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

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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. Geographically, universities 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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What’s the difference?

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 individual’s 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 demonstrates 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.

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 TOEFL® or IELTS™. 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.

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Last update: 05 Feb 2021

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