The USA has more world-ranked universities than any other country in the world. These institutions offer degrees with ultimate flexibility, from how and where students study to the range of subjects and specialisms available. Campus life in the USA also carries its own fantastic reputation, and is one of many reasons why over 800,000 international students currently study in the USA. International students may notice some key differences between American and European university pathways. The main qualifications available to study at USA universities include:
Associate degrees are usually awarded by community colleges, offering the next level of academic progression from high school diploma. These degrees can be either academic or professional in their specialism, and usually take around 2 years to complete if studying full-time. Associate degrees allow students to apply for higher degree programmes at bachelor level following completion, but do not qualify students for advanced (graduate) study programmes.
The most popular study pathway for international students in the USA is to complete a pathway programme (or international year 1) before completing a bachelors degree at university. Bachelors programmes usually take 4 or 5 years to complete.
Masters degrees usually take around 2 years to complete at USA universities, though this may vary depending on the subject, preparation completed by the student during their bachelors studies, programme structure, and whether study is full- or part-time. Masters degree programmes may be taught or led by research, and can be awarded across both academic and professional subjects. Research-based masters degrees usually include a series of advanced course and seminar requirements, comprehensive examinations, and an independent thesis. Taught masters degrees generally require completion of a specialist project as well as coursework and examinations.
Research doctorate degrees are the highest level of qualification awarded by universities in the USA, and are awarded across academic and selected professional fields of study. Doctoral programmes require intensive study and research into at least one specialism, as well as a professional level of academic knowledge across other broader subject areas. Students are guided by a research committee of senior faculty at their institution, requiring this committee to approve their progress and final work in order to be awarded their doctorate degree. Most doctoral degrees studied at USA universities take between 4 and 5 years to complete full-time. The most popular doctorate degree is the Doctor of Philosophy qualification (PhD).
The following types of institution are available to international students in the USA:
State College or University
A state school is supported and run by a state or local government. Each of the 50 USA states operates at least 1 state university, and often several state colleges. Many of these public colleges and universities have the name of the state, or the actual word “state” in their names, for example, “Washington State University” or “University of Michigan”.
Private College or University
These institutions are privately run as opposed to being run by a branch of the government. Tuition fees will usually be higher than those of stets institutions. Private colleges and universities in the USA are often smaller in size than state schools.
Community colleges award associate degrees and certifications, many of which are transferable. Students who complete courses at community college often use their academic credits to transfer institutions and complete a bachelors degree at university - often with just 2 years of additional study as opposed to the usual 4-5 years that these qualifications normally require.
Institute of Technology
An institute of technology is a university that awards qualifications following at least 4 years of specialist study in science and technology. Some have graduate programmes, whilst others offer short-term courses.