US Degrees


There are two types of undergraduate degrees in the US – an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s degree:

Associate’s degree

An Associate’s degree is a two-year degree awarded by technical, community or junior colleges. The two types are Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Sciences (AS)

Associate’s degrees are usually very practical and offer advanced training in technical areas, such as business occupations, data processing, and nursing, engineering technology, interior design and medical assistance.

Bachelor’s degree

A Bachelor’s degree is a four or five-year degree awarded by colleges or universities, e.g. Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

To receive a bachelor’s degree, you must generally:

·complete a sequence of courses within a major field of study, called “major requirements” (known as “upper division”);

·complete a sequence of courses outside your major field of study, called “general education requirements” (known as “lower division”);

· complete in total 120 units/credit hours in order to graduate. With an average course load of 15 units each semester, this means that a student can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years of full-time study.

Some universities have additional requirements, such as a thesis written during the final year of study or a final research project.

Admission requirements vary depending on the university. Some institutions are very selective while others accept most applicants. In general, the following four factors will be key in the assessment of your application:

·high school academic record;

·personal statement/application essay;


·scores on standardized tests (ACT/SAT tests and the TOEFL test if English is your second language);

·Funding from universities

·Undergraduate study in the US is expensive and financial aid for international undergraduate students is limited. Very few schools give total financial aid packages and they are more inclined to give partial financial aid (generally 25-30% of the total cost) to students who will be able to contribute something toward the cost of their own education. The primary source of financial support for over 65% of international undergraduate students is personal and family funding.

·Applying for funding

·Do not leave your search for financial aid until too late! Applications for many scholarships and financial aid programs close as much as a year before the money will actually be available.

·Many universities do not actively publicize what limited financial aid they may offer to avoid being swamped with applications. Assistance from universities varies from year to year and from institution to institution.

·Athletic scholarships for undergraduate study in the US

·Athletically talented students may wish to pursue athletic scholarships for their undergraduate study in the US. This is a good way for top high school athletes to help pay for their undergraduate education as well as to  compete at a higher level in their chosen sport.


There are two levels of graduate degree programs in the US – a master’s degree and a doctoral (PhD) degree.

Master’s degree

The master’s degree usually takes one to three years of full-time study. There are two main types of master’s degree programs – professional master’s degrees and research master’s degrees.

Professional master’s degrees are certificates of competence in specialized fields and often have some type of internship or fieldwork component. They provide a specific set of skills needed to practice a particular profession and generally lead directly to employment. The MBA (Master of Business Administration) and MEd (Master of Education) degrees are two examples of this type of master’s degree.

Research master’s degrees are generally part of the progression to a PhD programs. They provide experience in research and scholarship and may involve writing a thesis or taking a comprehensive examination. Academic performance in a research master’s programs can determine whether a student is likely to be allowed to continue on to a PhD programs. Examples of research master’s degree programs are the Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Science (MS) degrees.

Doctoral (PhD) degree

The main purpose of a PhD program is to train research scholars in a particular field. The doctoral degree typically involves both coursework and a major research project. It usually takes four to six years of full-time study to earn a PhD. Some doctoral programs include a master’s degree program, with students beginning directly after they complete their bachelor’s degree. Some doctoral programs require the completion of a master’s degree before the beginning of doctoral studies.

The first two years of a PhD program involve classes and seminars to give the student a comprehensive knowledge of an academic field. Following this period of study, students take written and/or oral examinations to test their knowledge. Successful completion of the exams and approval of a research project leads to “candidacy.”

The research project involves original research and, depending on the field, should take one to three years to complete. Faculty members guide the process of formulating the research project and evaluate the resultant thesis, but the student carries out the research independently. 

Admission requirements

Admission requirements vary significantly depending on the university and department. Some institutions are very selective, while others accept most applicants.

Graduate student applications are generally reviewed with an emphasis placed on the last two years of their undergraduate study program. In general, the following four factors will be key in assessing your application:

·academic record (you generally need to have an honors degree and a minimum of an 80/100 average in your undergraduate studies);

·personal statement/application essay;


·scores on standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT, and if applicable the TOEFL.

Financial aid for graduate study in the US

A graduate degree from a US university can cost as much as US$40,000 per year. You need to explore as many possible avenues for funding assistance as you can. It is also important to note that you will almost certainly be required to meet a portion of the cost of graduate study in the US. Very few scholarships pay a student’s entire costs, and many granting agencies are more inclined to give partial financial aid to students who will be able to contribute something toward the cost of their own education.

A good starting point for your financial aid search is EducationUSA’s  library where we have a number of books listing sources of financial aid for graduate study in the US. The not-for-profit Funding Institute of International Education’s Funding for US Study website is an extensive American database of scholarships, fellowships and grants.

Applying for financial aid – start now!

The average turnaround time – from initial application to offer of funding – takes from six to nine months. Deadlines for funding applications often occur up to 12 months before the actual date of enrolment. This means you should start identifying sources of aid and requesting applications starting in July and August of the year before you wish to commence your studies.

You need to identify important deadlines early on in the process and work towards meeting them. All forms of financial aid (including university-based aid) have deadlines that are independent from entrance application deadlines. It is not uncommon for financial aid application deadlines to occur before admission application deadlines. Try to avoid the all-too-common dilemma of being offered admission to the program of your choice without having secured adequate funding.

Funding sources

There are three main sources of funding for international students: university-based sources, private sources, and government sources. The general rule is that there is more money available in the exact sciences and social sciences than in the arts, humanities, and education, and there is more money in the humanities, arts, and education than in business and law.

University-based funding

The most common funding source for international students university based. There is generally more money available to PhD students than to master’s students. Common types of university-based funding are teaching assistantships, research assistantships, lab assistantships, tuition and fee waivers, and stipends.

University-based aid often comes from the academic department. It pays to do some in-depth investigation into the research interests of the departments to which you plan to apply. How well you match your research goals with those of the department is directly related to whether they offer you funding. It is important to show a clear understanding of the department’s research and to demonstrate that you have some new and innovative approach to contribute to their work.


An overview of the most common graduate business degrees in the US.

There are a number of different graduate degrees in business offered at US universities. Some of these are:

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The MBA is a professional degree program generally lasting two years. The MBA is designed as a generalist course of study in management rather than for intensive specialization. If you want to focus very closely on a particular management area, you should consider a specialized master’s degree program such as a Master’s in Applied Finance (MAF).

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

The MPA like the MBA is a professional degree that prepares individuals to manage effectively in a variety of public environments. The program generally lasts two years.

Joint degree programs

An option for students with specialized and interdisciplinary interests is a joint degree program. Students earn an MBA or another management degree, plus an additional degree, in less time than it would take to earn both degrees separately.

Joint degree programs usually last three to four years. They commonly include such combinations as business administration and law, business administration and engineering, or business administration and international affairs.

Doctoral programs

Doctoral management programs usually lead to either a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or a PhD. The PhD is more common.

A doctoral degree prepares students for an academic or research career. Graduates often move on to faculty positions in colleges or universities, though some go into specialized staff positions in government or industry.

Students may enter a doctoral program after completion of a Master’s degree or directly following undergraduate study. PhD programs generally take three to five years of full-time study. To complete a PhD, students must design, research, write and defend a dissertation based on original research.


There are three types of law degree programs in the US:

First professional degree (JD)

You must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in any field of study before applying to law school. Most students will have a degree in some area of the humanities, social sciences, or behavioral sciences. The basic law degree, known as the first professional degree, is the JD (Juris Doctor) degree.

Because JD programs in the US are focused on preparing American students for US legal practice, they are of little use to students whose careers will be based in other countries. In most cases, international students are advised to complete the equivalent of the JD degree in their home country (i.e. an LLB in Israel), and then apply to graduate law programs in the US for advanced study of particular aspects of law.

Master’s degree programs (LLM)

Students interested in becoming specialists in a particular area of law should look for master’s degrees in law (LLM) programs focusing on the specific area in which they are interested. Some law schools offer individually designed LLM programs that allow students to tailor course work to meet their own needs.

Here are some useful facts about studying for a LLM in the US:

· Programs generally last one academic year and often require a thesis;

· Courses are taught using the case method – students read a series of assigned cases and the professor calls on you in class to answer questions on the cases and defend the reasoning behind your answers;

· Most US law schools will accept foreign graduates who have the equivalent of a JD – except some programs with a specific focus on US systems (such as taxation law);

· Many graduate law programs require knowledge of a system that is based in English common law;

· A number of law schools offer generalist courses designed specifically for foreign-educated lawyers to familiarize them with US law – for example, the Master of Comparative Law (MCL), the Master of Comparative law. Jurisprudence (MCJ), the Master of Arts in Legal Institutions (MLI), or the Master of Law (LLM) in international or

Doctoral programs (SJD or JSD)

Doctoral programs in law are offered by only a few law schools and are generally intended to prepare graduates for academic careers. These programs most commonly confer the Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) which is sometime termed the Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD).

US doctoral law programs do not usually admit students directly from overseas. A minimum pre-requisite is the equivalent of a master’s degree. Some universities will accept only those who have already completed the school’s master’s degree.