I am reading about finding a good university for master studies and I am really confused if graduate students are the same as postgraduate students. Are the terms synonyms, or do they refer to different levels of studies?

  • 1
    Yes they're the same thing. Post-graduate is more British English.
    – user24964
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:13
  • 1
    @JavaD: This may be a local distinction where you are, but they are synonymous terms elsewhere. Jan 30, 2014 at 10:26
  • 4
    In the UK, post-graduate refers to a graduate who is still in full time education. If I get a degree then get a job (ha!), I'm a graduate. If I get a degree, and then go on to do a masters, I am a post-graduate. I am doing a post-graduate degree. Jan 30, 2014 at 10:31
  • 1
    Post-graduate is (almost) never used in the U.S. Graduate school, graduate student is (almost) universally used in the US for studies after the bachelor's. I say almost because nothing is ever 100%.
    – ab2
    Aug 3, 2016 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


There isn't an entirely agreed distinction between "graduate" programs and "post-graduate" programs -- the terms are frequently used interchangeably, especially in academia. "Graduate" is used as shorthand for "Postgraduate" in the academic setting.

If someone has finished a higher degree and is continuing their studies they would still generally claim to be a "graduate student," rather than a "postgraduate student"; the same term that someone with only an undergraduate degree would likely use - it's the course they're on at the time that matters.

Outside the academic setting, "graduate" tends to mean someone with either an undergraduate or higher degree (or both). "Postgraduate" suggests someone on a course of study (where typically you need to be a graduate student to apply).


Having looked at my Uni's website, it mixes the terms fairly interchangeably. The first and most obvious example of this is that if you click on "graduate courses" under the Admissions section of the home page (http://ox.ac.uk) the breadcrumb navigation trail shows "Home > Admissions > Postgraduate courses".

Cambridge is a lot more fussy, and delineates between graduate and postgraduate.: http://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/faqs/3-credit-faqs/140-what-do-undergraduate-and-postgraduate-mean


In New Zealand universities, a "post-graduate" student is one earning an advanced degree (masters, doctorate, diploma) in the subject of their undergraduate degree. A "graduate" student has also earned an undergraduate degree but is continuing study in a subject for which they have not explicitly earned a bachelor's degree.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.