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Education System in USA for Nigerian Students

8 min read
Blog Summary An exploration of the US education system, focusing on its structure, advantages, and appeal to Nigerian students.

In the American educational system, international students have numerous options. Even students from the United States tend to be overwhelmed by the number of institutions, programmes, and places available. When you begin your search for a school, you must become acquainted with the American educational system. As you develop your education plan and better understand the system, your options will become more focused. Degrees from US colleges are recognised globally for their academic excellence. Intakes in the USA typically last from September to May and can be divided into two 16-18 week academic terms known as semesters. If not, some schools may operate on a trimester or quarter system, with terms lasting 10 to 12 weeks. 

What is the Education System in USA?

Like domestic students, you must submit your academic transcripts with your application for admission to a university or college. Your academic transcripts contain authentic copies of your work. This includes your grades and grade point average (GPA), which reflect your academic performance in the United States. Courses are frequently graded using percentages, which are then converted into letter grades.


Letter Grade

Grade Scale

97- 100%



93- 96%


Below 4

90- 92%



87- 89%



83- 86%



80- 82%



77- 79%



73- 76 %



70- 72%



67- 69%



63- 66%






0 - 59%



Levels of Study of the USA Higher Education System


We have mentioned the Level of education that is followed by the USA education institutions.

  • Associate degree: The initial academic degree obtained after secondary school. This two-year degree programme combines several liberal arts subjects with an academic specialisation in one field. Two-year community institutions are often where associate degrees are completed.
  • Undergraduate Degree: An undergraduate student is enrolled in a college or university and does not yet have a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree is typically earned in four years. A community college or a four-year university or college are the two places where you can start your studies to earn a bachelor's degree. Many students attend community college to complete the first two years of prerequisite courses. They will make an Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree before enrolling in a four-year university or college. A "major" is the area of study in which your degree is concentrated. For example, someone who majors in journalism will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To fulfil the degree requirements of your major, you will need to take a certain number of courses in this field. You must declare your major at the start of your third year of college. The ability to change your significance multiple times is a unique feature of the American higher education system. It is common for American students to change majors during their undergraduate studies.
  • Postgraduate level: A bachelor's degree holder from a college or university may want to seriously consider graduate school to enter certain professions or advance their career. This degree is typically required for advanced library science, engineering, behavioural health, and education positions. You must take the GRE (graduate record examination) to gain admission. Certain master's programmes, such as law school, require specific tests, such as the LSAT, GRE, or GMAT, and medical school requires the MCAT.

Graduate programmes leading to a master's degree typically last one to two years. For example, the MBA (master of business administration) is a top-rated two-year degree programme. Other master's programmes, such as journalism, are only a year long. A graduate student must prepare a long research paper called a "master's thesis" or complete a "master's project" for most of a master's programme.

  • Doctorate Degree: Many graduate schools consider a master's degree to be the first step toward obtaining a PhD. (doctorate). Other schools, however, allow students to prepare for a doctorate without first earning a master's degree. A PhD may take three years or more to complete.

Did You Know?

It could take up to five or six years for international students to complete their doctorate degree.

Most doctoral candidates attend classes and seminars during the programme's first two years. Another year is spent doing field research and writing a thesis or dissertation. This paper must include previously unpublished ideas, designs, or research. A doctoral thesis examines and summarises current scholarship on a specific topic.


Types of Educational Institutes in the USA


Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA 

Liberal arts colleges in the USA prioritize undergraduate education, focusing on humanities, sciences, and social sciences. These colleges maintain rigorous admission standards and provide a comprehensive education in various subjects, fostering critical thinking and a solid academic foundation. Notable liberal arts colleges include Amherst College, Williams College, Pomona College, and Wellesley College.

Public Universities

Public universities in the USA are state-run institutions funded by state or federal governments through taxpayer dollars. They offer lower tuition rates for in-state residents, making them an affordable option. International students, however, may face higher tuition fees. Despite this, public universities provide exceptional educational opportunities. Renowned public universities include the University of California, University of Texas, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Virginia.

Private Universities

Private universities operate independently of government control, relying on funding from private donors, alumni, and grants. These institutions offer diverse academic programs and attract top faculty, ensuring a high-quality education. Many prestigious universities in the USA are private, such as Harvard University, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Despite higher tuition fees, the practical experience and networking opportunities make it worthwhile for international students.

Technical Schools

Technical schools in the USA specialize in fields like engineering, computer science, and other STEM disciplines. These institutions offer cutting-edge research facilities and hands-on learning experiences. Prominent technical schools include the California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Community Colleges

Community colleges provide accessible and affordable education through certificate programs, diploma programs, and associate degrees. They serve as a stepping stone for students aiming to transfer to four-year institutions. Leading community colleges include Santa Barbara City College, Broward College, and Meridian Community College.

Ivy League Schools

Ivy League Schools are a consortium of eight elite universities in the Northeast United States.

These universities are well-known for their highly competitive admissions processes, academic excellence, and high-profile opportunities. In terms of feasibility, these universities are prohibitively expensive. 45 of the men who have served as President of the United States, graduated from an Ivy League university, i.e., Harvard University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Cornell University.


Characteristics of the USA Educational System


The USA educational system, spread across 50 diverse states, offers an extensive array of courses and majors. English, being the primary language, facilitates a broad choice of study areas. The US Department of Education ensures institutions are well-maintained and curriculum standards are met.

US universities are renowned for their research-oriented approach, attracting students keen on continuing their research endeavors. These institutions operate autonomously, making significant decisions independently, contributing to their reputation for openness and diversity. Extracurricular activities are integral, providing a holistic educational experience.

The USA also offers abundant job opportunities, housing multinational giants like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. According to the QS Rankings 2024, the US is home to five of the world's top ten universities, underscoring its role in preparing students for successful careers.

The decentralized nature of the American education system allows each state to customize programs, manuals, and spending, fostering flexibility and innovation in education. Students can tailor their courses, combining multiple fields of study to suit their interests.

Living on an American college campus is unparalleled, with impressive academic infrastructure supporting diverse fields like business, engineering, and media production. This environment ensures students maximize their learning and personal growth.


Difference between Nigerian and American Education System


In the United States, compulsory education lasts twelve years, with six years of primary education followed by six years of middle and high school. Only direct and middle school students in Nigeria are required to attend school.

Access to education is available to as many people as possible in the United States. The situation in a specific territory determines access to education in Nigeria.

Standardised testing is used in both the US Education System and Nigeria. This means that the questions, scoring process, administration conditions, and interpretations are all consistent. The average student takes about ten tests annually in the United States. The U.S. SAT measures reading, math, and writing skills. Students in grades 11 and 12 take the SAT.

Because high schools are scarce in Nigeria, only students with exceptionally high scores on national exams are admitted to the ninth grade. Only the top 10% of students are likely to graduate from high school. Most questions are in essay format, and students must answer them in grammatically correct English.

Related Article: What is the Cost of Studying in USA


How is the Academic Year Setup in the USA?


The academic year in the United States typically begins in August or September. The academic year may be divided into quarters, trimesters, or semesters depending on the university and will last until May or June.



Fall – September (Intake)

November – May (Application Timelines)

Winter – January (Intake)

July – December (Application Timelines)

Spring – May (Intake)

January – March (Application Timelines)

Well, That was an extensive coverage,but we have more information for you at AECC. AECC is the right place to expedite your education endeavours with assistance, from finding accredited courses to an ideal destination and a leading institution. The expert counsellors provide guidance and will bring your dreams to life.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the structure of the education system in the USA?
The American education system is divided into: Primary Education for children aged 6 to 12. Secondary Education for students aged 13 to 15. Senior Secondary Education for students aged 16 to 18. Tertiary Education for students above 18, provided by institutions like Public and Private Universities, Institutes of Technology, Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and Private Colleges.
How is the academic year set up in the USA?
Intakes in the USA typically last from September to May and can be divided into two 16-18 week academic terms known as semesters. Some schools may operate on a trimester or quarter system, with terms lasting 10 to 12 weeks.
How are courses graded in the USA?
Courses are frequently graded using percentages, which are then converted into letter grades. For instance, a percentage of 97-100% corresponds to an A+ grade with a grade scale of 4.00.
What are the different levels of study in the USA higher education system?
The levels of study include: Associate degree: A two-year degree program after secondary school. Undergraduate Degree: Typically earned in four years. Postgraduate level: For those with a bachelor's degree, leading to a master's degree. Doctorate Degree: A PhD that may take three years or more to complete.
What are the types of educational institutes in the USA?
The USA has various educational institutes, including: Liberal Arts Colleges: Focused on undergraduate education in humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Public Universities: Overseen by the state government. Private Universities: Not managed by the government. Technical Schools: Offering courses in technical fields. Community Colleges: Providing certificate programs, diploma programs, and associate degrees. Ivy League Schools: A consortium of eight elite universities in the Northeast United States.

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