The definition or classification of postgraduate students varies from country to country. In the United States, a postgraduate student is one who has completed a baccalaureate degree program and is continuing coursework toward additional degrees, diplomas or certificates.
Historical Basis of Postgraduate Study
In medieval European universities, students completed liberal arts studies in approximately six years. An additional period of up to 10 years was required for further advancement in the study of law, medicine or theology. Postgraduate degrees were intended to equip the degree holder to teach a particular subject. The two main credentials that postgraduate students seek are master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.
Important Facts About Postgraduate Studies
Prerequisites: Varies, depending upon the institution and intended program of enrollment; all programs require at least a bachelor’s degree
Concentrations: Classics, comparative literature, history, philosophy, physics, sociology, psychology, neural science, music
Online Availability: Fully available for select programs
Possible Careers: Engineer, budget analyst, art director, editor, teacher, lawyer, physician, a surgeon
Postgraduate Students – Master’s Degrees
In most countries today, a master’s degree curriculum follows the bachelor’s degree program and is the first step for postgraduate students. The time to completion can be as short as one year of postgraduate study for some programs such as a Master of Social Work.
Other masters-level programs require an additional 2-5 years beyond the bachelor’s degree. Postgraduate students who are working toward master’s degrees generally earn a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.). More career-specific master’s degrees are also available, including the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.), the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) or the aforementioned Master of Social Work. A master’s degree may be the terminal degree for a career. One example is the library science master’s degree.
Postgraduate Students – Doctoral Degrees
Doctoral postgraduate degrees are often classified as academic or professional doctorates. Two common academic doctorates are Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Science (D.Sc.). A doctoral degree program may require several years to complete. In most U.S. institutions of higher learning, the doctorate is the terminal postgraduate degree.
Other Postgraduate Students
Some postgraduate students choose to take additional coursework in their chosen fields to earn certificates or diplomas. These students may apply such coursework toward postgraduate degrees. They may also use the courses to satisfy continuing education requirements in their chosen professions.