A graduate school (sometimes shortened to grad school) is a school that awards advanced academic degrees (e.g., master's and doctoral degrees) with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate (bachelor's) degree. A distinction is typically made between graduate schools (where courses of study vary in the degree to which they provide training for a particular profession) and professional schools, which offer specialized advanced degrees in professional fields such as medicine, nursing, business, engineering, speech–language pathology, or law. The distinction between graduate schools and professional schools is not absolute since various professional schools offer graduate degrees and vice versa.
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Many universities award graduate degrees; a graduate school is not necessarily a separate institution. While the term "graduate school" is typical in the United States and often used elsewhere (e.g., Canada), "postgraduate education" is also used in English-speaking countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, and the UK) to refer to the spectrum of education beyond a bachelor's degree. Those attending graduate schools are called "graduate students" (in both American and British English), or often in British English as "postgraduate students" and, colloquially, "postgraduates" and "postgrads". Degrees awarded to graduate students include master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and other postgraduate qualifications such as graduate certificates and professional degrees.
Producing original research is a significant component of graduate studies in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. This research typically leads to the writing and defense of a thesis or dissertation. In graduate programs that are oriented toward professional training (e.g., MPA, MBA, MHA), the degrees may consist solely of coursework, without an original research or thesis component. The term "graduate school" is primarily North American. Additionally, in North America, the term does not usually refer to medical school (whose students are called "medical students"), and only occasionally refers to law school or business school; these are often collectively termed professional schools. Graduate students in the humanities, sciences and social sciences often receive funding from the school (e.g., fellowships or scholarships) or a teaching assistant position or other job; in the profession-oriented grad programs, students are less likely to get funding, and the fees are typically much higher.
Although graduate school programs are distinct from undergraduate degree programs, graduate instruction (in the US, Australia, and other countries) is often offered by some of the same senior academic staff and departments who teach undergraduate courses. Unlike in undergraduate programs, however, it is less common for graduate students to take coursework outside their specific field of study at graduate or graduate entry level. At the Ph.D. level, though, it is quite common to take courses from a wider range of study, for which some fixed portion of coursework, sometimes known as a residency, is typically required to be taken from outside the department and college of the degree-seeking candidate, to broaden the research abilities of the student.