Deciding whether to attend graduate school after completing an undergraduate degree is a major life decision that requires careful thought and planning. Many factors go into the decision such as costs, career goals, and personal reasons.

While weighing the pros and cons, one key question that often comes up is whether graduate school is considered post-secondary education.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, graduate school is considered post-secondary education. Graduate school refers to any degree program taken after earning a bachelor’s degree, including both master’s and doctoral programs.

Like undergraduate programs, graduate schools are part of higher education beyond high school, making them a form of post-secondary education.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deeper into what constitutes post-secondary education and how graduate school fits into this category. We will look at the definition of post-secondary education, types of graduate school programs, and how graduate school extends your education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Whether you are considering applying to graduate school or just want to learn more, read on for details on how graduate programs qualify as post-secondary education.

Definition of Post-Secondary Education

Post-secondary education refers to any form of education that takes place after completing high school. It is often considered the next step in a person’s educational journey, providing opportunities for further learning and specialized knowledge.

While some people may choose to enter the workforce after high school, many opt to pursue post-secondary education to enhance their skills, increase job prospects, and gain a deeper understanding of their chosen field.

Education Beyond High School

Post-secondary education encompasses a wide range of programs and institutions, including colleges, universities, vocational schools, and trade schools. These institutions offer various degrees, certificates, and diplomas that are recognized as valuable credentials in the job market.

The level of education and the duration of the programs can vary, depending on the field of study and the institution.

Unlike high school, post-secondary education provides students with more autonomy and flexibility in choosing their courses, allowing them to focus on subjects that align with their interests and career goals.

It also encourages critical thinking, independent research, and problem-solving skills, preparing students for the challenges of the professional world.

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Post-secondary education can be further classified into undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate programs typically refer to bachelor’s degrees, which are usually completed in four years of full-time study.

These programs provide a broad foundation of knowledge in a specific field, allowing students to explore different areas of study before specializing in a particular subject.

Graduate programs, on the other hand, are more specialized and advanced. They include master’s degrees and doctoral degrees, which require additional years of study beyond the bachelor’s level. These programs delve deeper into a specific field of study, offering advanced coursework, research opportunities, and the chance to contribute to the existing body of knowledge through thesis or dissertation work.

Graduate school is often considered a continuation of post-secondary education, as it provides individuals with the opportunity to further their knowledge and expertise in a specific area. It is a common choice for those who wish to pursue careers in academia, research, or other specialized fields that require advanced knowledge and skills.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2018, approximately 20 million students were enrolled in post-secondary institutions in the United States. This statistic highlights the significant number of individuals who choose to further their education beyond high school.

Types of Graduate School Programs

Graduate school offers various types of programs for students looking to further their education beyond a bachelor’s degree. These programs are designed to provide advanced knowledge and specialized skills in a specific field. The three main types of graduate school programs are:

Master’s Degrees

A master’s degree is a postgraduate degree that typically requires one to two years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. It is a specialized program that allows students to delve deeper into a specific subject or field of study.

Master’s degrees are offered in a wide range of disciplines, including business administration, education, psychology, computer science, and more. Some popular master’s degree programs include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA).

Doctoral Degrees

A doctoral degree is the highest level of education one can achieve in a particular field. It is a research-focused program that requires several years of intensive study and the completion of a dissertation or thesis.

Doctoral degrees are typically pursued by individuals who wish to contribute to their field through original research and scholarly work. Examples of doctoral degrees include Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D. ), and Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D. ).

Professional Degrees

Professional degrees are specialized programs that prepare individuals for specific careers or professions. These programs focus on practical skills and knowledge needed to excel in a particular field. Examples of professional degrees include Doctor of Medicine (M.D. ), Juris Doctor (J.D.

), and Master of Social Work (MSW). Professional degrees often require practical training or internships in addition to coursework.

It’s important to note that while graduate school is considered post-secondary education, not all post-secondary education is considered graduate school. Post-secondary education refers to any education pursued after high school, including both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Graduate school specifically refers to advanced study beyond a bachelor’s degree.

How Graduate School Extends Post-Secondary Education

Graduate school serves as an extension of post-secondary education, offering students the opportunity to delve deeper into their chosen field of study. Through advanced coursework, research and specialization, and the potential for licensing and certification, graduate school provides a unique educational experience.

Advanced Coursework

One of the primary ways in which graduate school extends post-secondary education is through advanced coursework. Graduate programs offer specialized and in-depth courses that build upon the foundational knowledge gained during undergraduate studies.

These courses enable students to develop a deeper understanding of their field and acquire the necessary skills to excel in their chosen profession. For example, a graduate program in computer science might offer advanced courses in artificial intelligence or data analytics, allowing students to gain expertise in these emerging areas.

Research and Specialization

In addition to advanced coursework, graduate school provides students with the opportunity to engage in research and specialization. This aspect of graduate education allows students to explore their interests in greater depth and contribute to the body of knowledge in their field.

Through conducting research, students can develop critical thinking and analytical skills while making meaningful contributions to their discipline. Specialization, on the other hand, allows students to focus on a specific area of their field that aligns with their career goals.

This level of expertise can open up doors to exciting and rewarding opportunities.

Licensing and Certification

For certain professions, graduate school is a necessary step in obtaining the required licensing or certification. For example, to become a licensed psychologist, individuals must complete a graduate program in psychology and fulfill specific requirements set by the licensing board.

Similarly, in fields such as law or medicine, graduate education is a prerequisite for obtaining the necessary credentials to practice. The specialized knowledge and skills gained in graduate school prepare individuals to meet the rigorous standards and demands of their chosen profession.

Benefits of Post-Graduate Education

Career Advancement

One of the key benefits of pursuing post-graduate education is the potential for career advancement. Graduates with advanced degrees often have access to higher-level job opportunities and are more likely to be considered for leadership positions within their field.

Employers often view post-graduate education as a sign of dedication, expertise, and a commitment to ongoing professional development. This can open doors to new and exciting career opportunities that may not have been available without a higher level of education.

Higher Salaries

An advanced degree can also lead to higher earning potential. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a master’s degree earn, on average, 18% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Similarly, individuals with a doctoral degree earn, on average, 31% more than those with a master’s degree. These statistics highlight the potential financial benefits of pursuing post-graduate education, making it an attractive option for those looking to increase their earning potential.

Personal Growth

While the career and financial benefits of post-graduate education are undoubtedly important, it is also worth considering the personal growth that comes with pursuing advanced degrees. Graduate programs often provide opportunities for individuals to specialize in their area of interest, conduct research, and engage in intellectual discourse with peers and professors.

These experiences can lead to personal fulfillment, a deeper understanding of one’s chosen field, and the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied to various aspects of life.


In summary, graduate school clearly meets the definition of post-secondary education. Like bachelor’s degree programs, graduate school provides academic instruction beyond a high school level. The courses taken to earn master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees all constitute further formal learning outside of secondary education.

Pursuing post-graduate education can provide benefits such as career advancement, specialized knowledge, and higher earning potential in many fields. While graduate school requires a major investment of time and money, for many it pays off by opening doors to new opportunities.

Deciding if graduate school is the right move needs careful consideration of your career goals, financial situation, and personal circumstances. However, there is no doubt that graduate programs allow you to significantly extend your post-secondary education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

If you methodically weigh the pros and cons, graduate school can be an invaluable next step on your educational journey.

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