Is a master’s student a graduate student? [Answered]

In the academic world, it can get very confusing when trying to work out the differences between master’s students, PhD students, graduate students, and all of the other types of nomenclature for people attending a university. Particularly, separating out who is actually a grad student can get confusing.

Yes, a master’s student is a graduate student. A graduate student is someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree and is pursuing additional education (typically at a tertiary education institute). A master’s student is enrolled in a college or university and is working towards a master’s degree.

Graduate students can also include students working towards a postgraduate diploma, a postgraduate certificate, and also those working towards a PhD or doctorate.

This article will go through everything you need to know to differentiate between the different types of graduate students and understand what each of them is.

What is a master’s student?

A master’s student is a student pursuing a Master’s degree. A Master’s degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a masters course of study.

Typically, a Master’s degree includes:

  • Courses and exams
  • Assignments
  • Research under the supervision of an academic

Taught master’s degrees (also called course-based master’s degrees) are much more structured, with students following a program of lectures, seminars and tutorials, and usually taking examinations.

Although some individuals may refer to themselves as a master’s candidate, the correct terminology is master’s student.

The title candidate implies that one has not yet been admitted to the degree program despite having completed all the examination components of their course.

Next, we’ll have a look at what makes someone a graduate student. You will notice that not all graduate students are Masters students but all Masters students are graduate students.

What is a graduate student?

In the United States, a graduate student is a student with a bachelor’s degree from a university who is studying or doing research for a master’s degree, doctorate or other certification such as a diploma or technical qualification.

To be considered a graduate student, one must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education.

A graduate student is typically someone who is enrolled in an academic program at a college or university that is above the undergraduate level.

Types of graduate students

There are many different types of graduate students. As long as someone has an undergraduate degree and is continuing their education in a university or institute of further education, they can be considered a graduate student.

The broadest types of graduate students are:

  • Post graduate diploma
  • Postgraduate certificate
  • Masters
  • Doctorate

Postgraduate diploma

Postgraduate diploma students are often completing shorter courses at a research institution to obtain very specific skills to further their professional career. This sort of postgraduate up skilling is becoming very popular for people who want to access higher pay scales in their current jobs or move to a different career altogether.

Postgraduate certificate

A postgraduate certificate is often obtained by someone who wants evidence of mastery of a particular skill. The certificate is often a short term program run by an educational Institute that can help further your professional career.

Masters student

A master’s student is a student who has completed an undergraduate degree and is now pursuing a higher degree at the graduate level. A master’s degree typically takes two years to complete, although some programs may take longer.

PhD students

A PhD student is an individual who is enrolled in a doctoral program at a university. This program is designed to prepare the student for a career as a professor or researcher at a college or university. A PhD student typically completes their program in four to six years. During this time, they take coursework (US based degrees), conduct research, and write and defend a dissertation.

Who is considered a graduate student?

A graduate student is someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree and is pursuing additional education in a specific field. Graduate students typically enroll in programs that are shorter and more focused than undergraduate programs, and they often work closely with faculty mentors on research projects.

Admission to graduate school usually requires good grades, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores.

What is a first-year graduate student called?

Unlike undergraduate education and high school where you have year-based descriptors of students. For example, freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.

Graduate studies are defined more so by area of study and the year or semester they are currently in.

For example, during your masters you will often say you are either a first or second year Masters student.

Choosing the best option for you

Deciding whether or not you should enter a Masters or another doctoral program means understanding what you want to achieve with the education.

If you want to pursue your current career and quickly progress through your current employer is pay scale a shorter graduate diploma or certification may be better suited for those goals.

However, if you are interested in the academic pursuit of breaking new ground, learning more about a particular field, or teaching in a university environment a master’s or a doctorate will better suit these ambitions.

Wrapping up

This article has covered everything you need to know about the difference between a master student and a graduate student.

Ultimately, a graduate student is an umbrella term that describes someone who has an undergraduate degree from a university or tertiary education provider and is pursuing further education such as a certificate, diploma, master’s, or PhD.

A master’s student is someone who is specifically enrolled in the Master’s degree and is considered a graduate student as they have an undergraduate degree.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.