Education system in the USA
High School (Secondary Education) in the USA
- Lasts from grade 9 to 12, typically from the age of 14/15 to 17/18.
- Upon successful completion of 12th grade students are awarded with a high school diploma.
- Students that have not received a high school diploma may take the General Education Development (GED) test, which is a certification for high-school level academic skills.
Post-Secondary Education in the USA
Students must have a high school diploma or GED in order to attend an American college or university to study for an undergraduate degree. Students may pursue a four-year program and obtain a Bachelor’s degree, or a two-year program for an Associate degree.
Associate degree programs may be transfer programs, equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, or terminal programs, which prepare students for specific careers.
- Two-year degree at a community or private college.
- Types of degrees: Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS).
- Students may continue education by transferring to a four-year college or university.
Community colleges, which can be public or private, are community-based institutions, and are also known as county colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges or city colleges.
Bachelor degrees in the US are highly flexible, where students can choose from a wide range of courses.
- Four-year degree in a specific subject at a college or university.
- As part of the admissions process most universities evaluate students’ SAT or ACT scores, among other criteria.
- Generally a Bachelor’s is divided into two phases; the first focuses on the foundation course, which can be in several core subjects such as mathematics, English, humanities, physical sciences and social sciences. The second concentrates one the student’s chosen subject, otherwise known as a major.
- Types of Bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and more.
- The degree awarded after a certain number of credits (one course is usually three or four credits) and major requirements are completed.
Colleges and universities in the US can be either state or public; state colleges are subsidised by the government, whereas private colleges are funded privately and tend to be smaller. The difference between colleges and universities is usually that colleges tend to be smaller and offer only undergraduate degrees, while universities also offer graduate degrees.
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Graduate study in the USA
Students who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree may continue their education through a Master’s degree or Doctorate degree also known, as a PhD. Graduate programs in the US are more specialised and intense than undergraduate programs, and they assume that students know the basic elements in their field of study.
In a Master’s program, which may be either academic or professional, students gain additional knowledge and training in a specific subject. Master programs are available in a wide variety of fields.
- A Master’s Degree is typically two-year program in a specific field.
- Academic Master’s include: Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS).
- Professional Master’s include: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Education (MeD), Master of Social Work (MSW) and more.
- As part of the admissions process, most graduate programs evaluate students’ Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, among other criteria.
- As part of the admissions process, MBA programs assess students’ Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) scores, among other criteria.
Degrees in law and medicine are only offered at the graduate level in the US, and students must first complete a Bachelor’s degree before applying to a program.
Law programs teach practical skills to those who wish to become lawyers. A J.D. degree is required for admission to the bar in most US states.
- A law degree is a three-year program at a university.
- As part of the admissions process, universities evaluate students’ Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores, among other criteria.
- Upon the successful completion of the law degree students are awarded Juris Doctor (J.D.) certificate.
- Medical programs have a minimum length of four years at a university.
- As part of the admissions process universities evaluate students’ Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores, among other criteria.
- Upon successful completion of the program students are awarded with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).
If it is your ambition to gain a graduate degree from a prominent university or college in the USA you will need to take the GMAT ® or GRE. At Kaplan International Colleges, we are experts in preparing international students for these challenging tests, using the exclusive teaching materials and unique curriculum developed by Kaplan, the test preparation experts.
For direct access onto one of many masters degrees at Northeastern University join our Northeastern postgraduate pathways program. With lower admission requirements, earning credits and a conditional letter of acceptance this program give you the guarantees you might be looking for.
Doctoral programs involve advanced coursework, seminars, writing a dissertation, training students to become research scholars teaching a specific discipline at a college or university.
- The minimum length for the program is three years.
- As part of the admissions process a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test is required for most graduate programs.
- Upon successful completion of the program students are awarded with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
International students must complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) before applying to US colleges and universities. This four-hour test allows admissions committees to evaluate the student’s ability to use and understand Standard America English at a college level. The TOEFL ® is administered worldwide and is available in both an internet-based and paper-based format with four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking. Most colleges and universities only consider the most recent score, and the TOEFL ® score is valid for two years.
As an international student you need a good TOEFL ® score for entry into universities and colleges in the USA. The Kaplan International Colleges TOEFL ® and Academic English course is designed to help you achieve a high score and is based on the excellent teaching materials and curriculum developed by Kaplan, the established world leader in test preparation.
If it is your aim to get a degree from a US university, the Kaplan International Colleges University Placement Service (UPS) will help you gain entry. Student using this service will benefit from our extensive network of partner institutions and our long experience of guiding students through the admission process.
For more information, please email UPS.USA@kaplaninternational.com
or visit Education USA,
US Department of Education
or the U.S. Network for Education Information
View a diagram of the routes to university or college in the USA.