As the world’s most popular study abroad destination, the USA has a lot to offer you as an international graduate. You will be one of more than 900,000 international students, many of whom study in the country’s renowned graduate programs.
But America is not only the most popular choice for international studies. It is also one of the largest. With 50 states, 9.8 million square miles, and more than 4,300 higher education providers, there’s a lot to consider when considering a master’s degree in the US.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve put together detailed tips on everything you need to know about postgraduate studies in the USA, from course structure and scoring to applications and visas.
Master’s degrees in the United States serve a similar purpose to those in other countries. These are postgraduate degrees (or “graduates”), following a related undergraduate course. Some offer the opportunity to study an academic subject in more depth. Others offer advanced technical or vocational training.
The main differences between postgraduate degrees in the United States and their international equivalents are structural. Studying for a US master’s degree will usually involve enrolling in an institution’s graduate program.
You will work towards your degree, with regular assessments and training tasks. But you will often also receive more general training. This will make you a complete graduate, with a range of transferable skills complementing your subject matter expertise.
How long is a Master’s degree in the USA?
A master’s degree at an American university usually takes about two years of full-time study to complete (although some courses are shorter).
This is longer than in other countries (such as the UK), but it reflects the emphasis on structured training and regular evaluation of a graduate program in the US.
In most cases, the longer duration of your degree will be offset by the additional development opportunities and transferable skills you acquire during it.
Possession of an American master’s degree can also shorten the time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in the same field.
What’s it like to study for a Master’s degree in the USA?
In some ways, USA masters are very similar to those of other countries. You will study at a more advanced level and you will be expected to think and study more independently.
But, as we’ve made clear throughout this guide, you’ll also have a much more structured experience than other international postgraduate students. Assessments will be more frequent and you will be encouraged (or required) to take additional training.
Your daily experience will depend on the type of graduate program near 2000 and the expected results.
It is useful to divide them into two broad categories: academic programs and professional programs.
Masters fees and funding in the USA
As an indication, a master’s degree at a public university in America will charge tuition fees of about $20,000 to $35,000 per year for international students. However, as one would expect from a country the size of America, there is a lot of variation between programs and institutions.
It is also important to remember that relatively few masters’ students in the US pay the full cost of their course. Many receive funding from their universities or other organizations.
Applying for a Masters in the USA
Applying for a USA master’s degree can be quite a broad process. Universities want to ensure that students end up in the right graduate programs and therefore put a lot of time and effort into their admissions process. They expect you to do the same with your application.
This does not mean that it is more difficult to get a place on an American master’s degree. But you will need to provide more material and more details about your existing qualifications than you might be asked elsewhere.
Also, keep in mind that you will also need to obtain a student visa next to your university place.
When should you apply for the master’s in the USA?
You should try to start your application for study abroad in the United States early ideally before the end of the second year of your undergraduate program.
In most cases, you should aim to have submitted your complete application by the end of March of the academic year before registering. (If you move directly to postgraduate studies, this will be the last year of your undergraduate program).
Some institutions will also accept applications in the previous December. Meeting this deadline earlier may be advantageous if you wish to be considered for certain scholarships and other funding arrangements.
How should you apply for the master’s in the USA?
Applications for U.S.A. master’s programs are made directly to institutions.
There is no limit to the number of courses you can apply for simultaneously. But keep in mind that U.S. colleges will often ask for a lot of extra material with your application. Most will also charge an administrative fee.
So you’d better select a small shortlist of institutions to apply for. A good way to do this is to research and compare the US master’s degrees listed on this site.
What qualifications will you need?
Admission to a US graduate program will require an appropriate undergraduate degree. It should be in a similar area to that of your Masters, but it may not have to be on exactly the same topic.
Universities will set their own minimum requirements, but you will normally need to hold a 2.1 or it is equivalent. Highly selective universities will have much stricter requirements.
Regardless of the outcome of your degree, it will normally need to be converted to GPA before it can be used for a U.S. graduate education application. (A UK 2.1 is roughly equivalent to a cumulative average of at least 3.0).
Whatever you’re academic field, a master’s degree from a US institution will be backed by the reputation of one of the most popular and renowned education systems in the world. You will leave with a qualification that will be internationally recognized for its academic quality and for the range of transferable skills that are the hallmark of an American graduate program.
If you have studied for an academic master’s degree, you will have gained in-depth knowledge of your subject at an advanced level and will be exceptionally well prepared for doctoral research in the United States (or elsewhere).
Or, if you studied for a professional master’s degree, you will have obtained a well-accredited qualification in the system that pioneered professional postgraduate degrees such as the MBA and is still considered to offer some of the best programs in the world.
Whatever you’ve studied, your time abroad in a country as socially, culturally, and geographically diverse as the United States will also enhance your resume in a number of ways. Future employers will be impressed by your willingness to take on new challenges and experiences.
You will also be well-prepared for careers in international markets shaped by U.S. companies and business practices.