So you want to know about education in the United States? Education in the United States of America is provided in private, public and home schools. Normally, state governments set overall standards of education, even Mandate standardized tests for public k-12 school systems and supervise, usually through a board of regents, universities, and state colleges.
The funding $1.3 trillion comes from state and local governments, with federal funding accounting for only around $200 billion. In this article, you get all the information regarding education in the United States.
In the United States in 2013, 87% of school-age student children state funded public schools, and about 10% students attended tuition-funded and foundation-funded private schools, and about roughly 3% were home-schooled. In the USA, law education is compulsory over an age ranging starting between five and eight and ending between ages of sixteen and eighteen, depending on the state. This requirement can be satisfied in state-certified private schools, or an approved home school.
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Home to the maximum number of international students the country US provides a large range of courses for all study levels. Children are mostly divided by age groups into grades, such as ranging from 5 to 6 years old (kindergarten) and for first grade 6 to 7 years old, and up to the twelfth grade is from 17 to 18 years old as the final year of their high school. Read along to know the study levels, fees structure, and financial aid for education in the United States.
The American education system offers a rich field of choices for international students. There is such an array of schools, programs and locations that the choices may overwhelm students, even those from the U.S. As you begin your school search, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the American education system. Understanding the system will help you narrow your choices and develop your education plan.
Study levels of education in the United States?
In the United States, there are study levels for students to complete their education like in other countries. Here are the study levels of education in the United States.
- Elementary school
- Middle school or junior high school
- High school
- And higher education.
The Educational Structure
Primary and Secondary School
Prior to higher education, American students attend primary and secondary school for a combined total of 12 years. These years are referred to as the first through twelfth grades.
Around age six, U.S. children begin primary school, which is most commonly called “elementary school.” They attend five or six years and then go onto secondary school.
Secondary school consists of two programs: the first is “middle school” or “junior high school” and the second program is “high school.” A diploma or certificate is awarded upon graduation from high school. After graduating high school (12th grade), U.S. students may go on to college or university. College or university study is known as “higher education.”
Just like American students, you will have to submit your academic transcripts as part of your application for admission to university or college. Academic transcripts are official copies of your academic work. In the U.S. this includes your “grades” and “grade point average” (GPA), which are measurements of your academic achievement. Courses are commonly graded using percentages, which are converted into letter grades.
The grading system and GPA in the U.S. can be confusing, especially for international students. The interpretation of grades has a lot of variation. For example, two students who attended different schools both submit their transcripts to the same university. They both have 3.5 GPAs, but one student attended an average high school, while the other attended a prestigious school that was academically challenging. The university might interpret their GPAs differently because the two schools have dramatically different standards.
Therefore, there are some crucial things to keep in mind:
- You should find out the U.S. equivalent of the last level of education you completed in your home country.
- Pay close attention to the admission requirements of each university and college, as well as individual degree programs, which may have different requirements than the university.
- Regularly meet with an educational advisor or guidance counselor to make sure you are meeting the requirements.
Your educational advisor or guidance counselor will be able to advise you on whether or not you must spend an extra year or two preparing for U.S. university admission. If an international student entered a U.S. university or college prior to being eligible to attend university in their own country, some countries’ governments and employers may not recognize the students’ U.S. education.
The school calendar usually begins in August or September and continues through May or June. The majority of new students begin in autumn, so it is a good idea for international students to also begin their U.S. university studies at this time. There is a lot of excitement at the beginning of the school year and students form many great friendships during this time, as they are all adjusting to a new phase of academic life. Additionally, many courses are designed for students to take them in sequence, starting in autumn and continuing through the year.
The academic year at many schools is composed of two terms called “semesters.” (Some schools use a three-term calendar known as the “trimester” system.) Still, others further divide the year into the quarter system of four terms, including an optional summer session. Basically, if you exclude the summer session, the academic year is either two semesters or three quarter terms.
The U.S. Higher Education System: Levels of Study
First Level: Undergraduate
“The American system is much more open. In Hong Kong you just learn what the teacher writes on the board. In America, you discuss the issues and focus more on ideas.”
A student who is attending a college or university and has not earned a bachelor’s degree, is studying at the undergraduate level. It typically takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. You can either begin your studies in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at a community college or a four-year university or college.
Your first two years of study you will generally be required to take a wide variety of classes in different subjects, commonly known as prerequisite courses: literature, science, the social sciences, the arts, history, and so forth. This is so you achieve a general knowledge, a foundation, of a variety of subjects prior to focusing on a specific field of study.
Many students choose to study at a community college in order to complete the first two years of prerequisite courses. They will earn an Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree and then transfer to a four-year university or college.
A “major” is the specific field of study in which your degree is focused. For example, if someone’s major is journalism, they will earn a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. You will be required to take a certain number of courses in this field in order to meet the degree requirements of your major. You must choose your major at the beginning of your third year of school.
A very unique characteristic of the American higher education system is that you can change your major multiple times if you choose. It is extremely common for American students to switch majors at some point in their undergraduate studies. Often, students discover a different field that they excel in or enjoy. The American education system is very flexible. Keep in mind though that switching majors may result in more courses, which means more time and money.
Second Level: Graduate in Pursuit of a Master’s Degree
Presently, a college or university graduate with a bachelor’s degree may want to seriously think about graduate study in order to enter certain professions or advance their career. This degree is usually mandatory for higher-level positions in library science, engineering, behavioral health and education.
Furthermore, international students from some countries are only permitted to study abroad at a graduate level. You should inquire about the credentials needed to get a job in your country before you apply to a postgraduate university in the USA.
A graduate program is usually a division of a university or college. To gain admission, you will need to take the GRE (graduate record examination). Certain master’s programs require specific tests, such as the LSAT for law school, the GRE or GMAT for business school, and the MCAT for medical school.
Graduate programs in pursuit of a master’s degree typically take one to two years to complete. For example, the MBA (master of business administration) is an extremely popular degree program that takes about two years. Other master’s programs, such as journalism, only take one year.
The majority of a master’s program is spent in classroom study and a graduate student must prepare a long research paper called a “master’s thesis” or complete a “master’s project.”
Third Level: Graduate in Pursuit of a Doctorate Degree
Many graduate schools consider the attainment of a master’s degree the first step towards earning a PhD (doctorate). But at other schools, students may prepare directly for a doctorate without also earning a master’s degree. It may take three years or more to earn a PhD degree. For international students, it may take as long as five or six years.
For the first two years of the program most doctoral candidates enroll in classes and seminars. At least another year is spent conducting firsthand research and writing a thesis or dissertation. This paper must contain views, designs, or research that have not been previously published.
A doctoral dissertation is a discussion and summary of the current scholarship on a given topic. Most U.S. universities awarding doctorates also require their candidates to have a reading knowledge of two foreign languages, to spend a required length of time “in residence,” to pass a qualifying examination that officially admits candidates to the PhD program, and to pass an oral examination on the same topic as the dissertation.
Characteristics of the U.S. Higher Education System
Classes range from large lectures with several hundred students to smaller classes and seminars (discussion classes) with only a few students. The American university classroom atmosphere is very dynamic. You will be expected to share your opinion, argue your point, participate in class discussions and give presentations. International students find this one of the most surprising aspects of the American education system.
Each week professors usually assign textbooks and other readings. You will be expected to keep up-to-date with the required readings and homework so you can participate in class discussions and understand the lectures. Certain degree programs also require students to spend time in the laboratory.
Professors issue grades for each student enrolled in the course. Grades are usually based upon:
- Each professor will have a unique set of class participation requirements, but students are expected to participate in class discussions, especially in seminar classes. This is often a very important factor in determining a student’s grade.
- A midterm examination is usually given during class time.
- One or more research or term papers, or laboratory reports must be submitted for evaluation.
- Possible short exams or quizzes are given. Sometimes professors will give an unannounced “pop quiz.” This doesn’t count heavily toward the grade, but is intended to inspire students to keep up with their assignments and attendance.
- A final examination will be held after the final class meeting.
Each course is worth a certain number of credits or credit hours. This number is roughly the same as the number of hours a student spends in class for that course each week. A course is typically worth three to five credits.
A full-time program at most schools is 12 or 15 credit hours (four or five courses per term) and a certain number of credits must be fulfilled in order to graduate. International students are expected to enroll in a full-time program during each term.
If a student enrolls at a new university before finishing a degree, generally most credits earned at the first school can be used to complete a degree at the new university. This means a student can transfer to another university and still graduate within a reasonable time.
1. Academic excellence
The US boasts of some of the finest universities, a lot of which consistently rank in the world university rankings. American institutions are also known to have high academic standards, follow rigorous practices to maintain quality and are well-supported to be able to offer excellent education to its students. As per the QS World Ranking 2019. 33 of the top 100 universities are from the US. Similarly, Times Higher Education Ranking has also ranked seven of the American universities in its top 10 list of universities.
2. Flexible education system
American universities and colleges offer a myriad of courses and programs to choose from. You have the freedom to not only select the course content, but also the structure. At the undergraduate level, you have the liberty to pursue different courses before you declare your major at the end of the second year. This helps to explore your subject interest and then decide without much hurry. Similarly, for your graduate studies, you can choose your preference and when you progress for your dissertation, you can focus on the ideas you want to emphasis upon.
3. Excellent support system for international students
American universities understand the struggles of international students and therefore conduct regular orientation programs, workshops and training to offer assistance. In fact, the international student office helps students like you to get accustomed to a new kind of lifestyle – whether it is an academic query, cultural or social, the staff will be there to assist you round the clock.
4. Cultural diversity
The US is a melting pot of different cultures, races and ethnicity. Its diverse environment ensures that there is acceptance among all communities and there is no room for any sort of discrimination. You’ll be learning with students from different regions of the world thereby making it a rich and stimulating education experience. Growing in the midst of diversity will provide you with strong personality traits and skills that will be valuable in the international market. These days employers prefer students with a multicultural background, which you would get a great taste of in the US. A one of a kind international exposure, the US will help you explore a variety of cuisines, customs, festivals and art too.
5. Lively and vibrant campus life
It’s a known fact that campus life in the US is matchless. Irrespective of the university you study in, you will find yourself in the midst of new cultural experiences and the American way of life. Embrace it and open yourself up to new ideas and new people.
Let’s know the overview of the qualifications available in the United States of America. Firstly, the qualification of an associate degree is a job-oriented program that allows a graduate student to launch a career and it is also equivalent to the first 2 years of a four year bachelor’s degree. Its duration is two years.
Secondly, about a bachelor’s degree. These undergraduate degrees that are available in the United States include courses, major, minor and elective. The four year of this degree are known as freshman, junior, senior and sophomore. The duration of this bachelor’s degree is 3 to 4 years. And if we talk about a master’s degree(professional) then it’s duration is 1 to 3 years. And it leads students from first degree to a particular profession. Normally, its duration depends on the field of study. So, it can be for 1 year, 2 year or maybe 3 year.
Master’s degree (academic) is of duration 2 years. Generally, it is awarded in traditional disciplines of humanities, science and arts. And it may lead students to doctoral programs also. Last but not least, the doctorate of Ph.D. has a duration of 5 to 8 years. And it is completed under the supervision of faculty advisors. Usually, a Ph.D. is awarded on the completion of dissertation and successful defense before a panel of faculty members.
Types of institutions of education in the United States:
Here, there are numerous types of institutions in the US that provide students a quality education. Let’s understand it better by categorizing them:
As we know, colleges are smaller than universities. Generally, colleges provide undergraduate degrees. Community colleges are the affordable option to study in the US, it offers you a two-year associate degree after which you can continue your studies in the university for another two years to complete your undergraduate degrees. Most US universities and colleges started their classes in August-September month which is usually known as the fall session. Few others also provide January-February intake till April, which is known as the spring intake.
Usually, universities offer you research-based master, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. Mainly, there are two types of universities present in the US. that is public universities and private universities. The classes of the US mostly have no more than 20 students and faculty members will take the time to get to know students and their strengths of learning. The duration of each course depends on the university and specialization.
- Public universities: these universities are mostly state universities that are established and run by the state government. Private universities, these universities are a mix of profit and non-profit supported by tuition fees and donations; approximately 20% of students are attending private universities.
Fees structure in the US, the fees is in the form of tuition fee and it depends on the type of qualification and university or college you choose. Courses in the engineering and medical field are expensive compared to others. As with other countries, MBA programs are the most expensive. The tuition is generally spent annually and it can range between US$10,000 and US$55,000.
Financial aid for education in the United States?
Yes, you heard it right! You can fund your studies by availing of various kinds of financial aid available in the United States of America for education. Let us understand better these financial aid by classifying them.
- Athletic scholarships.
- Need-based aid.
- Fellowships or grants.
- Scholarships or tuition waivers.
- Teaching assistant ships.
- Administrative assistant ships.
- Research assistant ships.
These aids can be provided by the government for the education of the United States, or private organizations and educational institutions. Remember, that the competition for such aids is high so you must apply them in advance.
Education in the United States is a good option if you are looking for it because their pedagogy is provided in American classrooms. And it places great significance on diversity, meaning classes will consist of different ages, ethnicity, and religions. This provides an interesting and stimulating learning atmosphere that motivates cross-culture socializing and understanding. Hope you get all the information regarding education in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are U.S. education laws and rights?
Education law says everyone has a right to free education. Students have the right to wear a hijab and to pray. You have a right to interpreters when you talk to your children’s school. Learn about education law in the USA and your education rights.
What are the levels in the U.S. education system?
In the USA, public school starts between the age of 4 and 6 and continues until 16 to 18 years old. You can also send your children to pre-school at a younger age. Learn about the different levels of school. Read about school placement.
How do I register my child in public school?
To start your child at school in the USA, you must first register your child as a student. This means you need to fill out a form so the school can accept your child. Learn how to register your child and the rules about going to school. Find other helpful information to prepare you for the first day.
Who are the school staff in my child’s school?
Many people work in U.S. schools. There are teachers, of course, but there are other people who are there to help your child. Learn about some of the people you will meet at your child’s school.
How can I help my child in school?
Starting school is both exciting and hard. You will need to help your child in school. Learn how to support your child in their school life and help them succeed. Find out about tutoring support for your child.
Does my child have to go to public school?
Children must go to school in the United States. If you do not send your children to school, you can get in trouble. You can choose what type of school to send your children to. Most children go to public school because it is free.
What other types of schools are there?
In the USA, there are other ways to educate children instead of public school. Private schools There are private schools that students must pay to attend. Many private schools are managed by churches or religious organizations. Each private school has different costs. Some are very expensive. But some have scholarships to help children go to school if the family does not have enough money to pay for the private school. Private schools often have different rules than public schools. Charter schools Another type of school is a charter school. Charter schools are free. Charter schools meet the same academic and legal requirements as traditional public schools, but they have different administrators than public schools, which are operated by the government. Charter schools do not have to follow all the rules that public schools must follow. Your child will need to apply to enroll, and many charter schools have a waiting list. Home schooling Home schooling is another method of education. Home-schooled students are taught by their parents. There are rules in every state about homeschooling. The parent is responsible for knowing the state’s rules for home schooling and for making sure the rules are followed.