The Credit System for Master’s Courses in American Universities: Part 2

Credit hours are a way of numerically representing all work completed. They are not the same as the actual ‘classroom contact’ i.e. instructional hours. Most institutions of higher education in the U.S. operate on an academic year divided into two equal semesters of 15-16 weeks’ duration, with a winter break of 2-3 weeks and a summer session of 10-12 weeks, plus additional shorter breaks.  The actual amount of academic work that goes into a single semester credit hour is often calculated as follows:

  • One lecture (taught) or seminar (discussion) credit hour represents 1 hour per week of scheduled class/seminar time and 2 hours of student preparation time.  Most lecture and seminar courses are awarded 3 credit hours.  Over an entire semester, this formula represents at least 45 hours of class time and 90 hours of student preparation.
  • One laboratory credit hour represents 1 hour per week of lecture or discussion time plus 1-2 hours per week of scheduled supervised or independent laboratory work, and 2 hours of student preparation time.  Most laboratory courses are awarded up to 4 credit hours.  This calculation represents at least 45 hours of class time, between 45 and 90 hours of laboratory time, and 90 hours of student preparation per semester.

A master’s degree program requiring at least 33 credit hours and including a research thesis or project represents over 4,000 actual hours of supervised and unsupervised (independent research) study, while a doctoral program can represent 8,000 or more actual hours of advanced study and research beyond the master’s degree.

The Credit System for Master’s Courses in American Universities Part 1

Generally, in order to complete an MS or an MBA course you have to complete 33 credits, usually in a 2 year-period. The total number of credits is broken up in different ways. For example, if you opt to do a thesis, then the break up is:

  • Thesis – 6 credits
  • Course – 27 credits

If the course does not have the thesis option then you will have to do a project and the break up will be:

  • Project – 3 credits
  • Course – 30 credits

The credit system will differ from university to university, but by and large this is the system that is followed.

Students are awarded 3 credits per theory course (or subject) that they study in a semester. But in order to earn the credits for the course they have to undergo actual classroom instruction for 3 hours a week for the whole semester. You will be expected to take a minimum of 3 such theory courses per semester and thus will be awarded a total of 9 credits, 3 for each of the subjects.

Thus, given that there are 2 semesters per year, in the normal course, students take 18 credits per year. However, many Indian students take extra credits (e.g. 12 per semester instead of 9) and thus are able to complete their Master’s degrees 16 months time.

 

The Academic Year in American Universities

The academic year in American universities is usually of a total length of 9 months (excluding a 3-month summer holiday). But the division of these 9 months into terms varies from university to university. Generally, the system will be one of these 3 types:

The Quarter System

In this system the academic year is divided into four quarters of approximately 10 weeks each.

 

The Trimester System

Here, the academic year is divided into three periods of 12 weeks each.

 

The Semester System

This is the most common system. In it the educational year is divided into 3 semesters:

  • the fall session which commences in August
  • the spring session which commences in January
  • the summer session which begins in June.

 

The Cost of Higher Education in America

Many Indian students are concerned about the cost of higher education in America and seek information on opportunities for financial assistance. The cost of education in the United States ranges from $14,000 to over $40,000 per year, with State universities and institutions in the South and Mid-West are often being cheaper than private institutions and those located in California or the North-East region. In addition to tuition fees, books and food, you have to plan for expenses towards housing, health insurance and transportation. In fact, a student’s major expenses will be on two major items: tuition fees and living expenses.

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Deadlines for Fall 2014 Coming Up in this Month (Dec 13)

As you know, the deadlines for admission to the fall 2014 semester begin in December 2013 and stretch all the way up to August 2014. So, if you are applying for fall 2014 the deadlines have begun. Keep watching this blog, we’ll keep updating you on the deadlines for the month every month from now.

This month there are just a few coming up – only 6 in all – but they are the first deadlines for fall. Here they are:

Universities with Deadlines in December

  1. Indiana University, Bloomington – 1 December
  2. University of Miami, Coral Gables – 1 December
  3. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – 1 December
  4. Harvard University – 14 December
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 15 December
  6. Michigan State University, East Lansing – December

Related Blogs:

 

Success Stories of Indians Who Made It Big in America – Ajay Bhatt Inventor of the USB and Other Achievers

If you use a desktop, laptop, mobile phone, tablet or external hard disk drive, it’s impossible not to know about the USB (universal serial bus) port. The news is that this port, used to transfer both information and power between devices, is now about to become more versatile – there are plans to make it flippable and also able to deliver the power required by larger networks. But did you know that the inventor of the USB port is an Indian? Well, it’s true and his name is Ajay Bhatt.

After graduating from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda Bhatt went on to The City University of New York, where he received his master’s degree. In 1990, Bhatt joined Intel Corporation as a senior staff architect on the chipset architecture team. Currently, he holds thirty-one U.S. patents, and several others are in various stages of filing. Some time ago IEEE Spectrum did an interesting interview with him about how Intel made the USB truly universal and other things like an ‘all-day’ computer project he is working on (read: a computer that you can use all day on a single charge) and some of his past achievements (click here to see “Ajay Bhatt: Intel’s Rock-Star Inventor”).

However, despite his ‘rock star’ inventor status Bhatt is only one of a highly talented group of Indian movers and shakers in the field of technology in the US. Here are few of the many other outstanding achievers in the list:

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Salaries Post MS/Phd/MBA

Jobs are available in all fields since the American economy needs people from all walks of life: engineers, managers, graduates from the field of science etc.Of course there are periodic booms and recessions in all fields. But an enterprising person can usually find a good job in any field.

The salaries after completing a master’s-level course of studies in the United States is quite good. After an MS or an MBA, you can get a salary in the range of $55,000 to $85,000 per annum. Of course, the salary structure depends on several factors, including your field of specialization, the university from where you obtained your degree, the geographical are where you get the job and of course your ability to convince your employers of your calibre.

After a PhD you can expect a salary of around $85,000 per year.

Jobs After Studying in America

Is there scope to take up jobs after studying in America? Most students do take up a job in the United States after they have finished their course of study there. However, the student (F1) visa that you get from the US embassy in India does not permit you to take up full-time employment. You have to take permission from the Immigration Department first. The good thing is that obtaining this permission is not very difficult. You are allowed to work after finishing your MS, MBA etc. under Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Once you have got a job it often happens that your employer will request the authorities for a change of status in your visa from F1 (education visa) to H1 (work permit). This can be renewed for 3 years more. During this time many people apply for a Green Card i.e. permission to live in the United States permanently. Once you get your Green Card you will be able to live and work in the United States for as many years as you want.

Working while Studying: On Campus Jobs

Working while studying in America is quite well-accepted. You can work on campus for 20 hours per week. Almost all students studying in a university find on campus jobs. The pay varies from 6-9 dollars per hour depending on the area and the type of work you get. Even if you get an average of $7 per hours, you can earn around $500 per month which is more than enough to take care of your costs of living. You may even be able to pay part of your tuition costs out of your savings.

On campus jobs can vary from working in a computer lab, or in a library or cafeteria. In America all work is respected because Americans believe in the dignity of labour and in being able to pay for one’s own education. Indians are widely accepted in computer-related fields. You should try to get a job in this area since the jobs are more comfortable and the pay is better.

Changing Your Field of Study

The American system is very flexible, so changing your field of study is acceptable even in the middle of a course. So, for example a student doing his or her MS in the engineering department of a particular university might shift to a program in the computer science department of that university.

Though this is acceptable, you must remember that when you transfer to a new department, the department may not accept all your credits. They may treat you as a fresh admission and accept only those credits that are common  to both programs. So, before you change your course find out what credits will be accepted, see how many you will have to do all over again and then see whether it is really worth it. Only then is it worth thinking of changing your field.

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