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US higher education explained

Flexibility and choice in your degree studies

The US higher education system is considered one of the best in the world, and offers flexible study opportunities at over 4,000 colleges and universities. US degrees are recognized worldwide for their academic excellence and enhanced learning experiences.

Bachelor’s credits during high school

Some US universities offer opportunities for high school students to take college courses and earn undergraduate credits.

This is a great way to get ahead in your studies and even save money. It also allows you to become familiar with the American higher education system before you apply for a bachelor’s degree.

Save time and money

by earning undergraduate credits during high school

Classes are taught by the same university professors

that teach on-campus

Routes to earn college credits in high school

Undergraduate studies

Following high school, students can choose to study a bachelor’s (or “undergraduate”) degree at a college or university. Find a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degrees in the USA typically take 4 years to complete. The first 2 years include common required courses, such as math, history, literature, and communications. This develops a broad-based knowledge across many subject areas — an advantage for competing in the global workplace. The final 2 years focus on the your chosen “major” subject.

Average 4 years to complete a bachelor's degree

in the USA

Customize your degree

to your interests and career aspirations

US bachelor’s degrees are flexibly designed to allow students to change their major after 1 or 2 years. You can also add on a “minor” (a “mini-major”) in a different subject,  study more than one major, or get a head start on graduate studies through an accelerated degree program. Within your degree, you can have a huge choice of elective courses so you can customize it to your interests and strengths.

Routes to Year 1 of a bachelor's degree

Transfer to a US bachelor’s degree

It is common for students to change university after 1 or 2 years of undergraduate study in the USA, or to transfer into a US university after studying in another country. It’s not necessary to complete all 4 years at the same university in order to get a degree from there.

1 in 3 US undergraduate students

transfer university at least once (National Student Clearinghouse)

Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy and Warren Buffett

all transferred university during their bachelor's degrees

This flexibility means students can improve their grades for transfer to a more selective college or university. Learn more about typical requirements for transfer admission.

Routes to Year 2 or 3 of a bachelor's degree

Graduate studies

After a bachelor’s degree, some students choose to continue on to a master’s degree (also called a “graduate” degree). Find a master’s degree.

A US master’s degree usually takes 2–3 years to complete, but fast-track 1 year programs are available for some degrees. Graduate-level education lets you study a subject in greater depth, and can either be academic or more career-focused.

1,000+ universities in the USA

offer graduate degrees (EducationUSA)

28% higher median salary for a master's degree

compared to a bachelor's degree (National Center for Education Statistics 2018)

Routes to a graduate qualification

Career preparation

If you study a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a US university, you’ll have many opportunities to gain real work experience in the USA. Most universities have well-developed internship programs and career services. International students are eligible to work off-campus after completing the first year of their degree program — and work in on-campus jobs in the meantime.

International students can also participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows study visa-holders to work in the USA in their chosen field for 12 months after graduation. If you complete a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field, you can extend your work placement to 36 months. See available STEM degrees on our degree finder — you might be surprised by which degrees qualify!

Working for a US company is an incredible opportunity, and gives international students a distinct advantage in their career.

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