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Study Abroad in the United States: Education in the United States

Compared to other higher education systems around the world, higher education in the United States is largely independent of government regulation and highly decentralized. This means that students are granted a wide-variety of choice. Pick from public or private universities, universities with small or large student populations, or religiously affiliated universities.

Feb 18, 2014

Compared to other higher education systems around the world, higher education in the United States is largely independent of government regulation and is highly decentralized. This means that students are granted a wide variety of choice. Pick from public or private schools, schools with small or large student populations, or religiously affiliated schools. Geographically, schools are just as diverse. Whether you prefer urban, suburban, or rural environments, there’s a perfect location that fits every taste.

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American higher education is particularly popular given its strong emphasis on independent research, quality, diversity, and accessibility. Hence, more than 16 million students are enrolled in a university program every year in pursuit of either an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.

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Here are the different types of programs on offer in the United States:

An associate degree program is designed for students interested in learning a skill or trade and typically takes two years to complete. This degree option is ideal for individuals who want to enter the workforce quickly or are looking to change careers. Associate degrees are usually offered at local community colleges where tuition is cheaper and access is easier.

Bachelor’s degrees, on the other hand, are offered at nearly every university in the United States and take three to four years to complete. Acceptance into a bachelor’s program is more competitive than an associate’s program and often requires a student to demonstrate prior academic achievements, including standardized test scores. You need to amass 120 credits through completed courses to be awarded a bachelor's degree. 

Master’s and doctorate degrees are the most competitive degrees and require that a student has completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree program prior to applying. The length of study varies but can take anywhere from two to five years to complete. During their studies, master’s and doctorate students often gain practical experience and stipends via teaching opportunities through the university.

Have you considered studying business in the biggest economic engine in the world? Pursuing an MBA in the United States will teach you how to work on real-world case studies, test your limits, cooperate with diverse groups and master your interpersonal and business communication skills. If you are ready to become a leader, then MBA studies in the United States is the next move you should make!

No matter where or what you study, degrees in the United States are almost exclusively taught in English, unless you’re studying another language. Therefore, strong English-language skills are highly recommended. If you’re not a native English speaker, you may also be required to prove your proficiency through a standardized test, like the TOEFL® test. That being said, studying abroad in the United States is a great chance to improve your English skills which will be helpful during your studies and when you’re looking for a job after graduation.

As for how you actually study, it is the same as in most countries. It is a mix of lectures, readings and independent study. If you are studying a practical subject, like engineering or microbiology, then you will also spend time in a lab or workshop.

Study in the United States

The United States is a continent of adventure and experiences in just one country. This section gives you an overview of what it's like to study abroad in the United States, as well as insight into some of the opportunities waiting for you.

Student Visas

Do you need a visa to enter the United States to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status. You will also be required to bring certain documents with you to passport control at the airport in order to gain entry into the country.

Housing & Living Costs

Depending on where you study, the United States can be a very affordable country compared to other popular study abroad destinations. We’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you will be paying as a student in the United States.

Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for American programs vary greatly based on the school and degree program. International students usually pay a different fee than U.S. citizens. However, there are also plenty of scholarships available specifically for international students.

Language & Culture

American culture has been popularized around the world! From famous movies and TV shows to internationally successful companies and brands, the United States has a lot to offer. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, cuisine, and more!

Meet the English Requirements

Make sure you're ready to start studying abroad in the United States. American schools will normally want to see evidence of your English-language abilities. The TOEFL iBT® test is accepted by all American schools and is even the preferred test by 9 out of 10 American universities. Find out more about the TOEFL iBT test and how it can help you.

Application Process

All countries have specific admissions requirements for students to enter their universities. Learn more about the ins and outs of admission to programs in the United States, and what you need to apply.


Ready to look at education in the United States? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in the United States today!

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.