Postgraduate in America

Many students dream of pursuing postgraduate education in the United States. The country promises countless top-notch programs, from diplomas to master’s and doctoral degrees. But before one ventures into this higher education endeavour, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of taking a postgraduate in America. In this guide, we’ll do a quick breakdown of the postgraduate environment in the US and the different study options available. Plus, we’ll give a general overview of how to apply for postgraduate courses in America.


Studying a postgraduate in America

When deciding to undertake postgraduate study in America, students must typically choose between two types of universities: public and private.

A public university, also known as a state university, is funded by the US government. These large institutions often have a high proportion of in-state residents, but they still welcome a good number of international students all the same. Public universities are ideal for students who want to enjoy lower tuition fees (compared to private universities) and a wider variety of courses.

A private university, on the other hand, is funded through tuition fees, grants and private donations. These are usually smaller than public universities but have better facilities. They’re also often more expensive. However, they do typically provide a good number of scholarships to interested enrollees.


Postgraduate options in the US

The postgraduate options in America generally fall into three categories:

Diplomas and certificates

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates are taught in programs that take only six months to up to two years to complete. These qualifications are designed to help students boost their career or act as a precursor to a master’s degree.

Master’s degrees

A master’s degree usually lasts one to two years and involves completing a project or dissertation. It’s often taken by professionals who want to specialise in a certain aspect of their field. There are different types of master’s degrees, such as:

  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Research
  • Master by Research
  • Master of Studies
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Library Science
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Public Health
  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
  • Master of Fine Arts
  • Master of Music
  • Master of Education
  • Master of Engineering
  • Master of Architecture.


A doctorate is taken after a master’s degree or sometimes after a bachelor’s degree if a master’s is taken concurrently. These programs usually take up to four years to finish and are meant to be research-intensive.

Doctorates include PhDs or DPhils (Doctor of Philosophy), integrated PhDs and professional doctorates. These programs conclude with a doctoral thesis, which is a research project on a specialist topic to introduce new knowledge to a field.


Applying for postgraduate education in the US

Each university in the US will have its own set of requirements, eligibility criteria and application process for postgraduate education. That said, most of them follow a similar format. Here’s what students need to know about post-graduation in America:


An application to enter a postgraduate program in America usually entails submitting the following requirements:

  • application form: A form containing the student’s basic information.
  • statement of purpose: A 500 to 1,000-word admissions essay stating why you want to study a program in your chosen university. Some universities also ask for a research statement that describes the student’s research interests and plans.
  • standardised test results: Results of aptitude tests that exhibit one’s academic abilities, such as the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
  • recommendation letters: Written comments from references that speak of a student’s eligibility as a postgraduate candidate.
  • official transcripts: Records of a student’s grades from their undergraduate degree. Some schools may also request a curriculum vitae outlining one’s professional and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • application fee: A non-refundable fee of $50 to $125 for each institution applied to.


To be eligible to take a postgraduate program in America, a student must:

Application process

Applying for postgraduate education in America is similar to other education-related application processes, including undergraduate application. The steps may differ per program and university, but generally, they involve sending in an application to one’s chosen institution, along with other requirements, and paying an application fee. Some universities might also require coming in for an interview.

The institution shall then determine whether the student can be admitted into the program, and once they are, they may proceed with completing their enrollment and obtaining their student visa.


Explore postgraduate education in America

upGrad GSP can help you connect international students with US institutions offering postgraduate options. Contact our business development experts to know how.

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