are first degrees.
    – dbmag9
    May 31, 2021 at 4:30
  • 2
    As a side note, when I went around calling myself a graduate student, everyone assumed I was a master's student. It's similar to how a "medallist" of a competition would be assumed to hold a bronze medal, rather than a gold. It took me some time to realize this, as the term "graduate student" was common at my old institution, which had no master's students.
    – Kevin Yin
    May 31, 2021 at 11:39
  • The definition does not vary across countries, but the question whether a Master's program is normally entered after a Bachelor's, or instead of pursuing the same, may depend on the country, on the century, and indeed on the actual program. By now, international student mobility programs have gradually pushed Master's programs in most countries to become graduate programs (see "Bologna process"). May 31, 2021 at 21:18

What is the actual meaning of a graduate program? Is it Masters? Or Ph.D. or Both?



What is the actual meaning of a graduate program?

It's a degree program for people who have graduated (with a Bachelor's degree) from college.

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