Community Posts ~ Allen Brown


A Breakdown of the American Education System

Posted on September 10, 2020 by Allen Brown

The education system in the U.S. is divided into two main sections:

  • Lower level education – primary and secondary education
  • Higher-level education – undergraduate and graduate education, where students pursue their master’s and doctorates  

It is a system that is quite prominent and has been adopted by other countries in the world. The American education system is structured around developing and preparing students to become healthy, engaged, responsible, self-aware individuals who are experts at certain socially useful tasks.

In the U.S, the school calendar starts between August and September. From the start in September, students go to school until May or June the following year. Many students are enrolled at the beginning of the school year. So for international students, it is the best time to join to avoid having to catch up with the others. 

American schools differ when it comes to how the school year is divided. For many schools, the system involves two semesters every year. However, some schools have adopted a three-term system called a trimester. Others go even further to divide their calendar into four terms referred to as a quarter system. The four-semester method involves a summer session that is optional for students.

There are two types of education in the U.S, namely, Public education and Private education.

Public education is free in America and runs for the first 12 years of a student’s life. 9/10 of the U.S parents send their students to public schools across the country. These schools are usually associated with a larger population per class and are funded by the government. 

Donations and endowments fund private schools. Private education tends to be of higher quality, and students are provided access to better resources. There is less congestion as compared to public schools. However, students also have to pay high tuition fees. 

Here is a breakdown of the different levels of education in the U.S. 

Elementary School 

The elementary school refers to the first six grades of primary school. It consists of students between the age of 6 and 11. Education here involves necessary socializing skills, behavior adjustment, and some basic academic learning, such as basic grammar, basic arithmetic, and all the fundamentals in other major subjects. 

Middle School/Junior High 

After Elementary school, the next stage for students is middle school. It is also referred to as junior high, lower secondary, or Intermediate school. Junior high typically starts from the 6th grade all through to 8th grade. 

Students in middle school range from age 11-14 years. Junior high is where students get to dive more into the subjects they were introduced to in elementary school. There is freedom at this stage to select the subjects a learner is interested in just like an essay writer chooses their topic. Junior high bridges the gap between elementary school and high school. 

High School  

High school starts from grade 9 through to 12. In grade 9, students are referred to as freshmen. When they get to year 10, they are called sophomores and juniors when they get to grade 11. Grade 12 students are called seniors. Students in high school take on several subjects throughout the three years without specializing in any of them. 

A student’s high school grades determine the college they will qualify to go to. Colleges mostly care about a student’s grades as from Junior high. However, some might assess every grade students’ have achieved in high school. 


The college-level is where students start their higher education learning. Students specialize in the courses they want to do in college. The first level in college is called undergraduate studies. It refers to any student who attends college but has not yet attained any bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate studies usually take around 3-4 years. After they are done, a student earns their first degree. There is the option to further your learning, such as an ms MBA, but students can also go into the job market with their first degree. 

After the first degree, some students decide to pursue their master’s degree, which is the next stage. It normally takes 1.5-2 years. Students are required to submit a master’s thesis as part of the fulfillment of their degree.

Pursuing a doctorate is the third stage of college education, and students attaining their Ph.D. will take about three years or more to obtain it. For international students, it may take a little longer. Ph.D. students are required to ace an oral examination and submit a dissertation on the same topic in their final year.


Education is a commitment, and how far one is willing to go depends on the individual. After college education, students are usually primed and ready to face the employment world. Many students go to college on scholarships, financial aid, and some through loans. On average, the whole education system takes students 16 years to complete, and most students graduate in their early twenties. 


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