| Grad school experience will be different for each individual student. While a grad school's state can affect the student experience, the main goal of US grad schools--to provide advanced-level study and research opportunities for committed students--remains the same across the country, as does the basic grad school structure. Therefore, the information below is a general guide for students preparing to attend an American grad school, and applies to all states. For the most current and specific details, students should refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual universities and colleges offering grad programs.
The American grad school experience may vary depending on the school's size, location and affiliation: colleges offering grad programs in the USA may be found in small rural towns, big urban centres or quiet suburbs, and can be secular, Christian, Catholic, private or public. However, graduate classes themselves are usually focused, small seminar classes of less than 20 students, which means you work closely with peers and professors. Master's degrees can be course-based, meaning non-thesis, or research-based, which includes graduate courses and a thesis. Non-thesis master's degrees typically only take 1 year, while those with a thesis generally take 2 years. Doctoral degrees vary in length and format depending on your field of study. The doctoral degree is generally known as a PhD; however, doctoral degrees may also be granted in particular fields of study such as music (DMus) or law (LLD). Most doctoral degrees take between 4 and 7 years of full-time study, and require students to undertake an original research project leading to a dissertation (usually between 200-400 pages).
At both the master's and doctoral levels, grad students have many opportunities to get involved with high-level research projects, to present at academic conferences, author or co-author journal publications, participate in international competitions and gain experience as a teaching or research assistant.