Education System in the U.S.A.
In the U.S.A. there is no national education system guiding all of the states. Each state has their own official institution which determines their educational policies. Although such a system may offer a variety of options for international students, it requires more effort to understand and choose wisely between options.
The primary, middle, and high school education in the U.S.A. is usually twelve years in total. With a high school diploma, students may apply to community colleges or universities of their choice. The pre-school education is 1-3 years. Children begin primary school at the age of six and usually move to middle school in five years. Middle school education usually lasts three years with high school education generally lasting four years.
Undergraduate Programs: A student with a high school diploma can earn a Bachelor’s Degree by continuing their education at a university or college upon graduation. In order to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, a student has to complete, on the average, 120 credit hours depending on his/her field of study. Usually a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S) diploma can be earned. Another option a high school student has is to get an Associate Degree, or two-year degree, by attending a Community or Junior College often located in their hometown. Community Colleges have many programs on Management, Design, and Technical subjects and help students’ transition between high school and the university environment.
There are small differences between private and state universities in terms of the quality of education and the recognition of earned diplomas. The important point about selecting an institution of learning is that the university be accredited. State universities often have lower tuition fees compared to private universities because they receive financial assistance from the state they are located. In addition, state universities tend to have more students and the class sizes are larger.
Higher education institutions in the U.S.A. can be grouped as follows:
Community Colleges: Community Colleges are two-year colleges that generally focus on vocational education and general studies. The graduates of community colleges are awarded either an Associate of Arts (A.A) or Associate of Science (A.S) degree after completing approximately a 60-credit hour course load. One of the most important advantages of community colleges is to enable students to transfer their earned credit hours and transition to a four-year university after completing an associate degree.
Institutes of Technology: There are many institutes of technology in the U.S.A. and they offer the same standard of education as the universities. Although many institutes of technology are established to provide opportunities to receive instruction and do research in Sciences and Engineering fields, there are also those which have strong programs in Social Sciences.
Liberal Arts Colleges: These colleges also offer Bachelor’s Degree like the universities. Liberal Arts Colleges have smaller class size (max. 25-30 students per classroom) and they are usually located in smaller cities. One of the most important differences is that in the first two years at a Liberal Arts Colleges, students take courses from Social Sciences, Sciences, and Languages then decide on the field that they want to specialize or major in. In the last two years of their education, these students take courses in the field that they have chosen.
Graduate Education: Earning a Master’s degree is considered a graduate level diploma in the U.S.A. Master’s programs require an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite. Students complete an additional 30-36 credit hours and write a Master’s thesis for this degree. In some Master’s programs, students can receive a Master’s degree by taking a comprehensive exam. In the Social Sciences field, students receive a Master of Arts degree (M.A.). In the Sciences and Engineering fields, students receive a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. There are also other Master’s degrees such as Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Earning a doctorate degree is the highest level of graduate study and is begun after a student has earned a Master’s degree. Doctorate studies usually take three to four years to complete. In some fields, which require more research, this time frame can be longer. Students are usually required to write a dissertation on a unique topic to receive the doctorate degree. After completing the dissertation and with the approval of your university, students can be awarded the “Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)” title. However, there are other doctorate degrees such as Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A) and Doctor of Education (EdD) which are given according to the field of specialization.