All the fifty states of the United States of America have its own Department of Education that controls and sets the guidelines for education inside that particular state. The age and years of compulsory education also vary between each state.
The US education system requires twelve years of schooling before attending the college or the University. The local school district which is governed by the school board controls the American public schools.
The children in the United States are required to have compulsory education up to the age of 16 or 18 depending on the state. Educating the children in the public schools, approved home school program, or in certified private schools can fulfill this requirement of the compulsory education.
The school system is generally divided to three levels; the elementary level which includes the first six years of the education, middle school or the junior high school, and the high school also called the secondary education.
The preschool programs which are not compulsory by law do not come under the primary education which begins at the age of 5 or 6. The first year of the primary education begins in the kindergarten and then the student enters the first grade, second grade, fourth, up to the fifth grade which is the last year of the elementary or the primary school.
The secondary education in the United States covers the last six or the seven years of education starting from the sixth grade or the seventh grade. The secondary education can be divided into the junior high or middle school and the senior high.
The Middle school and the junior high offer a bridging course between the primary level and the high school level. The middle school includes the three grades after the elementary school which are the sixth, seventh and the eighth grades. The grades in this bridging level may be from sixth to eighth or from the seventh to the ninth depending on the school and the practice of that particular school.
The High School includes the last three or four years of the formal schooling. The high school students may have the four years in their senior high school, namely, the ninth grade or the freshman, tenth grade or the sophomore, eleventh grade or the junior, and the twelfth grade or the senior grade. In the high school the student's are allowed to have a choice of what subject they want to concentrate more on, and some school even allows the choice of the core course for studies. But this choice given varies between the states and the schools the student attends, but they are not allowed to choose their specialization papers in the high school up to the sophomore year of the college.
The post secondary education or the college includes four years of the education in college or university and if interested continuing to graduate level or post graduate level education from there on. The students can also have an opportunity of attending the two year junior college or the community college before they go into the college or the University for their Degree.
The admission to the college or the university is based on the a number of criteria like the course of study in the high school, the GPA and the SAT or ACT score of the pupil, an essay paper, a personal interview and even the participation in extracurricular activities. Even though these are some of the basic requirements asked for, the criteria to enter a college may vary between each institution and state.
The students completing the secondary education can enter the undergraduate program which may be a two year degree called the associate degree or a four year Bachelor degree. The students who opt for the associate degree should study for another two more years if they would like to attain a bachelor's degree. The course of study or the major should be chosen by the students to pursue their Bachelors degree but some colleges do admit the students in the first year of the undergraduate program prior to selecting their major. But such students are required to select the major by the time they are in their second year of the college.
Those who would like to go for further education, can go on with the graduate program. The two types of graduate education are the Masters degree which is a three year program in a specialized field but most of the time only those students who have bachelors degree in related fields can do the Masters. The other graduate option for the students is Ph D or doctoral degree which can be completed in three to six years. The duration of the doctoral degree can depend on the efficiency and hard work of the student, the topic of study, and the thesis selected by them.