Understanding The American Education System (Explained) 2024

Everyone is familiar with the concept of the American education system, whether you agree with their curriculum or not, I think we’re all intrigued to know its mechanisms.

Especially for foreign exchange students, and international students, America offers a wide range of options to choose from. As there are so many things to consider, e.g. location, courses, fees and such, you may feel overwhelmed. Therefore, you can use this article to narrow down your prospects and see what best fits your requirements.

American Educational Structure 2024

Primary School & Secondary School

These are going to be the first 12 years of a student’s life, AKA the beginning stage. There’s more to this; usually, the students will start their school life around five to six years old. This is referred to as elementary school, which is a part of primary-level education.

Then, we arrive at the secondary level stage; consisting of middle school, junior high school, and just high school.

Middle school starts from 6th grade and ends at 8th grade, whereas junior high would be the 9th and 10th, then the final graduation stage will be high school from 11th to 12th grade.

After completing this incipient level of studies, you’ll acquire a high school diploma, moving on to the next level.


This will be your University life; it can take around 4 years to complete your bachelor’s, although that may vary depending on your course.

The first two years of bachelor’s degree consists of prerequisites, as in subjects that’ll expand your general knowledge: literature, science, arts, social sciences, history, etc.

The next two years are where things get serious as you’ll be required to choose a major; your main field of studies. You must decide on your major on the third year; depending on that, you’d be required to take a certain amount of courses. A very helpful yet unique aspect of majors in America is that you can change your major multiple times. It’s flexible.

Bear in mind, however, switching majors too often can be time consuming and a waste of money.

At the end of this stage, you’ll earn a bachelor of arts degree on your chosen major.

Also Read: Bachelor of Arts Vs Bachelor of Science: What’s the Difference?

Obtaining A Master’s Degree

Masters are an additional step to your studies to boost your carrier prospects; yet for fields like library science, engineering and such, this degree is mandatory.

Postgraduate degrees are harder to pursue in America, as undergrad programs are mainly offered to international students, so just to be sure, you can directly contact the institution to ask for the requirements.

Also, before you proceed with the degree, you’d be required to take GRE (graduate record examination) for admission. There are variations, however, e.g. LSAT for law school, MCAT for medical school, GRE and GMAT for business school.

It could take anywhere from one to two years to complete the Master’s program. You’ll spend your time completing Master’s thesis and Master’s projects.

Also Read: USA Scholarships for International Students 2024

Pursuing Doctorate Degree Or PhD

This is the ultimate stage of education; giving you a reputation to behold. It usually takes about 3 years to attain this degree, but for international students, that may stretch to 5 or 6 years.

Some complete Master’s before heading towards PhD, while some directly jump into it, it’ll depend on the course and the institution.

The first two years entail attending seminars and classes to get started, then you’ll be spending at least one year on doing firsthand researches. This is when you’ll publish papers, theses and dissertations. They must be authentic and insightful.

These research papers will contain the summary and discussion of a specific subject you’re given.

Another thing you should remember is most US universities that offer PhD, would require you to at least be adequately fluent in two languages. A candidate must pass an oral exam on the topic stated as the dissertation.

Also Read: How to Apply For Student Loan Forgiveness in the USA?

How does the American education system work?

Understanding The American Education System?

A Few More Things To Know:

Academic Year: The school year generally begins in August or September, and carries on till May or June. It’s a good idea for international students to start during autumn, as that session is the most preferred.

This is when all of the excitement starts, from new friends to new environment; you’d get a rush of feelings.

The academic year is referred to as two terms mainly: semesters and trimesters. Excluding the summer session, the academic year is made of two semesters and three quarter terms.

Classroom Atmosphere & Grading: Classes and lectures can be big or small; from hundreds to tens. It varies, yet that’s the fun.

You’ll be involved in discussions, and presentations and clearing your confusion on matters. If needed, you’ll be required to work at laboratories for practical assignments. Other than that, professors usually give homework based on recent discussions and textbooks, so keep up with that. Professors will grade you based on classroom performance, midterms, quizzes, research papers, assignments and final term.

  • Credits: One course typically comprises of 3 to 5 credits; this is basically how much time you spend on a course each week, also known as credit hours. You need to reach a certain level of credits to graduate your course; the credits can be flexible though. You can expedite the graduation or slow it down.
  • Transfers: This is for students who may want to switch schools during the academic year; usually the credits from the previous institution can be transferred to the new one, making sure students graduate with their peers.

Types Of US Higher Education

  • State Colleges Or Universities: They’re also called public colleges; these institutions are run and funded by the government. All of the 50 states in America have at least a few state colleges. Getting enrolled there is something many students desire as it’s cheaper and more helpful.
  • Private Colleges Or Universities: We’re talking Ivy League and similar prestigious institutions; unlike the state colleges, these are operated by private individuals, so they’re way more expensive. Usually they welcome students from all around the world, yet some have strict guidelines.
  • Community Colleges: These colleges last for about 2 years, and award you with an associate’s degree and certificates. The degrees can range vastly, however, the most important thing you should look for is whether or not you can transfer the degree for a higher level education.

For community college graduates, the next step is to start at a 4 year university afterwards, having done 2 years of it already. However, that’s not what everyone opts for, as some people can find careers without the additional two years.

  • Institute Of Technology: They offer courses on tech and science related topics. Some actually have graduate programs, whilst others only offer short term training courses and such.

How to Study in USA? What you need for American student visa?

Additional Considerations

  1. Fees: This is a valuable consideration for most people; depending on the institution, the tuition fees largely vary. You have to precisely look through the semester cost and extra expenses before you proceed, as many students struggle financially afterwards. The average fee an international student should expect to pay in America is $37,600.
  2. Housing & Location: Now, this is a given. For easier transportation, you should find housing near your chosen institution. Also, the rent and living expenses are very different according to where you’ll live. You may opt for dorms as that is an option for many institutions. However, you should be ready to pay around $10000 to $18000 per year.
  3. Acquiring USA Student Visa: You have to make sure you fit the requirements to get an F1 visa. These are the requirements:
  4. Your original passport.
  5. A copy of your picture you intend to use for the visa.
  6. Printed copies of payment confirmations to the institution.
  7. I-20 form.
  8. School transcripts and scores you sent to the university.
  9. Diploma, if you have one.
  10. Bank statements and financial documents; you should have about 10k dollars in the bank as proof.

Also Read: USA Student Visa Requirements, Fees, Program, Apply For Study in USA

FAQs American Education System:

What are the rules for international students in USA?

Submit the vital documents and contact your chosen institution for further details.

Why is USA best for international students?

Well, they offer an advanced and diverse education system and you can learn from various cultures there. However, whether it’s best for you or not, is up to you.

What are the types of international students?

Regular students, visiting students, exchange students and research students.

How long can international students stay in USA after graduation?

60 days.

How long is a US student visa valid for?

About 5 years.

All in all, I hope this article helps, and good luck!

Also Check: Top 10 UK Scholarships for International Students in 2024

Abeda UK

Abeda Jannat Scholarship Analyst from United Kingdom. Her main focus is to share how you can crack IELTS Exam, How you will get a Scholarship from Best University in the world, also she will share all her experiences about IELTS, University Admission or Application process, etc.

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