The rest of the world is playing catch up with the USA where higher education is concerned. Explore what this superpower can offer…

The US is often labelled the 'land of opportunity' and it's easy to see why. The country, which spans six time zones, is regarded as one of the finest education providers. It's also one of the most popular destinations for UK students seeking postgraduate study.

Masters degrees

More than a third of US institutions offer postgraduate degrees. The majority of courses are full time and last for one year, just like in the UK.

Applying for a Masters degree also follows a similar process to the UK. You will need a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate degree from a recognised institution.

It is worth remembering that there is no official conversion rate between UK A-level/degree results and USA grades. Most institutions will have their own policy so it's vital to get in touch before you apply.

You can search for US Masters degrees by field of study and location at International Student School Search.

Universities in the USA

There are more than 4,500 institutions in the USA and the country has one of the largest education systems in the world. It is also home to some of the best ranked institutions.

Seven of the top ten are US institutions, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-15. These include:

  • 1st - California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • 2nd - Harvard University
  • 4th - Stanford University
  • 6th - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The Williams College in Massachusetts is ranked first in the Forbes America's Top Colleges list.

You need to remember that USA universities are generally known as colleges and postgraduate degrees are called graduate degrees.


Hult International Business School

With locations in Boston, New York and San Francisco Hult International Business School offers both Masters and MBA programmes


LIU Post

Just outside New York City LIU Post College of Management offers accountancy, MBA and taxation postgraduate courses and is ranked among The Princeton Review's 'Best Business Schools'


Stanford University - Summer Session

Stanford Summer Session invites visiting undergraduate and graduate students to experience a truly unique and transformative summer quarter


St John's University

A global perspective means success in today's competitive workplace. St. John's provides students with extensive study abroad opportunities at campuses in New York, Rome, and Paris


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

One of the country's leading health sciences universities the UT Health Science Center houses schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences and provides an extensive range of postgraduate courses


The University of West Alabama

Study a graduate programme in biology, business, education or psychology and receive state-of-the-art research training, hands-on practical training and fantastic opportunities for internship placements

Course fees

Studying in the USA is expensive, so any decision to study here should not be taken lightly. On average it costs £16,200 ($24,914) to study here per year, ranking the USA as the most expensive country for university fees in the world, just ahead of Australia (£15,655) and the UK (£13,890), according to the 2014 international education study by HSBC.

However, the study also shows that the annual cost of living in the USA is much lower than its higher education rivals.

Funding to study in the USA

International students will find that funding is often available and generally differs between institutions. Some will provide scholarships covering the entire cost of study. Common sources of funding include:

  • Needs-based financial aid - if your family income falls below a certain amount then many institutions can assist with tuition fees and accommodation.
  • Merit scholarships - for those with outstanding talent or excellent grades in a specific subject.
  • Sports scholarships - for talented sportsmen and women. You need the required grades as well as sporting excellence.

Around 30 scholarships are offered each year by the Fulbright Commission Award Programme. UK students looking to pursue a postgraduate degree are eligible, with awards varying from journalism to medicine. For a list of awards visit Fulbright Commission - Awards and Programmes for UK Postgraduates.

In addition, there are ten fully-funded Kennedy Scholarships awarded annually to British postgraduate students hoping to take a programme across any department or school at Harvard and MIT. For more information see The Kennedy Trust.

There are also at least five fully-funded Frank Knox Fellowships awarded each year to British citizens taking graduate programmes at all the Harvard graduate schools, see Frank Knox Fellowships for more information.

How to apply

It can take longer to apply to a US institution than one in the UK because of the various stages you must negotiate.

When applying you will need to provide:

  • a personal statement;
  • two or three recommendation letters;
  • application fees of approximately $50-100;
  • admission exam scores.

All students must sit a multiple choice admission exam. Most universities require students to sit SAT or ACT exams. They can be taken in test centres around the UK and cost roughly £50 each.

The Fulbright Commission recommends that you apply to no more than six institutions - this will allow you enough time to focus on each application and give you more chance of being successful.

Language requirements

Courses in the USA are taught in English. If English is not your first language then you will be required to sit an English Language Proficiency test. The TOEFL and IELTS tests are widely accepted. For example, the University of Oregon accepts a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 for postgraduate study.

Student visas

Any foreign national looking to enter the USA will need a visa. As a student you will need an F-1 visa and you must be accepted and approved on your course before applying for one. You will then be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

You will also need to make an appointment for a visa interview with the US embassy in your country. You will be asked to bring items including:

  • your passport;
  • your visa application form;
  • and financial documents.

The earlier you start this process the better - F-1 visas can be issued 120 days before your course start date.

For a complete guide visit the US Department of State - Student Visas.

USA exchanges and placements

UK students and graduates can apply for a wide range of exchange opportunities with the Fulbright Awards Programme. You can attend a US institution to pursue a postgraduate degree or lecture and conduct research in the USA.

Many UK universities will be partnered with a US counterpart or be a member of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). For example, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is an ISEP member and has partners in the USA and other countries.

Doctoral programmes

It typically takes three to four years to complete a PhD in the USA, depending on the subject.

Commonly studied subjects include anthropology, biology, education, engineering, psychology and sociology.

For a list of some US PhDs visit PhD Studies - USA.

Find out more