Similarities and Difference of Undergraduate and Graduate School

Earlier this year (2015) I graduated from medical school as Bachelor of Medicine and decided to pursue further education, namely my master degree. But instead of pursuing a master degree in medical or science fields, I decided to take an MBA because of my growing interest in the economic world. Having recently graduated with my Bachelor degree and just entering my Master education program, I found resemblance between those two educational system. At first, I was concerned that I might not be able to follow the course due to my lack of experience in real work settings but now that I have been in the program for few weeks, I think I might even do better than I did previously in undergraduate school. There are several differences as well, the atmosphere, relation between students, etc.

First I want to highlight about the people. Most of my class participants are working for more than two years, a third of them are married, and few have children already. I am the youngest in class, and the second youngest is a girl one year older than me. Students in undergraduate degree are simply boys and girls looking for higher education after high school, they usually have vague thoughts about where they are going in life and prioritise their time badly. When I was in undergraduate study (medicine), I observed that we don’t always pay attention to the lecture and play quite a lot in class, chatting with friends.

The class in undergraduate consist of hundreds of students, but in graduate degree the class is smaller, consisting less than 50 students. We also listen more carefully to what the lecturer said and try to implement the theory given to the current context. I would say that most of the students in graduate study have a plan in life and working toward it, one of them being having a graduate degree, which hopefully contribute to future development in their career. All of the students are busy, unlike in undergraduate where students like to hangout and go to parties, students in graduate degree have more responsibility in their life, family and work takes most of the time, the third priority is the education itself.

Second is about the education program. My undergraduate degree took 4 years to complete, and I complete it on time. The MBA program I’m doing took 1.5 years to complete, about half the time of my undergraduate study. The materials has a difficulty of its own, there are many textbook to read, just like in undergraduate but this time we have shorter time to read it due to other tasks at hand. The MBA program covers marketing, finance, business research, accounting, leadership, thesis, and few other courses. It took shorter time to finish graduate study than undergraduate, however it also took more effort and energy to finish the program.

Third, I want to talk about the way the classes are conducted. When I was in medical school, my class usually started at 7 am at ended at 3 pm, the daily average is about 8 hours study everyday from Monday to Friday. In my MBA program there’s only night classes, from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm, 3 hours class everyday from Monday to Friday. The difference is huge, right? 8 hours vs 3 hours class everyday is a different for me as well, in the morning to afternoon I could finish tasks I have, do my project, trade stock and currency, etc. The study hours are flipped from morning to evening, in turn, I could be more productive in doing tasks but feel more tired in class at night.

Since I’m working for myself, the working hour is more flexible and sometimes I’m able to take an hour nap after lunch. If you are thinking about taking a regular (morning to afternoon) class in graduate study, then this should not be a concern for you. The curriculum of the program in general is the same for all MBA program, with specialisation we could choose, finance, marketing, or business management. There might be several variance in the curriculum but the point is giving us the necessary skills to be a manager in corporation.

Fourth is about the lecturer. Most of the lecturer have PhD degree, many have two master degree title. They are mostly working in marketing or finance department, some are consultants, and one thing for sure they know what they are talking about. The lecturers come from different background, some of them have statistic undergraduate degree, engineering, computer science, and various other degree. For most of them, they continue their graduate study taking MBA, just like I do now, then continue on taking their PhD. Their age also varies, from late 30’s to over 60 year old which could give a lot of perspective in learning and sharing experience in their own career.

Fifth about the purpose of education. Insight and first hand experience are told by the lecturers and practitioner in their own fields, for the purpose of improving decision making process in our own job. Graduate degree program intend to enhance our knowledge and skill in work situation, not merely studying definition, classification, and theories. We learn cases, real cases happened in the past, options available for decision making, the situation at the time, and think as the decision maker (CEO) of the company. The challenges encountered are often met in our daily problem, so what we learn is relevant with what we observe daily.

Sixth is about the learning method. Other than using textbook and hearing lectures, we also discuss using case study, as I’ve talked about above. There are homework, but the purpose is not for grading purpose, rather to stimulate our thinking process in approaching a problem. The exam is not a theoretical exam that we have in undergraduate study, but case study and our task is to analyse and provide a solution to the problem. We still have to study for the test, but the study itself took less time than studying in undergraduate. We learn about the concept and applying the concept to reality, unlike undergraduate study that has focus more on the theories.

That is my observation after several months studying in graduate program after graduating from undergraduate program earlier this year. What you might find may differ from countries to countries, not to mention the cultural difference between West and Eastern method of the study. But I hope I can help giving some perspective to those seeking to enter graduate study and have no idea how the program will be conducted.



About Journeyman

A global macro analyst with over four years experience in the financial market, the author began his career as an equity analyst before transitioning to macro research focusing on Emerging Markets at a well-known independent research firm. He read voraciously, spending most of his free time following The Economist magazine and reading topics on finance and self-improvement. When off duty, he works part-time for Getty Images, taking pictures from all over the globe. To date, he has over 1200 pictures over 35 countries being sold through the company.
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