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Understanding US degree levels can sometimes feel like deciphering a complex puzzle. But fear not! This blog is your compass, guiding you through the maze of US degree hierarchy and the academic structure in the US. Whether you’re an ambitious student with big dreams or a parent cheering on your child’s educational voyage, we’re here to unravel the mysteries of the American educational landscape to help you study in USA. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready as we demystify educational levels in the US !

In this blog:

K-12 Academic Structure in the US 

The first 12 years of education in the US are referred to as the K-12 system. This stands for Kindergarten through 12th grade. Kindergarten is not compulsory, but most children attend. Indian students usually opt to study in US after class 12.

  1. Elementary school (grades 1-5) is the first level of the K-12 system. Students in elementary school typically study a range of subjects, including Math, Science, English, Social Studies, and the Arts.

  2. Middle school (grades 6-8) is the second level of the K-12 system. Students in middle school typically continue to study the same subjects as they did in elementary school, but they also begin to take more specialised courses.

  3. High school (grades 9-12) is the third and final level of the K-12 system. Students in high school typically take a combination of general education courses and electives. They also have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, and student government.

Understanding US Degree Levels 

After completing the K-12 system, students may choose to pursue postsecondary education. Postsecondary education in the US can take many forms. The main educational levels in the US education system are explained in a little more detail below:

Associate Degrees

At the foundation of the US education system are associate degrees. Typically offered by community colleges, associate degrees are designed to provide students with two years of undergraduate education. These degrees can be categorised into two types: 

  • Associate of Arts (AA) 
  • Associate of Science (AS) 

Associate of Arts (AA) degrees are more focused on liberal arts subjects such as humanities and social sciences, while Associate of Science (AS) degrees are geared towards scientific and technical fields. Here are the examples of associate degree level within the US education system along with their typical durations:

Associate of Arts (AA) in Psychology 2 years
Associate of Science (AS) in Computer Science 2 years
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing 2 years

Also read: Scholarships in the USA for Indian students

Bachelor’s Degrees

The next level of education in the US is the bachelor’s degree, also known as an undergraduate degree. This is the most common degree sought by students and is typically completed in four years at a college or university. Bachelor’s degrees are offered in various disciplines, including but not limited to, arts, sciences, business, engineering, and education.

Bachelor’s degrees can be broadly classified into two categories: 

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) 
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) 

Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees emphasise a broader liberal arts curriculum with a focus on humanities, social sciences, and creative arts, while Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees emphasise technical and scientific subjects. Here are the examples of Bachelor’s degrees within the US education system along with their typical durations:

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English 4 years
Bachelor of Science (BS) in Biology 4 years
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing 4 years

Master’s Degrees

After completing a bachelor’s degree, students can choose to pursue a master’s degree. Master’s degrees are postgraduate programs that typically require one to two years of study beyond the bachelor’s level. They provide specialised knowledge and advanced skills in a particular field of study.

Master’s degrees in the US encompass a wide range of disciplines, including business administration (MBA), education (M.Ed.), engineering (M.Eng.), and many more. Students can also pursue research-oriented master’s degrees such as Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA), which involve in-depth research and a thesis or capstone project. Here are the examples of Master’s degrees within the US education system along with their typical durations:

Master of Arts (MA) in History 1-2 years
Master of Science (MS) in Computer Engineering 1-2 years
Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Elementary Education 1-2 years

Also read:What are the jobs after MS in US?

Doctoral Degrees

The highest level of academic achievement in the US education system is the doctoral degree. Doctoral programs are typically research-intensive and require several years of study and original research, culminating in a dissertation or doctoral thesis.Doctoral degrees in the US are conferred in various fields, including but not limited to, arts, sciences, engineering, medicine, law, and education. The two most common doctoral degrees include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) 

Ph.D. degrees focus on advanced research in a specific academic discipline, while Ed.D. degrees are typically geared towards professionals in the field of education.

Here are the examples of Doctoral degrees within the US education system along with their typical durations:

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology 4-7 years (varies)
Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Medical Sciences 4 years (after bachelor’s degree)
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership 3-5 years (varies)

It’s important to note that each institution may have its own specific requirements and degree programs, so it’s advisable to research individual colleges and universities for more detailed information. Additionally, various professional certifications and vocational programs also exist alongside these academic degrees, catering to different career paths and interests.

Checkout: Top 5 states for Indian students to study in US

US Education System Hierarchy

The US Education System can leave you boggled but, we at Jamboree, are always one-step ahead of it. Our 30 years of experience in the Study Abroad industry have helped us land 170,000+ students at leading US universities including Stanford, Cornell, Yale, NYU, Harvard and many more. Book a free counselling session to kickstart your higher education in the US.

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