Post-Secondary Education in the USA- The Complete Guide


Education plays a very important role in the development of a person’s life that eventually contributes to the development of society and the nation. Today’s topic- Post-Secondary Education in the USA.

It provides a person with employment and a better lifestyle. Education plays a vital role in utilizing creative things and endless learning anyone can have access to. 

Therefore, Education is a learning process that takes place in various stages giving insights into many fields that people can explore and pursue as their careers. The value of education has been observed to increase day by day. 

The United States of America (USA) has a literacy rate of 99%. The USA focuses on its education at various levels like public, private, and homeschooling as well. It not only works on a national level in its education but at an international level that is, throughout the globe. 

Let us have an overview of the education system in The United States of America. 


The education system in the United States is one of the best systems that provides tons of opportunities to students and immigrants of the country. It provides numerous courses to the students. The educational field is diverse in the country. 

A large number of students and working professionals travel to America for its best education system and wide career opportunities that it provides.

The United States of America spends more than any country in the world, on each of its students. 

Let us move ahead to look at the overview of the education system in the United States.

There are four levels in the education system of the United States that are:

Post-Secondary Education in the USA
  • Elementary Schooling is also known as the Primary Education System in other countries. The Schooling years count from the first seven years to nine years of schooling in the country. 
  • The age group of these students belongs from 4 years to 6 years when they start their elementary schooling.
  • Elementary Schooling starts from Grade 1 and continues till grade 5/ grade 6 in some states. 
  • The students studying in Elementary Schools can be public schools or government schools, private institutions, or prefer homeschooling as well.
  • The students are taught a few subjects according to their level of grasping knowledge and enables them to build their interest in studying subjects they prefer. There are few optional subjects and few compulsory subjects.
  • Students not only study but participate, interact and conduct co-curricular activities and enjoy this stage of education.
  • Students studying in Elementary Schools are required to pass each standard/grade (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) in order to get promoted to another grade.
  • Once the students pass their grades in Elementary Schooling they are promoted to Middle School.

Before Elementary Schooling, some children/students go through kindergarten schooling or nursery. It is also known as pre-schooling where the children of age 3 to age 4 are given a surrounding similar to schools which prepares them to start their schooling and spend a few hours away from their home

Post-Secondary Education in the USA
  • Middle Schooling is also termed as “Junior High School” in some states and regions.

Middle School is also the first part of Lower Secondary Education. 

  • After Elementary Schooling students are promoted to Middle Schooling. It consists of grade 5 or grade 6, grade 7, and grade 8. And in some cases grade 9 too.
  • At this level of Education, the students are taught different subjects, they are open to moving to other classrooms for different activities.
  • Students at this level learn to interact and socialize well with fellow students and teachers.
  • Basic subjects included in these grades are Language, Mathematics, Social Science, Science, and Culture. 
  • Other than these subjects students are free to choose other curricula that can be a sports club, skating, swimming, dance club, art club, Social service, etc. 
  • Students studying in middle schools can be private organizations as well as state government institutions of the country.
  • Once the students get promoted in each grade, after reaching grade 8 or grade 9 students are promoted to High School.
Post-Secondary Education in the USA
  • High school is the next or the last part of the Senior Secondary Education System. At this level, the students are promoted from grade 9 to senior secondary school, that is, to grade 10.
  • High School consists of education from Standard 9th to standard 12th. The age group of students studying in high school lies from 14 years to 17 years.
  • At High School, students are much more independent to choose their career stream and subjects they are interested in. There are elective courses as well.
  • It can be either Arts or Culture (History, Politics, Economics, etc.), or it can be based in Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) and Mathematics.
  • High School gives more freedom and independence to the students studying at this stage. 
  • This is the stage where students decide their goals and the career they want to pursue. 
  • In the American education system, what matters the most is the willingness to study regardless of any abilities and disabilities.

What next?

Well, this is where the exciting part of their life starts – College. The students passing High Schools choose to continue their studies or have their degree by taking admissions in Colleges and Universities. 

This phase of Education is termed POST SECONDARY EDUCATION. Let us have a detailed tour of Post-Secondary Education in the United States.


Post-Secondary Education in the USA
  • The education system in The United States is different and prioritized compared to the education system in other countries of the world.
  • This is so because the education system in the US gives vital importance to other activities apart from studies. It focuses on strengthening the student’s mental and physical abilities by allowing them to opt for the field of their choice.
  • The Education system promotes sports activities, arts and culture, photography, gymnastic, and many more co-curricular activities in all its educational stages. It helps the children to have more awareness of their interests and allows them to explore many aspects of education. 
  • So if you want to pursue your higher education in the United States, understand the system and then enjoy the experience. Let us see what post-secondary education in the United States means.
  • Post-secondary education includes – Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree, First Professional Degrees of Master’s (Professional), Intermediate education qualifications, Research degrees (Doctorate), Post-Doctorate degrees, or Research-based programs. 
  • Some post-secondary educations involve degrees and the others do not. The one not involving a degree can be diploma-based or a certification program depending on the time of completion and its scope in the future.

Let us look at each one of them in detail.

Note: All the details provided below are taken from the reference of “Structure of U.S. Education”. The details of which are shared below for your knowledge:

  • An Associate Degree refers to a degree that is associated with any professional or academic subject. It can also be awarded in the case of a technical program.
  • The Associated Degree of a student plays a vital role if they want to carry the credits to their bachelor’s degree. This process is termed Articulation and it is performed between the two college universities or institutions.
  • Associate Degree requires more than 60 semester credit hours and less than 120 semester credit hours. It also requires a duration of 2 to 3 years of the academic year. It doesn’t exceed more than 3 academic years.
  • An Associate Degree doesn’t function like a diploma degree or certification program. It is instead considered as a Higher Secondary Education that a student can pursue. 
  • An associate degree is a kind of an undergraduate degree program that is related to two applied courses. 
  • Associate of Arts (A.A) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) are the two courses or programs offered.

    A few of the degrees that students enrolled in an Associate degree program are:
  • Associate of Applied Technology (A.A.T)
  • Associate of applied business (A.A.B)
  • Associate of Engineering/Electronics (A.A.E)
  • Associate of Arts (A.A)
  • Associate of Forestry (A.F)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies (A.O.S)
  • Associate of Nursing (A.N) etc. 
  • Students pursuing an Associate Degree continue their studies by opting for a field of their preference. Bachelor’s Degree provides advanced knowledge of each field to the students. 
  • Bachelor’s Degrees usually take around 3 years to complete. Although, many degrees associated with Architecture, Technology, Computer Engineering, etc takes around 4 years or more to be completed.
  • Some colleges and universities completed a four-year degree syllabus in 3 years itself. It also depends on the students as some bright and excellent students complete a degree in less than 4 years.
  • A degree at Bachelor’s level provides in-depth knowledge of the subject and opens their options to a more diverse field. It can be a part of the work-study curriculum as well which takes 5 years for students to complete.
  • Bachelor’s degree gives knowledge and an idea of the real world by providing them practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge in each subject.
  • Some honors courses and professional programs have also been involved that help the students in choosing from a group of subjects to one subject that they want to pursue an honors degree in. It is termed as “Majors” also in some regions.
  • Students have to fulfill certain requirements for a college or university they are studying in. Passing criteria, subject selection criteria, other activities that help them gain credits, and other activities like sports, Social Service Schemes, etc.
  • The sole purpose of a Bachelor’s degree is to prepare their students to pursue higher education as well as go for entry-level jobs. 
  • Some education streams provide specializations in their subjects. Students choosing a specialization are well versed with basic knowledge and can move on to advance sections through job experiences, or higher studies. For example, Information Technology, Electronics, Chemical Engineering, Computational Science, etc. 

There are several courses which are known as “ Post-Bachelor Certification Course/Program”. These are also termed as Diploma courses, that allow students to study a specific subject and have a certification of it. This Course can be done Before as well as after the completion of a bachelor’s degree. 

The subjects or any field they want to explore can be included in the diploma course. It can be a skilled course or language certification course, aptitude, interpersonal skills, communication, software, or a professional course. 

  • Some of the courses a Bachelor’s Degree provides is as follows:

(These are a few of the courses from the list of all the courses, therefore do not think of it as a complete course offered in the United States of America)

  1. Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (B.S.A.E.)
  2. Bachelor of Business (B.B.)/Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.)
  3. Bachelor of Science in Chemical and Materials Engineering (B.S.C.M.E.)
  4. Bachelor of Computer Science (B.C.S.)/Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (B.S.C.S.)
  5. Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (B.E.E.)/Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (B.S.E.E.)
  6.  Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering (B.S.B.E.)
  7. Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering (B.S.M.S.E.)
  8. Bachelor of Technology (B.T./B.Tech.)
  9. Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.)
  10.  Bachelor of Literature (B.Lit.)
  11. Bachelor of Forestry (B.F.)
  12. Bachelor of Science in Electrical/Electronics Technology (B.S.E.T.)
  13. Bachelor of Science in Systems (B.S.-SYST.)
  14. Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)
  15. Bachelor of Music (B.M.)

Let us move forward to explore other educational degree options that a student must or should enroll in and see what it has to offer. 

  • The term Professional here means a First-Professional Degree, which is a degree that provides advanced exposure to a specific profession or a course of study. 
  • First-Professional Degree is categorized as a degree that requires prior undergraduate qualifications. It involves a professional course for the students to study that can help them understand the degree-level concepts.
  • The professional degree is awarded to the student who fulfills certain requirements: 1) Students need to complete their prior education (Higher education) before learning a professional course. 2) The students must be involved in some college work before enrolling in a professional degree. 3) And lastly, the total academic years must be more than 5 years or more after completion of a professional degree. 
  • There are many accreditation institutions and specialized agencies that award accreditation to professional colleges. The colleges providing Professional courses must satisfy all the rules and prerequisites referred by the accreditation agency.
  • Some of the courses that a Professional Degree college offers are given below: 

 (This is not a full list of courses that the colleges of the United States provide)

  1. Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
  2. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)
  3. Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
  4. Doctor of Jurisprudence or Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  5. Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  6. Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.), etc.
  • As the name suggests – “Masters” this degree is the second level in post-secondary education in the United States.
  • A Master’s degree is usually pursued by students who want to gain advanced knowledge in a specific area or a field. After a Bachelor’s degree students explore higher education in the form of a Master’s degree.
  • Sometimes a Master’s degree does not lead to further education but is terminated in some fields. Whereas, for some courses and subjects master’s degree leads to higher studies in the form of Doctorate or Phd.
  • Students are required to complete their prior education by passing in each subject. Other requirements for taking admission in a Master’s degree may include subject combination criteria, individual passing marks, and percentage evaluation.
  • Master’s in the United States is offered in the form of MS -Master of Science and MA – Master of Arts.
  • Research Master’s Degree and Professional Degree of Master’s are two other categories in a Master’s Degree.
  • In a Research Master’s Degree, students pursue studies involving research fields. Students are required to satisfy certain requirements to complete their Master’s program.
  • They need to attend a no. of seminars, lab projects, thesis, and presentations each semester. All the examinations, practical experiments, or internships are to be examined under the supervision of a professor.
  • Whereas, talking of Professional Degree students enrolled in Engineering fields, technical fields, and business management courses like (MBA) Masters in Business Administration. 
  • Few of the courses that Institutions in the United States offer are:

(These are few courses and not the full list of courses that degree colleges in Master’s provide)

  1. Master of Arts in College Teaching (M.A.C.T.)
  2. Master of Accounting (M.Acc.)
  3. Master of Arts in Computer Education (M.A.C.E.)
  4. Master of Arts (M.A./A.M.)
  5. Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural Studies (M.A.C.C.S.)
  6.  Master of City Planning (M.C.P.)/Master of City and Regional Planning (M.C.R.P./M.R.C.P.)/Master of Regional Planning (M.R.P.)
  7. Master of Arts/Science in Counseling (M.A.C./M.S.C.)
  8. Master of Community Health (M.C.H.)
  9. Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J.)/Master of Arts/Science in Criminal Justice (M.A.C.J./M.S.C.J.)
  10. Master of Architectural Engineering (M.A.E./M.S.A.E.)
  11. Master of Electrical Engineering (M.E.E./M.S.E.E.)
  12. Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (M.S.A.I.)
  13. Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M./M.S.E.Mgt.)
  14. Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.)
  15. Master of Home Economics (M.H.E.)
  16. Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
  17. Master of Laws (LL.M.)
  18. Master of Nursing (M.N.)/Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.)
  19. Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.)
  20. Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
  • This is not to be confused with a master’s degree, although Intermediate Graduation Degree is categorized as a division of higher education.
  • After completion of a bachelor’s degree, Intermediate Graduate Degree is pursued. 
  • All the courses that this graduate program offers are advanced and to be completed professionally.
  • It takes around one to two years for the completion of an Intermediate Graduate Degree. 
  • After students can achieve an Intermediate Degree, they can also go forward to pursue research and post-graduation in a field of their interest.
  • Few of the courses that this degree offers are provided below:

(These are some of the courses presented below, and this doesn’t represent all the courses from the list )

  1. Certifications programs
  • Certificate of Advanced Study in Business (C.A.S.B.)/Certificate of Advanced Management
  • Specialist in School Psychology (S.S.P.)
  • Specialist in Library Science (S.L.S.)
  • Specialist in Counseling (Sp.C.)
  • Specialist in School Administration (S.S.A.)
  1. Diploma course
  • Professional Diploma (P.D.)
  • Graduate Diploma in Public Administration (G.D.P.A.)
  • Professional Engineer (P.E.)
  • Electrical Engineer (E.E.)
  • Chemical Engineer (Ch.E.)
  1. Degrees  
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D/D.Psy.) – (Recently proposed degree)
  • Education Specialist (Ed.S./Sp.Ed.)
  • Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)
  • A doctorate’s degree is usually termed a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest degree in post-secondary education. 
  • Not only is it the highest form of education but it is also known to be complex and comparatively tough to other degrees that we’ve seen here.
  • In a Ph.D. degree, a student is required to pass its bachelor’s and master’s or equivalent degree with sufficient grades or marks. Along with the marks, they need to pass certain entrance exams to have good colleges and universities.
  • While pursuing a Ph.D. student goes through deep analysis, studies and research of their field or subject. It could be in Science and Technology, Finance, Electronics, Biotechnology, Medicine, etc.
  • In order to complete their Doctorate Degree, they write research papers, study surveys, and analyze their whole project. Then they write a thesis on their research project, more often it is published within their doctorate.
  • Therefore, it takes around 2 years to 6 years or even more in the case of research papers to get published and get done with their doctorate or Ph.D.
  • Hence, it depends on the student and its subjects or the field they are related to pursuing research. 

Some examples of a research doctorate have been provided below:

  1. Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)
  2. Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD/SJD)
  3. Doctor of Canon Law (JCD/DCL)
  4. Doctor of Theology (ThD)
  5. Doctor of Public Health (DPH)

Want to have a look at the survey of degrees earned by the doctorates:

  • As stated earlier in the section of Doctorate Degree/Program, there is no degree that is higher than a doctorate. Therefore, in the case of the Post-Doctoral Program, people willing to enroll in it need to apply for an advanced program.
  • This is an advanced professional program that a faculty associated with an academic institution can pursue to enhance their skills and experience through this professional program.
  • Background of Science and Engineering faculties are eligible to enroll for a Post-doctoral Research Program.
  • Here they study, analyze and work on different fields of research that can contribute to educational institutions and universities. 
  • Another program associated with this is a Faculty Program that is an Advanced Academic program helpful for learning and development of the faculty members of the educational institutions.
  • In the United States, in all academic universities and institutions, the faculty members go through this Academic program to accomplish their goals and in their research fields.
  • Therefore, this supports the academic programs by building a strong profile and helps in the development of faculty members associated with the educational institutions in the country.

According to the European education Directory, there are other educational programs and types of institutions that are associated with higher education in the United States:

  • Specialized Institutions
  • Associate of Arts and Associate of Science College
  • Post Secondary Technical Schools
  • Post Secondary Vocational Schools
  • Baccalaureate Colleges

So, these were the list of Post Secondary Educational Programs in the United States.

Let us visit a list of well-known colleges and universities that provide a vast scope of courses and numerous programs for educational purposes. 

  1. Top Universities in the USA (Pictures referred from the website above)

  1. Largest Universities in the Country
  1. Best Institutions for Science and Engineering students
  1. Well-known medical colleges and universities
  • So these were a few of the well-known Institutions and top universities best known for their education in the country.
  • The tenure, curriculum, and various programs have been covered through this topic. If you are someone interested in pursuing your education at any level in the United States you can understand the process well in advance by visiting the websites mentioned above in this article. 
  • Well, with information comes queries and questions. So to find the answer to each of your questions refer to the link below and do not leave any doubt regarding your education:

Some frequently asked questions regarding the education and its purposes visit the link here:

To find a suitable postgraduate program please hop on to the link below:

For more information visit the link here:

**Thank you for reading this article**

Post-Secondary Education in the USA- The Complete Guide

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