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Aspiring students wishing to study at the American academic institution often get confused at the diversity of its education system. In the United States of America, there is such a vast number of schools, programs and location-specific niceties that an international student will get overwhelmed with choices. So, if you are beginning your search for the right academic institution, then it is important to familiarise yourself with the American education system. As and when you will get accustomed to the USA education system you will be better equipped to take the right decision regarding your education.
The Structure of Education System in USA
Where Federal Government stands: Unlike most of the countries world over, the US federal government does not control the educational system, though it grants funds to academic institutions as it contributes almost 10% to the national education budget. It is the state governments who formulate educational policies and control academic institutions in their respective territorial authority. Besides, there is a vibrant atmosphere of private education institutions too but, mostly they are quite expansive.
Primary and Secondary School: In the US, States have the authority to determine the compulsory years of education: most states have six to sixteen years of compulsory education, but in some states, students remain in schools until the age of 18.
In the US, secondary school has two programmes:
- Middle School or Junior High School;
- High School.
Upon completion of high school, a diploma or certificate is awarded to pupils. Then, for further studies, they can pursue higher education from colleges or universities.
Grading System: USA education system follows the grade point average (GPA) to evaluate students. Here in the US, the percentage is used to mark the performance of students, which, later on, are converted into grades.
Academic Calendar: In the US, academic calendar begins in August or September and goes until May or June. There are many courses which students can take in sequence.
There are variations in academic calendars, as under:
- Most schools follow academic calendar divided into two semesters,
- Some schools also have trimester system,
- Some schools follow the quarter system of four terms.
The US Higher Education System:
- Graduate in Pursuit of a Master’s Degree;
- Graduate in Pursuit of a Doctorate Degree.
Undergraduate Level: Basically, it means that someone who is pursuing the undergraduate education to earn a bachelor’s degree. Usually, it takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. Students can go to a community college or a four-year university or college for the same. The US is unique in the sense that it enables students to realise their interest area as it allows them to switch “majors” many a time as per their choice.
Master’s Degree: Students who have earned the bachelor’s degree can opt to pursue Master’s degree. There are certain tests for certain courses. For instance, international students who wish to study Master’s degree are often required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Doctorate Degree: There are two things to consider:
- Some graduate schools consider that the very completion of a Master’s degree is a step in the direction of earning a PhD;
- However, you can always prepare yourself to directly pursue it without even going for the master’s degree;
- As far as international students are concerned, it usually takes five to six years to earn a PhD degree.