Explaining How Higher Education System in US Works

Meridean Overseas
Meridean Overseas

Updated On 13 June 2023 & Read Time 10 minutes



Do you also aspire to start your study-abroad journey and take your education to the next level? When looking to study and earn a highly valued degree in premier universities worldwide, the first country you would come across would be the United States of America.


The excellent education system, research opportunities, and flexible approach compel lakhs of international students to study in USA. The education system in USA is quite different from any other study-abroad destination. And before considering to study abroad in USA, it is important for you to understand the education system over there.


So in this blog, let us introduce you to the higher education system in USA.


Higher Education System in US - Course Curriculum

The US education system emphasises a broad-based education that encourages critical thinking, independent research, and interdisciplinary approaches. The curriculum typically combines core requirements, electives, and opportunity to choose a major. Generally, the US higher education system focuses on equipping you with practical and updated knowledge to prepare you for jobs. Moreover, you'll be encouraged to explore various subjects before specialising in your area of interest. The coursework often involves a mix of lectures, seminars, group projects, and practical assignments to foster a well-rounded education.


US Education System Levels

According to the American education system levels, typically, you have the option of following levels after schooling:


Associate Degrees


After schooling, international students can directly enrol for Associate degrees in US universities. Typically, the duration for Associate degrees in US is of around 19 to 24 months. It is a foundation-level program that offers basic knowledge of the subject and prepares you for advanced studies. After completing an Associate degree, you can directly enter the workforce or enrol for 4 years of a bachelor’s degree.


Undergraduate Degrees


Undergraduate, also known as a bachelor’s degree, is another option you can pursue after schooling. Generally, undergraduate education in the US lasts for four years. If we talk about the semester, there are around 8 semesters, with a gap of every six months. You can choose a major or combine multiple areas of study before specialising in a particular field. One of the most unique features of the education system in USA is that international students can switch majors at some point in their undergraduate studies. Undergraduate programs in the USA provide a comprehensive education that combines coursework, research, internships, and extracurricular activities to foster intellectual development and practical skills. The minimum overall score required in 12th grade to enrol for a bachelor’s degree in USA is 55%.


Graduate Degree


Graduation level is also commonly known as a Master's degree. After completing your Bachelor’s degree, you can directly enrol for Graduate study in the USA. In the US, a Master's degree usually lasts for 2 years. And if we talk about the semesters, it consists of 4 semesters, with a gap of every six months. The Master's courses in USA allow students to understand their field and develop specialised skills deeply. Generally, to be eligible for graduate studies, students require 4 years of bachelor's degree. However, 3 years of a bachelor’s degree from a NAAC-A accredited university is also acceptable. If you do not have 4 years of bachelor’s degree, you may go for a credential evaluation to get eligible for a Master’s in a US university. The minimum overall score required in a bachelor’s to enrol for a Master’s degree in USA is 60%.




PhD courses in the USA provide international students unparalleled opportunities for advanced research and intellectual growth. Pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in the USA involves in-depth study and specialisation in a specific field of interest. You can apply for PhD degree once you complete your Masters. At PhD level, you have an opportunity to choose a specific specialisation and focus only on that. PhD programs in the USA typically offer a combination of coursework, comprehensive exams, and independent research. Generally, to enrol for PhD degrees, students must do research work.


Academic Year in US Education System

According to the American education system, international students have two academic years. Typically, they begin in August (Fall) and January (Spring). Each semester lasts approximately 15 weeks (around 6 months), followed by a winter or spring break. Some institutions also offer a summer semester, providing additional coursework or internship opportunities. International students have the opportunity to apply for both intakes.


Credit System in USA

In the United States, most programs use the Semester Credit Hours (SCH) system, which is based on the assumption that a full-time study load is 30 US credits per year. A US Credit generally consists of a weekly workload of one hour in class and two hours outside of class for the duration of one semester. This means the total workload for one US Credit is generally between 45 and 50 hours, of which a minimum of 15 contact hours.


However, it's important to note that credit policies and scales may vary between universities and even among different departments within the same institution.


Grading System in USA

The grading system in USA can be confusing for international students. The grading system in the USA for Bachelor's and Master's degrees is typically graded on a scale of 4 (Letter). Each letter grade corresponds to a specific grade point value. Grades are typically assigned based on a combination of factors, including exams, coursework, projects, presentations, and participation. The cumulative grade point average (GPA) is calculated by assigning grade point values to each course and averaging them based on the credit hours of the respective courses. The grading system in US is as follows:


  • A: Excellent (4.0-grade points)

  • B: Good (3.0-3.9 grade points)

  • C: Satisfactory (2.0-2.9 grade points)

  • D: Passing but below average (1.0-1.9 grade points)


However, some universities may have slight variations in grading scales or use different symbols for the same grade point values.


It's important to note that specific grading policies may vary among institutions and even among departments within the same institution.


Types of Educational Institutes in USA

In the American study system, international students have a wide range of educational institutions to choose from. Here are the main types of educational institutes available for you:


  1. Universities: Universities in the USA offer a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs across various fields of study. They typically grant bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Universities are often research-focused and offer extensive resources, including libraries, laboratories, and research centres. Now we can further divide universities into private, public, and IVY league universities.

    • Private Universities: Private universities are owned by a group of people or any single person. Generally, the tuition fee in these universities is higher. Often, private universities are smaller in size.

    • Public Universities: Universities that the US government owns are public universities. The tuition fee in public universities is comparatively lower than the other educational institutions.

    • Ivy League: Ivy League is a group of the 8 most prestigious and oldest universities in the US. These universities are known worldwide for their excellent education system and sports opportunities.

  2. Community Colleges: Community colleges, also known as two-year colleges, provide two-year associate degree programs. These institutions often have lower tuition fees and offer a variety of vocational and technical programs. Many international students choose to start their higher education journey at a community college before transferring to a four-year university to complete their bachelor's degrees.

  3. Liberal Arts Colleges: Liberal arts colleges focus on providing a broad-based education in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. These colleges emphasise critical thinking, writing skills, and a well-rounded education. Liberal arts colleges are often smaller in size, allowing for more personalised attention and close interactions with professors.

  4. Institutes of Technology: Institutes of Technology are specialised institutions focusing on science, engineering, technology, and related fields. These institutes provide hands-on learning, research opportunities, and cutting-edge facilities. Prominent examples include California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).

  5. Business Schools: Business schools, also known as schools of business or business colleges, offer programs specifically focused on business and management education. These institutions provide undergraduate and graduate programs, including Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and specialised master's degrees in areas such as finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Well-known business schools include Harvard Business School, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

When considering educational institutes in the USA, you should carefully research and consider factors such as program offerings, reputation, location, cost, campus culture, and support services to find the best fit for their academic and personal goals.


Environment for International Students in USA

The USA is known for its diverse and inclusive environment, welcoming students from all over the world. International students can expect a supportive network of faculty, staff, and fellow students who understand the challenges of studying in a new country. Many US universities have a team of international student support who are dedicated to solving the problems faced by international students.


Besides this, universities often have international student offices that assist with visas, cultural adjustment, and academic support. Additionally, many institutions offer clubs, organisations, and cultural events allowing international students to connect with their peers and showcase their own cultures.



Q: What are the benefits of the education system in US?

A: The benefits of the American education system include academic excellence, a wide range of programs, a practical approach to teaching, cutting-edge research facilities, global perspective and diversity, enhanced career opportunities, holistic development, comprehensive support services, and extensive alum networks.


Q: What is the cost of studying in USA for international students?

A: The cost of studying in US universities for you depends on the university and program you choose to pursue. However, the average cost ranges from 25,000 USD to 45,000 USD per year.


Q: Is the education system in USA good for international students?

A: Yes, the education system in USA is generally good for international students due to its course curriculum and opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Apart from this, the US is an ideal place for international students considering the diverse and welcoming environment over there.


Q: Can Indian students get scholarships to study in USA?

A: Yes, Indian students have the opportunity to receive scholarships to study in USA. Many educational institutes offer scholarships and financial aid for international students. Apart from the Indian government also offers various scholarships to study-abroad aspirants.



The education system in USA offers international students an enriching and comprehensive learning experience. From the diverse curriculum and flexible study options to the supportive environment and cultural opportunities, studying in USA can pave the way for personal growth, academic excellence, and global connections.


If you are still unsure or would like to get deeper insight, we encourage you to have a word with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). If you are unable to travel to our offices, we offer online counselling services via our website. Our dedicated counsellors will provide you with the best guidance regarding your application to study in USA. Don't hesitate to contact us at application02@meridean.org or call us at 1800-1230-00011.


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