Structure of US Education System

 In the U.S.A. entry age to compulsory education varies according to the state between 5 and 7 years of age, 6 being the most common; the age of exit varies between 16 and 18 years of age, the most common being 16. There is no national structure, curriculum or governing law; all laws and policies are set and enforced by the 50 state governments and over 14,000 local school districts. All states and school districts have set the secondary school graduation level as the completion of 12th grade, and the common name for the secondary graduation qualification is the High School Diploma. This diploma name covers a variety of awards for different curricula and standards. There are Honours/Regents, academic/college preparatory, vocational, and general/basic high school diploma tracks.

The title "High School Diploma" remains the most commonly recognized name for the U.S. secondary school leaving diploma. Contents of the curriculum leading to this diploma are contained in the record of studies leading to it and grades (marks) obtained, called a High or Secondary School Transcript.

The higher education starts after completion of 12 years of pre-higher education. The higher education commences with undergraduate school, these are schools that offer either a two-year degree called an associate degree or a four-year degree called a bachelors degree followed by usually two year degree that is highly specialized in a specific field called masters degree. PhD degree can be taken up to advance education in a specific field. A PhD degree can take between three and six years to complete, depending on the course of study chosen, the ability of the student, and the thesis that the student has selected.

The U.S. uses ordinal numbers (e.g., first grade) for identifying grades. Typical ages and grade groupings in public and private schools may be found through the U.S. Department of Education. Many different variations exist across the country.

Elementary School
Preschool  4-5
Kindergarten
 5-6
1st Grade 6-7
2nd Grade  7-8
3rd Grade  8-9
4th Grade  9-10
5th Grade  10-11
Middle School
6th Grade 11-12
7th Grade 12-13
8th Grade 13-14

High School
9th Grade (Freshman) 14-15
10th Grade (Sophomore) 15-16
11th Grade (Junior) 16-17
12th Grade (Senior) 17-18
Higher Education
Tertiary education (College or University)

Ages vary, but often 18–22

(Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years)

Vocational education Ages vary
Graduate education
 
Ages vary
Adult education Ages vary
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