- 1 The US Education System Explained
- 2 Overview of the U.S. Education System
- 3 U.S. Education System levels
- 4 Milestones in the US School System
- 5 US University Education System
- 6 Different Levels of College Degrees in the US
- 7 The US Education System in Comparison to Other International Countries
- 8 Pros and Cons of the US Education System in Comparison to Other Countries
- 9 US vs. UK Education System
- 10 US Education System Facts
- 11 US Education System Terms to Know: A US Colleges and Universities Glossary
- 11.1 What is the structure of the US education system?
- 11.2 What is the role of the federal government in education?
- 11.3 What is the role of state and local governments in education?
- 11.4 What are the different types of schools in the US?
- 11.5 What is the typical school day like in the US?
- 11.6 What are the different types of assessments used in US schools?
- 12 Questions about postsecondary education
The US Education System Explained
The US is one of the finest and most popular education destinations in the entire world. But what is the exact structure of the US education system that makes it so exceptional?
We bring you a detailed overview of the U.S. education system, starting from school to college and university programs.
Keep reading and get familiar with the American education system that the world is so charmed by.
Overview of the U.S. Education System
American School Education System
Similar to the international school structure, the U.S. also has three phases of school education:
- High School.
Interesting Fact: Kindergarten is not mandatory in U.S. school portfolios.
U.S. Education System levels
The proper school-starting age for kids in the United States of America is 5, and ideally, they finish high school at the age of 18. Elementary school is the first year of compulsory education in the U.S. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans call their classes grades. So if a child is going to first-year elementary school, they would call it 1st grade, not 1st class.
Fundamentally, the elementary school aims to teach students reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies like history, geography, art, craft, and physical education. As a common practice, students in each grade have to go through a test to prove they have gained the required skill so that they can be promoted to the next grade.
The American school structure encourages students to opt for various other subjects as per their choice of career. These subjects are called ‘Electives‘.
Studying subjects with a professional perspective in mind gives a very direct approach to education and makes it very practical for the real world.
Generally, the secondary school offers a wide range of subjects that will target college, universities, or a career in business and industry. Most schools in the United States of America teach a foreign language as part of their general curriculum. This gives students a worldview, helping them take their career opportunities globally smoothly.
Did you know about the Gifted Education Program in the US?
This program is for those students who do not find the curriculum challenging and can then opt for the Gifted Education Program.
Milestones in the US School System
Each stage of the school system in the United States of America will have a mandatory graduation ceremony. This ceremony will include giving out diplomas and certificates in a ceremonial manner.
Students will wear black capes and hats, and there will be speeches to celebrate their performances and welcome the new stage of their school life. This is called ‘Commencement‘.
Did you know these commencement ceremonies have a ‘Valedictorian‘?
The valedictorian gets the honor of giving a farewell speech at the graduation ceremony.
US University Education System
The higher education system in America comes in two formats.
- Vocational Training
- Undergraduate programme
Vocational training is typically a year or two long and is designed to get students immediate employment.
The undergraduate program is typically a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in an academic year program.
Did you know US colleges and universities require 12 years of schooling as a mandatory requirement?
State colleges and private colleges
In the United States, the federal government does not manage any colleges or universities. Colleges, universities, or institutes are either private, public, or managed by the state or national government.
Apart from public colleges, there are multiple community colleges. Community colleges offer low-cost education in local communities. They provide you with industry-acceptable credits to get you into the workforce after completing your bachelor’s degree.
Private colleges function on their own without any interference from the government. Interestingly, multiple private colleges in the United States were formed by religious denominations of churches. These include some of the most prestigious colleges in the US, like the University of Dayton and the University of the Pacific.
As per 2017 U.S. News and World Reports, there are 1626 public, 1687 private, and 985 for-profit colleges in America.
What’s the crux?
The quality of a college cannot be defined by whether the college is public or private.
Different Levels of College Degrees in the US
Undergraduate studies start right after high school. They are either a two-year associate degree course or a four-year bachelor’s degree course.
In general, associate degrees are granted by community colleges. Many international students opt for these community colleges as they are low-cost and provide industry-specific training.
However, in both associate and graduate degree courses, students choose a major as their focus subject. In addition to a major, students have a general curriculum that develops critical thinking and communication skills.
Graduate studies are only available to students who have completed an undergraduate degree. This is a striking difference from many countries where a five-year program is referred to as a postgraduate degree. In the US, a postgraduate degree refers to work done after a master’s degree program.
International students who are already graduates have two options. Either they can do a master’s or doctoral degree. A master’s is typically a one- or two-year course that must be completed with a thesis or a designated project.
The length of the doctorate level depends on two things:
- If the student has already completed a master’s degree in a related field,
- Or, the time it takes to finish your dissertation
The best part about studying in the States is that students are encouraged to take up subjects completely different from their major. They encourage the liberal arts as a valuable subject. Subjects like history, social science, and foreign languages are considered important in developing critical thinking, logical thinking, and communication skills.
Majors, Minors, and Concentrations
Major: The most relevant subject to the student.
Minors: Other academic focuses of the student that require half of the semester classes
Concentrations: specialization within a major that allows students to study more focused areas of study in their major.
The Department of Education‘s online database has a draft of all the accreditations used, and you can check it out to get familiar with the terminology of the US Education System.
The US Education System in Comparison to Other International Countries
America is one of the top priorities for international students. The education system and structure support decentralization. It is certainly much ahead of many Asian countries. However, when compared to other developed countries, it ranks average.
South Korea and Finland outcast all other countries in terms of their education systems. However, the learning atmosphere and culture in these countries are much less diverse than in America.
Pros and Cons of the US Education System in Comparison to Other Countries
|American subjects are much more diversified, giving students much more exposure.
|According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), in 2009, the United States of America ranked in the middle.
|School education is free for all, giving every student a chance to learn.
|The US educational system lacks creativity in comparison to other developed countries.
|The American education system focuses on a career. Students get ready for jobs as soon as they are out of school.
|The teaching staff is underpaid and overburdened with work, which gives them less chance to explore creative ways to teach lessons, etc.
US vs. UK Education System
There is always a face-off between the British and American styles of doing things, isn’t there? So, it is only natural to compare the educational structure between the two countries.
- In the US, degree programs take one year longer to complete in comparison to the UK.
- Students can go directly to a PhD after the undergraduate program, but it is common in the UK to complete a Master’s degree before adapting for a Ph.D.
- The academic calendar for US colleges starts in mid-August; however, UK universities’ calendars are a bit different. They start in September and end in June or July.
- The universities in the United States allow students to explore more subjects apart from their major, making it a breadth of studying experience. Whereas, in the UK, the university focuses more on an in-depth study of the chosen subject.
- In the US, courses require weekly or bi-weekly readings. You get assignments that are typically small writing assignments, major research papers, and oral presentation tasks. In the UK, the structure is more lecture-based, with a few occasional assignments; however, the entire assessment of the semester is based on the final exam.
- Both countries provide student accommodation as part of the fee structure. However, it is common in the UK for students to get their own room, while in the US they may share a room with another student.
US Education System Facts
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires all US colleges and universities to apply for certification every two years to issue the I-20 forms that international students use to apply for student visas.
- Most colleges in the US have their own application form; however, international students can use the Common Application forum to apply to nearly 900 US colleges and universities for the undergraduate program.
- Some colleges and universities take specialized tests for international students to evaluate their credits.
- International students must check the application checklist for every college and university and get the paperwork ready to make the admission process smooth.
- International students are most likely to be asked to convert their academic scores to GPAs, which is America’s grading system.
- Colleges and universities ask students to submit their statement or essay with their application. This way, they get to know students better and can make better decisions about their applications.
Where does the US education system rank internationally?
As per a 2018 Business Insider report, the US ranks 38th in math and 24th in science. As per International Standards, the American education system has been sliding down in the rank charts.
As part of their insider news reports, America has cut down the education fund by 3%, causing a direct effect on the quality of education.
US Education System Terms to Know: A US Colleges and Universities Glossary
Every country has its own unique way of addressing things, and the American education system is filled with multiple terms that international students are not familiar with.
We have listed below some of these nomenclatures that will be helpful during your stay in the US.
Credits: Units to calculate the academic score of students.
Designated School Official (DSO): This person is your go-to person if you are an international student. DSO is the person on campus who gathers and reports information on international students to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). DSO will assist international students in the visa and employment authorization processes. Your DSO’s name will be listed on your I-20.
Dorms: Aka. Dormitories in college are student housing facilities. They include student rooms, bathrooms, common rooms, and possibly a cafeteria. Students often refer to them as dorms.
Fellowship: financial assistance for graduate students that requires no service in return.
Freshman: A freshman is a first-year student at a high school, college, or university.
Grade Point Average (GPA): GPAs are the combined average of a student’s grades for all academic coursework completed.
Residency: For students studying medicine, it is clinical training in a chosen specialty.
Zip Code: A series of numbers in mailing addresses that designates postal delivery districts in the United States.
This is a brief description of US education that covers schools, colleges, and universities. I hope you found out interesting facts about it that can help you prepare for your dream of studying in the US.
What is the structure of the US education system?
The US education system is divided into three levels: primary, secondary, and postsecondary. Primary education, also known as elementary school, typically covers grades kindergarten through fifth. Secondary education, also known as middle school and high school, typically covers grades six through twelve. Postsecondary education includes colleges, universities, and vocational schools.
What is the role of the federal government in education?
The federal government plays a limited role in education, primarily through funding and setting standards. However, it also has some direct responsibilities, such as overseeing special education programs and administering financial aid for students.
What is the role of state and local governments in education?
State and local governments have more direct control over education than the federal government. They are responsible for setting curriculum standards, funding schools, and hiring teachers.
What are the different types of schools in the US?
There are two main types of schools in the US: public and private. Public schools are funded by the government and are open to all students, regardless of their ability to pay. Private schools are funded by tuition and are not required to accept all students.
What is the typical school day like in the US?
The typical school day in the US is six to seven hours long, and it is divided into periods for different subjects. Students typically have five or six classes per day.
What are the different types of assessments used in US schools?
US schools use a variety of assessments to measure student learning. These assessments can include standardized tests, teacher-made tests, and portfolios.
Questions about postsecondary education
What are the different types of postsecondary institutions in the US?
There are two main types of postsecondary institutions in the US: colleges and universities. Colleges typically offer four-year undergraduate programs, while universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs.
What are the different types of financial aid available to students?
There are a variety of financial aid options available to students, including grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs.
What is the application process for postsecondary institutions in the US?
The application process for postsecondary institutions in the US typically includes submitting an application form, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores.