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Study in Massachusetts, United States

State overview

Massachusetts, in the heart of the US’s picturesque New England, is one of the most popular locations in the world for those who are looking to study postgraduate courses. With many of the world famous Ivy League colleges within a short distance, the education offered by the universities in the state is wide ranging – in terms of quality and prestige, it is unlikely you will find anywhere better than Massachusetts in which to take up a graduate program.

Aside from its educational opportunities, Massachusetts is known for its beautiful scenery and as a centre for US history. Its capital city, Boston, is heavily tied in with the American Revolution.  Downtown, following the Freedom Trail will lead you to 16 locations that are important in the history of the nation.

Education profile

Possibly more than anywhere else in the United States, Massachusetts is known for the quality of its higher education. Some of the world’s highest performing and most well respected universities, including Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), call the state home. The learning that goes on at institutions such as these leads research and discovery throughout the world.

There are over 120 higher education institutions in Massachusetts. The most prestigious are:

The quality of these institutions hardly needs to be pointed out – they regularly take the top spots in world university rankings. Harvard College is the oldest university in the country, whilst MIT leads the way in global scientific discovery.

The state also has an extremely strong liberal arts sector, with many of its universities placing high globally in these areas. These institutions include:  

Professional, or ‘terminal’, masters are designed to lead to employment rather than further study, whilst academic masters are generally designed to lead the way into doctorate/PhD study. Both last between one and three years, depending on the subject.

Doctoral degrees are the most advanced level of higher education, and usually take between four and eight years to complete, which includes the time it takes to write and present a dissertation. 

Immigration and visas

Before travelling to the USA to study at one of Massachusetts’s prestigious universities, you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa.
The most common kind of student visa is the F-1 visa, which entitles the holder to study at any US accredited college or university.

To apply for a student visa for a graduate program in Massachusetts, you will need to fill out an application form (found on the US Embassy website) and send appropriate documentation, such as evidence of financial standing and proof of university acceptance and academic qualifications, as well as possibly attending a visa interview at the US Embassy in your home country.

Life in Massachusetts

The population of Massachusetts is concentrated largely in two areas – the Great Boston area is home to two thirds of the state’s inhabitants, whilst Springfield is one of the most populous cities in Western New England.

Boston is the state capital, and the Greater Boston area is the location of the city of Cambridge – a student hub where both Harvard and MIT are based. Cambridge is known for its squares, which act as centres for each of its neighbourhoods and offer a strong community feeling. The city is largely residential, and the best open spaces can be found on the campuses of both its universities – as well as along the Charles River and in the Alewife Brook Reservation in the west of the city. The city has good transport links, including buses and trains. Cycling is also actively encouraged, and there are numerous cycle paths.

The city of Boston itself offers numerous attractions – if you are looking for cultural sites, its history can hardly be paralleled. It is a city of contrasts – from the Boston National Historical Park and the Freedom Trail to the Institute of Contemporary Art and a thriving punk rock scene, there is something in Boston to suite the most eclectic of tastes.

Working in Massachusetts

In terms of earning potential, Massachusetts residents have the third highest incomes in the US. There are 13 Fortune 500 companies in the state, and it has also been named as one of the top places the country in which to do business. Unemployment is well below the national average.

As well as being a leader in all areas of education, other main industries in Massachusetts include healthcare research, finance and, increasingly, tourism. Boston and Cape Cod are two of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, contributing to this growing sector. Agriculture is also an important industry.

The state’s biggest employers include Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, in Boston, and MassMutual Financial Services, in Springfield – the majority of business and industry takes place in these areas.

As may be obvious, if you want to go into further research in your field after the completion of your graduate program, or if you want to go into teaching or lecturing, Massachusetts has multiple opportunities.


Whilst studying abroad on postgraduate courses many students choose to live on their university campus in halls of residence. Living in halls allows you to meet fellow students and settle into campus life. Many halls include gym facilities and recreational areas - you should check with your university whether they offer this type of accommodation for those on postgraduate courses.

In order to keep their independence, some students on postgraduate courses choose to live in private accommodation – where paying for utilities and bills will be your own responsibility. Your chosen university should be able to advise you on how to rent a private flat.

In Massachusetts, many students live in Cambridge, the city that is home to both Harvard and MIT. Whilst many students live on campus at these institutions, finding an apartment just off campus means that you will be able to remain close to classes and social events.

Weather and climate

Massachusetts has a similar climate to most other states in New England. It has warm summers and cold winters, due to its humid continental climate, and there is an even distribution of rainfall throughout the year. In summers the state may experience extreme weather, such as thunderstorms, and there may be storms in winter. Tornados, hurricanes and tropical storms are also common.

What to do next

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