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USA Education System: Guide on Education System in USA for International Students

Yocket Editorial Team

Higher education in USA has a diverse range of options for international students. The degree presented by the US universities are outstanding, and students get the chance to learn and work with some brilliant researchers in the field. The degree from the universities of the US are recognised globally for their academic excellence. The intakes in USA classically runs from September to May and can be separated into 2 academic terms of 16-18 weeks, referred to as semesters. Otherwise, some schools may function on a quarter or trimester system of multiple terms of 10-12 weeks.

Regardless of the university type, in the US, international students earn credits for courses they take, which sum towards the achievement of a program. Courses are frequently divided into "core" subject areas to offer the basis of the degree program and "major" courses to offer a speciality in a subject area. So, to give details about the current education system in USA, we have curated a guide below listing all the necessary information about the same.

  Table of Contents:

  1. What are US Education System Levels?
  2. USA Education System for International Students
  3. Types of Educational Institutes in USA
  4. Grading System in USA
  5. How is the Academic Year Setup in the USA?

What are US Education System Levels?

The US offers a broad range of courses for all study levels. Here’s we have listed below the education system of the US.

  1. Elementary School
  2. Middle School
  3. High School
  4. Higher Education

Let’s know it in detail:

School Stages


Elementary School

It runs for 6-7 years early in kindergarten through to Grade 5 or 6

Secondary School

It runs for 2-3 years, opening in Grade 6 or 7 through to Grade 8

High School

It runs for 4 years, starting in Grade 9 to Grade 12.

A diploma or certificate is given upon graduation from high school. After graduating high school & 12th grade, U.S. students may go to college or university.

Higher Education

After completing 12th grade, students can move over to higher education in USA.

College or university study is considered higher education.

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Higher Education System in US

More than 4,000 accredited universities make up the education system in USA. Unlike many countries, higher education institutions are not centrally managed but are qualified by sovereign accrediting bodies on a national or regional level. Let’s take an overview of higher education in the USA.




Associate Degree

2 years

Typically, 2-year programs are planned to offer international students’ basic knowledge of subjects.

They prepare students for entry-level positions in fields counting designing, nursing, and education.

Bachelor’s Degree

3 – 4 years

It takes 4 years to complete; the programs provide students with education and training for most career paths.

Bachelor's degree in USA for international students includes core courses, major, minor and electives.

Master’s Degree (Professional)

1 to 3 years

Leads international students from first degree to specific profession; duration depends on field of study

Master’s Degree (Academic)

2 years

Mostly awarded in traditional disciplines of arts, humanities and science; may lead students to doctoral programs.

Doctorate or PhD

5 to 8 years

The degree is completed under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

It is awarded to the student on completion of the thesis and successful defence before a panel of faculty members.

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Types of Education Institutes in USA

There are various kinds of institutions in the U.S. that offer quality education. These can be categorised into:

1. Community Colleges

Community colleges are 2 -year associate degree programs/certifications. There are two associate degrees international students can take in community college. Students can enrol in an academic transmission program or directly to the workforce program. ESL or intensive English language programs are accessible to help prepare students for university-level courses.

2. State College or University

Each of the 50 U.S. states functions at least one state university and possibly numerous state colleges. State colleges bid on a more affordable post-secondary route. They have often had an inclusive range of degree programs obtainable. Students can also access lively campus life, extra-curricular activities, and state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

3. Private College or University

Religiously allied universities and colleges are private schools. Nearly all these schools welcome international students of all religions and beliefs. The colleges offer students smaller class sizes, which helps them figure out a relationship with their professors and advisors. They have a small list of degree programs, and students have the choice to customise their degrees and will be part of more discussion-based classes.

4. Ivy League

The Ivy League is one of the world's most famous groups of universities. It consists of eight historic universities such as Brown University, Cornell University, Princeton University, Harvard University, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth University, Columbia University and Yale University. They are all located in the northeast region of the U.S.

5. Institute of Technology

Institutes of technology are universities that specify in technology, engineering, applied sciences, and natural sciences. Students can join a four-year program to accept a bachelor's degree. Some have master's programs, while others offer short-term courses.

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Grading System in USA

There are generally 2 types of grading systems followed in the US; numerical and letter grades. The numerical grading scale is from 0 to 100, which is further smashed down to letter grades for better understanding.

GPA is measured as one of the essential factors in the American Standard of Education as it is used in every significant thing such as applying for scholarships, joining Universities, graduating or joining any club.

The below explained table will give you better understanding of education system in USA:


Letter Grade

4.0 Grade Scale

97- 100%


4.33 or 4.00

93- 96%



90- 92%



87- 89%



83- 86%



80- 82%



77- 79%



73- 76 %



70- 72%



67- 69%



63- 66%






0 - 59%



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How is the Academic Year Setup in the USA?

The academic year classically begins in August or September in the USA education system. Depending on the university, the academic year may be separated into trimesters, quarters or semesters and will run till May or June.

And for colleges that track semesters, the fall term runs from late August or early September to mid-December and the spring semester routes from January through May.

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The USA education system greatly impacts diversity; classes will comprise students of different ages, religions and ethnicities. This offers a stimulating and interesting learning atmosphere that inspires cross-cultural understanding and socialising. So, if you’re the one planning to move to USA for higher studies, connect with our Yocket Professionals and find easy ways to get admitted to top universities in the US.

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