Overview of the American Education System

The following is a brief description of the American education system:

Primary school

American children start school at the age of five years. The first year at school is called kindergarten. It is required of all American children enrolled in the American education system. The second year at school is considered the first year of primary school and is referred to as first grade. In America, the word grade has two meanings: (1) the score achieved on an exam or in a course, and (2) a year of education in primary or secondary school. Primary school most commonly consists of five years of education, referred to as first through fifth grades.

Secondary school

Upon completion of fifth grade (the last year of primary school), American children enrolled in the American education system advance to secondary school. Secondary school most commonly consists of a total of seven years, referred to as sixth through twelfth grades. The ninth through twelfth grades are most commonly referred to as high school. Upon completion of twelfth grade, American students are awarded a certificate called the high school diploma. In the American education system, students must have obtained a high school diploma before they are admitted into college or university. Foreign students who would like to attend an American college or university must have completed coursework that is equivalent to what is taught at an American high school. Foreign students who would like to attend an American high school, need to consider how the high school they select will give them access to the best colleges. You can also learn about some of the finest boarding schools in the American education system.

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Undergraduate school

Students who have completed high school and would like to attend college or university must attend what is referred to as an undergraduate school. These are schools that offer either a two-year degree (called an associate degree) or a four-year degree (called a bachelors degree) in a specific course of study. That course of study is called the major. While most schools that offer a four-year degree will admit students who have not yet chosen a major, all students are required to select (or declare) a major by their second year at school. Students who complete an associate degree can continue their education at a four-year school and eventually complete a bachelor degree.

Graduate school

Students who have obtained a bachelor's degree can continue their education by pursuing one of two types of degrees. The first is a master's degree. This is usually a two-year degree that is highly specialized in a specific field. Students are sometimes admitted to a master's degree program only if they have a bachelor's degree in a closely related field. However, there are many exceptions to this, such as with students who want to pursue a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) degree. Students who want to advance their education even further in a specific field can pursue a doctorate degree, also called a PhD. A PhD degree can take between three and six years to complete, depending on the course of study chosen, the ability of the student, and the thesis that the student has selected. The thesis is a very intensive research paper that must be completed prior to earning the degree. It is always required of students pursuing a PhD, and may sometimes be required of students pursuing a master's degree (depending on the school).

Certain courses of study are only available at the graduate school level in America. The most notable of these are law, dentistry, and medicine. Students who want to pursue a degree in one of these fields must first obtain a bachelor's degree.

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