The USA is the world's most popular study abroad destination and home to one of the largest higher education systems. But how good are its universities for postgraduate study?
The answer is very.
America's top universities dominate the upper reaches of all major global rankings. They also do very well in subject-specific league tables, where performance can matter most to prospective postgraduate (or 'graduate') students.
This page summarises the global rankings of US universities in the three most important international league tables. This information isn't postgraduate-specific, but you can use it to see how different American universities do when compared with other top institutions around the world.
We've also taken a look at the best universities in the USA for six main postgraduate subject-areas. This information is much more relevant to Masters-level study. If a US university does well in your subject it probably has the expertise and facilities to deliver high quality graduate programmes.
Finally, we've listed some of the main domestic rankings of US universities - league tabes that compare American institutions against each other.
The following table gives the top 50 universities in the USA, overall, based on global university rankings.
Each ranking system uses its own methodology, with different factors having more or less influence on a university's result.
For more information on using international rankings as a postgraduate, see our guide.
|University||THE Ranking (2015-16)||QS Ranking (2015-16)||Shanghai Ranking (2015)|
|California Institute of Technology (Caltech)||1||5||7|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||5||1||3|
|University of Chicago||10||10||9|
|Johns Hopkins University||11||16||16|
|University of California, Berkeley||13||26||4|
|University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||16||27||12|
|University of Pennsylvania||17||18||17|
|University of Michigan||21||30||22|
|Carnegie Mellon University||22||62||61|
|New York University (NYU)||30||53||27|
|University of Washington||32||65||15|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||36||59||21|
|University of California, San Diego||39||44||14|
|University of California, Santa Barbara||39||129||38|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||41||84||101-150|
|University of California, Davis||44||85||57|
|University of Texas at Austin||46||77||37|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||50||54||24|
|Washington University in St Louis||60||110||32|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||63||79||39|
|University of Minnesota||65||123||30|
|University of Southern California||68||130||49|
|Pennsylvania State University||75||101||60|
|University of Pittsburgh||79||133||70|
|Michigan State University||99||164||99|
|University of California, Irvine||106||163||50|
|University of Notre Dame||108||195||201-300|
|University of Maryland, College Park||117||123||43|
|University of Florida||120||180||83|
|Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey||123||-||64|
|University of Colorado at Boulder||127||175||34|
|Information in this table is based on the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.|
The ranking performance of America's universities is unparalleled, internationally. US institutions don't just dominate the upper reaches of these tables: as of 2015 they occupy the top spot in every single one.
What's more, a different American university takes that honour in each ranking. On one level, this reflects the different methodologies behind each system. But it also speaks to the broader quality of higher education in the USA. America's rankings aren't simply lead by one or two elite institutions: a wide range of universities represent the country in global league tables.
All of this reinforces the USA's status as a top international study destination. But how relevant is it to Masters-level study?
Global rankings do take into account some of the factors that matter to postgraduate students. The quality (and volume) of a university's research, the reputation of its academics and its ability to attract external funding or partnerships can all have an impact on the quality of advanced degree programmes.
But international rankings measure these factors on an overall level. This can obscure the areas of specialism or expertise that represent an institution's key strengths - and which its Masters programmes will draw upon.
One way to get around this is to look at rankings by subject area.
International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.
Postgraduate study is all about specialisation, advanced knowledge and the opportunity to pursue your subject in depth. That's true wherever you study - in fact, one of the best reasons to study abroad is to seek out the unique facilities and academic expertise that can power your ideal Masters degree.
One way to assess this is to look at rankings of universities in specific subjects.
The table below lists the best universities in the USA in six key subject areas. It's based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject. This lists the best 100 universities in different academic fields, around the world.
|University||Ranking by subject|
|Physical Sciences||Engineering & Technology||Life Sciences||Social Sciences||Arts & Humanities||Medicine & Health|
|California Institute of Technology (Caltech)||1||2||39||5||-||-|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||3||3||1||8||3||-|
|University of California, Berkeley||4||5||10||7||7||5|
|Carnegie Mellon University||10||10||51||-||67||-|
|University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||11||-||15||14||12||15|
|University of Chicago||15||-||7||18||8||30|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||17||15||35||46||87||-|
|University of Washington||21||51||47||24||97||23|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||24||12||-||-||-||-|
|University of California, Santa Barbara||29||22||67||35||50||-|
|University of Texas at Austin||30||23||37||68||41||-|
|University of Michigan||33||17||8||25||19||21|
|University of California, San Diego||35||45||48||23||-||24|
|University of California, Irvine||44||-||73||-||-||-|
|University of Maryland, College Park||56||82||94||73||96||-|
|University of Colorado at Boulder||57||-||-||63||-||-|
|University of Massachusetts||57||59||-||83||-||-|
|University of Minnesota||67||-||60||38||-||59|
|Pennsylvania State University||69||39||61||41||81||-|
|Stony Brook University||71||-||-||-||-||-|
|Michigan State University||86||84||52||51||-||-|
|University of California, Santa Cruz||92||-||-||80||75||-|
|Ohio State University||92||71||71||89||54||-|
|University of Notre Dame||100||-||33||-||-||-|
|University of Southern California||-||31||44||-||86||56|
|Texas A&M University||-||49||-||-||-||-|
|New York University||-||-||18||-||20||34|
|University of Pittsburgh||-||-||31||-||-||37|
|Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey||-||-||38||-||-||-|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||-||-||42||56||93||25|
|Johns Hopkins University||-||-||62||-||35||9|
|Washington University in St Louis||-||-||82||-||-||22|
|University of Virginia||-||-||98||-||72||85|
|University of Florida||-||-||-||75||-||79|
|Arizona State University||-||-||-||78||-||-|
|Oregon State University||-||-||-||97||-||-|
|University of California, Riverside||-||-||-||100||-||-|
|Case Western Reserve University||-||-||-||-||-||66|
|University of Rochester||-||-||-||-||-||88|
|University of Iowa||-||-||-||-||-||92|
|Oregon Health and Science University||-||-||-||-||-||94|
|Information in this table is based on the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject. This ranks the top 100 global universities in six core academic fields.|
So, what does this table reveal? Well, for a start, it's clear that the USA is almost as dominant in subject-specific rankings as it is in the overall global league tables. And these are the rankings that matter most to prospective Masters students.
The breadth and variety of US higher education is also displayed here. America's best universities are highly ranked for most (or all) core academic disciplines. This doesn't just demonstrate exceptional quality across the board. It also indicates the potential for great interdisciplinary work - the kind of collaboration and innovation that can lead to great graduate programmes.
Other US universities only make the top 100 for one or two subjects, but this is still an impressive achievement. These institutions are amongst the very best in the world in their areas of expertise - and you can be fairly sure that means they'll offer great Masters degrees in those fields.
Our database includes plenty of US Masters degrees and our listings provide lots of helpful information about specific programs. Why not take a look?
As you'd expect from one of the world's largest higher education systems, there are a wide range of domestic rankings that only include universities in the USA. Most are produced by American media outlets and similar organisations.
Domestic rankings don't compare US universities internationally; instead they rank US institutions against each other. This can be useful if you're narrowing your search to the USA, but less helpful if you're still comparing a range of options for postgraduate study abroad.
We haven't summarised specific US university rankings here, but significant examples include:
There are a lot of American institutions in these rankings, but that's only a fraction of the total number of universities in the USA. To really get to grips with postgraduate study in the US higher education system, check out our comprehensive guide.
Last updated - 19/04/2016