USA Education System
Studying in the United States has many advantages, but before you pick which program best meets your needs, you will first want to learn about the U.S. education system. There is a wide range of choices and opportunities, and you should have all of the information you need to make a decision that is right for you.
Role of U.S. Government in Education
Unlike in many other countries, the United States central government does not control the educational system. Rather, the higher education systems are either: 1) controlled by independent groups of people, or trustees (in the case of private schools); or 2) shared between local and state governments (in the case of public schools). A major difference between these two types of schools is the cost. Private schools are generally much more expensive to attend than their public school counterparts, mainly because the private schools must rely on sources outside of the government for their funding. Please see What Will an Education in the US Cost? for more information on the costs of public vs. private schools.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education reviews and recognizes “accrediting agencies” that in turn ensure the quality of the school and their programs. Most colleges and universities have what is called “regional accreditation” from an agency that oversees that particular part of the country where the school is located. You will want to make sure that the school you choose has accreditation, meaning that it has met specific academic, administrative and financial standards. Accreditation also ensures that your degree will be recognized by other educational institutions and employers.
Certain fields of study will also have “program accreditation” in addition to regional accreditation. For example, the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology accredits engineering programs. Your overseas educational adviser can help you find out if program accreditation exists in your field of study.
What Are My Options to Earn a Degree?
Education is mandatory in the United States until the age of 16, and the majority of students do finish high school. After completing 12 years of primary and secondary school, students often begin post-secondary learning, or higher education. The first level of higher education is undergraduate study; beyond an undergraduate degree a student may choose to receive a graduate education, also known as postgraduate work. Traditionally these programs are undertaken on campus, however there is a growing number of accredited online college degrees that are appearing for students from all around the world. They can offer some fantastic benefits to international students.
If you are debating the two-year degree option versus a four-year undergraduate course of study, you will want to think carefully about your goals. Some employers prefer candidates who have studied a full four years, particularly in competitive fields where there may be many students vying for jobs. Other professional fields may have a need for employees with only two years of study under their belts. You need to do your research to make an informed choice.
Additionally, some other non-degree options exist outside of the traditional university setting which students should explore as another option.