How is the American university system organized?

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,291 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

There are a lot of higher education choices in English-speaking countries. How is the American system organized?

First, there is the question of vocabulary. You will read about both "universities" and "colleges" in the United States and Canada. As a general rule, a "college" is a 4-year school, granting Bachelor's degrees. Colleges often have a low teacher to student ratio, and fewer students enrolled than in a university. Many Americans choose to go to a college for their Bachelor's degrees and then apply to a university for their Master's and PhD.

A university usually has both undergraduate programs (Bachelor's degrees - 4 years) and graduate programs (Master's degrees - 2 years, PhDs - 3 to 5 years). A university is usually larger than a college, which means some courses in amphitheaters and a higher ratio of students to teachers. Universities also offer more specialized programs such as medicine and engineering, which begin after the Bachelor's degree.

The Bachelor's degree is divided into 4 years: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. These are called "classes". Students often have courses together with their class. Each student also has an advisor, who is available to discuss course choices and the choice of a major and a minor. Every student must "major' in a field, depending on what the school offers. Minors are usually optional but strongly encouraged to add an extra element to the student's profile. For example, a student might major in Biology, but do a minor in a language. 

The Master's degree requires more specialization. There are often comprehensive exams associated with the Master's degree as well as the Master's thesis. Master's students might also be involved in teaching undergraduate classes, in particular in large universities.

The PhD dissertation is the final possible degree. It requires research into an original subject which will add knowledge to that subject area. PhD candidates often teach as part of their program, as well as presenting their research in conferences and writing papers about their research.

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