10 ways my postgraduate degree is different from undergrad

University of Exeter

Exeter University PhotoIt can be difficult to differentiate between a postgraduate taught course (PGT) and an undergraduate degree. After all, both are taught! But a Masters degree is quite different from an undergraduate degree. I’m doing MSc in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, which is very different from my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences.

So here are my top 10 differences between an undergraduate and a taught Masters…

10) The Obvious – A taught Masters is just one year long, so it’s much shorter than a three or four year undergraduate degree. It also gives much less time for catching up on procrastinated coursework!

9) The Subject – Most Masters are very specific in their subject area. I’m learning a lot about one particular subject – food security, which focuses a lot on plant biology, microbiology and political economics, but not so much on other aspects of biology, like human neurosciences, for example. In comparison, my Bachelors involved a little of everything in biology.

8) The lectures – A PGT course has a lecture component, where I learn from my lecturers, not just through the talk but through the discussion that takes place. It’s an exchange of knowledge but through a mutual conversation. The lecturers love being questioned and challenged, and answer all our questions. Engaging in a debate with the lecturer is a great way to learn!

7) The class – A Masters course generally has fewer students than an UG course. My current class of 7 students, compared to my UG class of over 300 students, means that I get individual attention and my lecturers actually know who I am! It also makes asking questions a lot less nerve-wracking!

6) The friends – It’s easier to make friends in a smaller course. There is no fear of not finding friends as you know everybody on the course and everybody knows you! And there are no cliques! I have become really close with all my course-mates and we all help each other out.

5) The space – My PGT course has a computer lab for us to use. So I get to have my own space, where I can always get access to a computer, a kettle to make a hot drink and a microwave to make food for all the long days of doing assignments! The best part is that I get to personalize my space!

4) The debates – My PGT course material offers opportunity for lots of discussion. So I get to engage with my course-mates and my lecturers in lots of discussion, debates and even arguments over different opinions. As all of us are from different backgrounds, having done different UG degrees so we bring a lot of different opinions to the table and it’s a great way to get to know about opposing views.

3) The assignments – My course doesn’t have exams, as such, but lots and lots of assignments, of all kinds. From writing essays to policy papers and lots of presentations, we’re always hard at work, reading books, researching articles and hunting up sources. This means that while there’s not much time for socializing, I’m widening my horizons by knowing what is going on in my subject area and why it’s important.

2) The project – The project plus dissertation of a Masters is a little different from an undergraduate one. I have the opportunity to choose my topic and area of research. I get to decide what I want to work on and how to go about it, with help from my supervisors of course. It feels a little more personal and it’s worth a lot for the course credits!

1) The Degree! The Masters degree, of course! After a busy year, it’s a postgraduate degree in your hand!

Masters degrees and taught programmes 2018 and 2019 entry - learn more here