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Studying a Masters in the US: An International Student Guide

Masters in USAUniversities in the USA attract international masters students from all over the globe and this is because many of the world’s best universities are based in America. Let’s take a look at the various considerations involved when choosing to study a masters in the USA.

Choosing the right university and program

Start by researching the different universities and programs available in your field of interest. When choosing a US university, consider factors such as the reputation and rankings of the university, the faculty and their expertise, available resources, and the overall academic environment. It’s also important to consider the location and accommodation options offered by the university. 

Here are some tips for researching masters in the US.

1. Consider university reputation and rankings

When considering which university to study at, take a look for universities that have a strong academic standing and are well-regarded in your field of interest. Ranking systems such as the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education Rankings can provide valuable insights into how different universities perform.

2. Assess faculty expertise and resources

It’s important to consider how your university can help you fulfil your study goals. Evaluate the expertise and qualifications of the faculty members in your desired program. It’s a good idea to explore their research interests, publications and industry experience. Additionally, consider the resources and facilities available to students, such as libraries, laboratories and research centres, as these factors can significantly impact your learning experience.

3. Research university cultures

Considering which university to study at is important, but it’s also important to consider lifestyle factors, such as university cultures. Student life in the USA can differ across institutions, each with its own academic environment and culture. 

You might want to think about factors such as class sizes, student-faculty ratio and the availability of research opportunities. Also, some universities may emphasise practical training and industry connections, while others may focus on theoretical foundations. Determine which academic environment aligns with your learning preferences and career goals when deciding where to study in the US.

4. Location and accommodation options 

The USA is one of the largest countries in the world. As a result, it’s home to a huge range of universities across diverse study destinations. Each location has its own unique advantages and lifestyle. From weather and climate, to cultural offerings and local amenities, it’s crucial to consider whether the location of the university aligns with your preferences.

Costs should also be a consideration, as some US universities and cities are considerably more expensive to study at and live in than others.

Research different USA study destinations and understand what makes each state and city unique. Additionally, explore the accommodation options available, both on-campus and off-campus, and consider your comfort and convenience in relation to your chosen program. For instance, you might want to consider whether you’d prefer to live in the cooler Evergreen state of Washington, surrounded by tech experts and rolling hills, or East Coast living in states such as Pennsylvania, for example.

5. Explore program variety

The USA is home to over 4,000 universities, each with different program options. Consider how different courses can align with your interests and career goals. It’s a good idea to have a look at both traditional and emerging fields of study, and assess whether the program curriculum aligns with your academic and career aspirations. Above all, ensure that the program you choose will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to excel in your chosen field. To make your final decision much easier, narrow down your choices to just to a few programs to enable you to find the top masters course in the USA for you.

6. Gather information from multiple sources

It can be difficult to research postgraduate courses from a distance, especially if you know very little about the country you are planning on studying in. Use university websites, industry publications and online resources to gather information – you can find a handful of useful resources on studying in the US here at Postgrad. 

Additionally, you can speak with anyone who has made a similar trip and reach out on social media to connect with recent graduates or students who are already on the masters course. Most universities in the USA will have social media pages dedicated to the recruitment of new students. Many universities in the USA run short exchange and summer programs, so if you’re able to, these are an excellent way to get a little taste of studying in the USA before you apply for a masters course.


The US application process and admissions requirements

Each university and MS program will have specific admission requirements. Check the official websites for details on prerequisites, GPA requirements and letters of recommendation.

MS courses typically require students to provide details of their past education, submit their resume, provide grade transcripts from their previous universities, give references, pay the application fee and write a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose – also referred to as a personal statement – is one of the most important parts of your application, particularly if it is a popular course with many similarly qualified potential students, as it will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. Masters courses in the USA usually require a good undergraduate or first degree in a relevant subject or a degree course that contains a significant element of a relevant subject area. 

Standardised tests

Most US masters programs will require standardised test scores, such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) for business programs. Plan and prepare for these tests well in advance to ensure you achieve the required scores.

English language skills

International students are also required to demonstrate proficiency in English, typically through English language tests like the TOEFL or IELTS. Start your application well in advance to allow ample time for gathering materials, writing essays and completing any necessary tests.

How to apply

Applying for masters courses in the USA is typically done through online application forms, including reputable universities like New York University. It is important to note that the majority of US universities no longer accept applications by post.

Sort out your visa

As soon as your place at the US university is confirmed, you should apply for your F1 student visa. Your university should be able to help with this, and fees are around $200. You will be expected to prove that you have the financial resources to support yourself and are intending to return home after your course. Student visas allow you to remain in the US for up to 60 days after your course ends.

Financing a masters degree in the US

Studying in the USA can be expensive, so it's important to plan your finances accordingly. Here are some steps to take when considering fees and funding.

US masters funding for international students

Funding options for international students pursuing a masters  degree in the USA are relatively limited compared to domestic students who can access state and federal-level support. However, universities in the USA do offer scholarships to many students, with some institutions providing scholarships specifically for students from certain developing countries.

To explore available funding opportunities, your institution will typically provide a list of scholarships specifically available to their students. Additionally, some international students choose to borrow money from private student loan providers to cover their expenses. It's important to note that international students, regardless of whether they attend a private or public institution in the USA, do not pay higher tuition fees than out-of-state students.

US masters fees

The cost of pursuing a masters degree in the USA is an important factor to consider. On average, tuition fees for an MS program in the USA range from $20,000 to $65,000 per year (equivalent to approximately 16.50 to 53.62 lakhs INR), varying based on the university and the field of study.

Some prestigious universities may exceed this, and the exact fee will differ between institutions.

Here are some examples of US university tuition fees for MBA programs:


Tuition Fee for MBA

Harvard University


Carnegie Mellon University


South Dakota State University

$12,128 (Out-of-State)

Please note that the information provided above is based on the specific context of MBA programs at the mentioned universities and is subject to change. Tuition fees for other programs or different academic years may vary. It is always recommended to refer to the official university websites or contact the admissions office directly for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding tuition fees.

How long is a masters in the USA?

A masters degree in the USA typically takes two years to complete, depending on the program and field of study. While some universities offer accelerated one-year programs, the standard duration is two academic years, consisting of four semesters or quarters. 

However, part-time options are also available, allowing for a more flexible schedule but potentially extending the overall program duration. It's important to consider factors such as program requirements, research components and individual progress, as they can impact the length of your studies. For an accurate idea of your chosen course’s length, it's recommended to consult with the specific university or program advisor.

Study modes

US masters programs offer various study modes to accommodate different learning preferences and schedules. The specific options offered by the university will depend on the subject area and course. 

Popular study modes include:

  • Full time: many students opt for full-time, on-campus study, where they attend classes and engage in face-to-face interactions with professors and peers. This allows for immersive learning experiences, access to campus resources and opportunities for networking.

  • Part time: there are an increasing number of part-time courses available for study during the evening while students work during the day, however, an international student is unlikely to be able to take advantage of these courses. Popular subject areas, such as business management and law, prefer international students to study full time and on-campus. 

  • Online: online courses may not qualify you for a student visa into the USA, so you might find that only full-time campus-based masters courses are available to study if you are coming from outside the USA.

Subject areas in the USA

American universities dominate many subject areas, especially those in technology and engineering. The MBA is always a hugely popular choice among masters students, as are the medical professions, as the USA leads the world in medical research. Computer Science is another popular subject area as is the law, however, a study of the law at masters level in the USA would most likely lead to a career based in the USA. Many international students concentrate on business management and medical professions as these courses offer a wide range of skills that give students an extra edge when they return home. 

International students studying masters courses in the USA

This table shows the number of international students studying in the United States in 2021/22:

Country of origin

Number of international students studying in the US





South Korea




Saudi Arabia






















United Kingdom












Hong Kong










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