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US Education Levels

The education system in the US is the primary responsibility of the State. The Federal government has little say over the curriculum, student requirements and administrative matters of the schools, which may differ from State to State.  Despite these differences there exist common levels in the educational system.   The three levels of education are the elementary, secondary and post secondary.  Students from age 6 upwards are provided free schooling in public schools up to age of 15 years.

Education Levels in the US

  • Primary and secondary education system is referred to as K-12.  The following three patterns are followed by the State schools.
  • Primary school(K-5), followed by middle school(6-8) and high school(9-12)
  • Primary school (K-6), junior high(7-9) and senior high (9-12)
  • Primary school (K-8) and high school from 9th grade to 12th grade.
  • Education from 3-6 years in pre-primary or nursery schools is the parents’ responsibility and not free.  Formal schooling starts at age 6 and is the State’s responsibility and is free.
  • High school students must obtain the required amount of credits to graduate and be awarded a High School Diploma.  There are no examinations conducted.
  • A high school diploma is essential for pursuing a post secondary education.
  • Post secondary education is demarcated into two divisions namely post secondary vocational education and training, which does not result in a degree and higher education in courses that grant degrees.
  •  Post secondary vocational and training results in diplomas, degrees that are a level below the Bachelor’s degree.
  • Higher University education leads to a Bachelor’s, Associate degree, Advanced Degree and First Professional Degree.
  • The succeeding level of education is Master’s Degree, Post Master’s Degree and Degree of Education.  The Master’s Degree is of two years.  Research  based Master’s Degrees require the student to complete a thesis, advanced courses in the subjects required, seminar presentations and a comprehensive examination.
  • Non Research Master’s Degree requires coursework, project work and extensive examinations.
  • The next level of education is the Research Doctorate, which is the final level of study.  Research Doctorates require complete mastery in the chosen field and the ability to conduct independent research.   This study level achieves the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
  • Non formal education includes Distance education, lifelong higher education, higher education training in Industry and other forms of programs.

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