Education System in USA

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The United States of America has always been a top study destination for attaining overseas education by scores of students across the world. Being counted as one of the countries with best education system in the world, the USA education system offers a rich blend of diverse cultures with world-class technologies and infrastructure. The USA is home to some of the best schools and universities in the world, and it is needless to say that pursuing a degree program from one of these universities can increase your chances of being recruited by top corporate offices, MNCs and government agencies. Even though the cost of studying in USA is slightly higher in comparison to other developed nations, applying for grants for various undergraduate programs or scholarships for MS in USA can be a suitable route. However, before starting with your education there, it is important for you to be familiarized with the education system of the country. Thus, this blog will help you understand the USA education system so that you narrow your choices and develop a systematized education plan. 

USA Education System: Divisions

Under the education system of the USA, it is compulsory for a student to start their education at the age of 6 up to the age of 18. The USA education system is divided into 4 major stages namely, Primary, Middle Education, Secondary Education, and Tertiary Education. Let’s have a close look at all the four segments below: 

Education Level Age (in years) Class/Grade Duration (in years)
Primary Elementary School 6 to 11 1 to 5 5
Secondary 1. Middle/Junior High School

2. High School/Senior High School

11 to 14

14 to 18

6 to 8

9 to 12



Tertiary Higher Education 18 onwards University 3 or 4 

Also read: Spring Intake in USA

Primary Education (Elementary School)

All the basic subjects which are essential for the development of a child is what is covered at this stage of the USA education system. Consisting of 5 grades, the elementary school puts special emphasis on basic academic learning which includes reading, writing, and counting. Further, it also includes studying the basics of Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, fine arts, etc. 

Secondary Education (Middle and High School)

Following the primary level, secondary education includes middle/junior high school and high school within its domain. While the students aged between 11 to 14 years are enrolled in middle school, those between 14 to 18 years of age constitute the high school of the USA education system. Towards the 9th grade of high school, the students choose their core curriculum courses which generally include English, Science, Mathematics, Physical Education, Health, Computer Science, Social Studies (American and world history, geography, etc.). Additionally, the students can choose optional subjects/electives which provides them with a platform to explore other areas of study apart from their core subjects. 

Tertiary Education (Higher Education)

After completing their 12 years of study or high school, a majority of students enroll themselves for undergraduate courses, as specified in the USA education system, that typically lasts for 4 years. During the bachelor’s degree, the first two years are dedicated to educate the student on a wide variety of subjects, such as social sciences, arts, history, literature, science, etc. The next two years involve building a strong foundation in the specific field of study the student has chosen. 

On completion of the bachelor’s degree, the students can then enroll in a master’s program in their chosen major as per the USA education system. The post-graduate studies take one to two years to complete and include classroom training, seminars, and completing the master’s thesis or the final semester project. For enrolling into various masters in USA, the students need to take entrance exams such as GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc based on their disciplines. If the student wants to push their academic boundaries and delves deeper into their field of study through research, they can pursue a doctorate degree or a PhD which can be done upon the completion of the master’s degree. The students can pursue a career in research which generally lasts for five to six years, depending upon the area of study. 

Also read: MBA in USA

How the American Education System Works?

The United States, which has the largest number of foreign students, offers a varied selection of courses for students at all levels of study. Here’s a breakdown of the United States’ educational system.

Study levels in the US

  • A primary school
  • Junior high school/middle school
  • Senior year in high school
  • Education at a higher level

Here’s a rundown of the credentials that are available in the United States:

Qualification Duration
Associate degree 2 years
Bachelor’s degree 3 – 4 years
Master’s degree (Professional) 1 to 3 years
Master’s degree (Academic) 2 years
Doctorate or PhD 5 to 8 years

USA Education System: Top Universities

The USA education system has gifted the students with some of the best universities in the world that provide world-class educational amenities, highly-qualified faculty members and high-tech laboratories for research studies. Listed below are some of the top universities in the USA that are highly-regarded all over the world, pursuing higher education in which can provide you with the necessary exposure and numerous career opportunities: 

Also Read: Scholarships for MS in USA

The Experience of Studying in the US

As per the US Department of State, diversity is at the core of the US education system. Students in the USA can choose from a wide variety of options, be it in terms of courses or universities. There are more than 4,000 accredited higher education institutions in the USA. While usually many countries have a centrally-governed body for educational institutions, the USA has independent bodies that accredit these institutions.

Further, there is an availability of a wide variety of institutions and courses at different levels to suit the requirements for different students. US is home to some of the best liberal arts colleges in the world. These offer courses that are a healthy mix of various knowledge streams for an overall growth and learning experience of the student.

In addition, the ‘credit’ system in US universities allows students to make small customizations to their course so that they can pursue their own interests alongside the core subjects, thus allowing for a more accommodating and enriching experience.

US Education System Terms to Know: US Colleges and Universities Glossary

  • Academic credits are the metric by which a student’s progress toward graduation is measured. A normal bachelor’s degree class at the university level is worth three credits. Students typically require between 120 and 133 credits, or 40 to 44 classes, to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
  • Accreditation: the US Department of Education recognises six regional and dozens of program-specific bodies that allow universities to function as educational institutions.
  • An associate degree is the first academic degree obtainable after graduating from high school. This two-year degree programme combines a field-specific academic specialisation with liberal arts curriculum. Associate degrees are frequently acquired at two-year community institutions.
  • A bachelor’s degree is a four-year post-secondary college or university degree.
  • In the United States, a college is a post-secondary institution. It might be a two-year college for academic or vocational courses, or a four-year university for academic study. Inside universities, colleges are academic divisions (e.g., College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, etc.).
  • A community college is a two-year post-secondary school that specialises in associate degree programmes.
  • Graduate studies are academic programmes that begin after a four-year bachelor’s degree and lead to master’s or doctoral degrees.
  • History, English literature, foreign language, mathematics, social studies, and natural sciences are all examples of liberal arts disciplines.
  • Liberal arts colleges are post-secondary institutions that focus largely on humanities and social science academic programmes.
  • A major is the principal concentration of a student’s degree studies as an undergraduate. For overseas students, majors are analogous to the term “course of study.” In American colleges and universities, a student’s major accounts for 33-50 percent of the total number of classes required to graduate.
  • Master’s degree: a one- to two-year graduate programme with a concentrated concentration on a certain academic field. In many cases, a master’s thesis or project is necessary.
  • Quarter: A variant of the academic calendar that splits the year into four 10-week periods, with only three of them being necessary (fall, winter, spring).
  • A school in the United States is a location where kids are educated; it usually refers to places with students in grades K-12. “Schools” can be regarded a sub-division of a university’s academic divisions inside colleges and universities (e.g., School of Engineering, School of Business). It’s also a slang word (for example, “How many colleges are you applying to?”).
  • A semester is a standard unit of measurement for an academic period. In a typical academic year, schools and universities have two semesters (fall and spring). The length of each semester is typically 16 weeks. Many colleges also offer a summer semester for students who do not begin classes in the autumn or who choose or need to take additional courses in order to advance or maintain their academic programmes.
  • A public four-year institution that is partially sponsored by the state in which it is located. The student body numbers at public state colleges are often enormous.
  • Transfer credits are credits earned by students who have finished some academic work at another institution and are applying them to a degree programme at a new university.

Thus, the USA education system not only focuses on imparting the requisite knowledge but also helps in the overall development of the students. If you are intending to study in USA, the land of opportunities, but are confused about the universities or the courses then reach out to us at Leverage Edu where the experts will not only help you choose the best programs but will also assist you in completing the admission related formalities. 

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    1. Hi Dipali,
      We can definitely provide you with all the right information and mentorship that will allow you to study in the land of dreams, USA. Get in touch with our experts at 1800572000 and let them guide you with everything that you want to know!

    1. Hi Dipali,
      We can definitely provide you with all the right information and mentorship that will allow you to study in the land of dreams, USA. Get in touch with our experts at 1800572000 and let them guide you with everything that you want to know!

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