An undergraduate is quite clearly:

a student at a college or university who has not yet earned a bachelor's or equivalent degree.

But now that I have received a bachelor's degree what am I? I ask becuase a on a prominent job search site the relevant options for "Highest Qualification" are "Undergraduate" and "Post-graduate degree", with nothing in-between. (I asked and they said "Undergraduate" is the best fit - but I disagree - how would an employee distinguish me from a student then?)

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    I'd say their form is wrong. But then I'm not applying for the job. 'Masters' and 'PhD' degrees are post-graduate degrees. Their 'Post Graduate Degree' probably means 'Graduate'. – Edwin Ashworth May 3 '14 at 9:41
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    And their “Undergraduate” probably means “Undergraduate Degree”, i.e., “Having completed a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree after being an undergraduate student”. It's a very poorly set-up and worded form, though, I quite agree with @Edwin on that. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 3 '14 at 10:38

I think it's pretty clear that the appropriate option here is 'undergraduate', being used to mean 'undergraduate degree'. I agree that strictly speaking it's not the most precise terminology (although even writing 'bachelor's degree' might be inaccurate too, as there are undergraduate degrees that are called masters degrees and graduate degrees called bachelors, particularly at the older British universities).

If you were still a student it wouldn't be appropriate to select 'undergraduate', as that's not a qualification but a status.

I disagree with Edwin on what 'post graduate degree' is being used to mean; in this context I'd take it as being any postgraduate degree other than a 'regular' masters (so an MBA, US medical or law degree, rather than an MA or MPhil).

  • You could be right, but the terminology used is not common (unless it's changed) in the UK. In fact, Wikipedia has: Postgraduate education ... In most countries, the hierarchy of postgraduate degrees is as follows: Master's degrees (Postgraduate) ... Doctorates (Postgraduate) – Edwin Ashworth May 3 '14 at 14:48
  • @dbmag9 I think you are right the more I think about it - they are asking for a qualification and an undergraduate student cannot say they have an undergraduate qualification. However it is still rather ambiguous, they really should have an option: "Bachelors degree", IMO at least the users of the site get it right! – markmnl May 3 '14 at 15:17
  • @EdwinAshworth I agree with you that generally Masters degrees and PhDs are postgraduate degrees - I definitely agree that it's a badly-written set of options. Given that they've listed them separately, what I've written above is just my best guess and what they mean here. – dbmag9 May 3 '14 at 21:52

This issue encompasses a "British/American" difference, and apparently, an evolving set of definitions.

Undergraduate degree has come to mean, at least in the US, the degree one obtains upon completing an undergraduate program (see below for graduate/postgraduate UK/N. America disambiguation).

I assume that this is a newer usage, at logical odds with the standard definition of undergraduate as, well, being under graduation: not yet having graduated. But it yields to logic from another perspective: one gets a graduate degree from a graduate program/graduate school, and an undergraduate degree from an undergrad program.

I was program coordinator, undergraduate studies at a major US university, and can attest that this is the terminology most commonly used among higher education administrators and related professionals and organizations (federal and state education officials, etc.) in the US for "first degrees" in higher education.

Wikipedia entry for "undergraduate degree":

An undergraduate degree (also called first degree, bachelor's degree, or simply degree) is a colloquial term for....

Wikipedia entry for "postgraduate education":

Postgraduate education (or graduate education in North America)....

Dictionaries have not caught up with this (US) usage, but it is quite established.

  • Not disagreeing with your answer; but the site in question really should have used "Undergraduate degree" in the list. – TripeHound Sep 4 '17 at 15:00
  • @Tri I'm not sure which "list" you mean. The link to Wikipedia (undergraduate degree), as of now, looks pretty clear in its initial definition, prototypically meaning "bachelor's degree" in the US, but the section under "North America" looks confused and incomplete. – Jim Reynolds Sep 5 '17 at 6:16
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    I meant the drop-down list the OP was asking about. – TripeHound Sep 5 '17 at 6:29
  • Ah. Yes. I agree. – Jim Reynolds Sep 5 '17 at 8:47

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