graduate study in Pennsylvania, USA, graduate, postgraduate, study, abroad, program

Study for in Pennyslvania, United States

State overview

Pennsylvania is a state in the northeast of the United States, close to the Canadian border and New York. It is found in the Great Lakes region, and its landscape includes part of the Appalachian Mountains.  

Pennsylvania’s largest and probably most famous city is Philadelphia, although its capital is the lesser known Harrisburg, over a hundred miles away. Philadelphia, possibly best known for its Philly cheesesteak, it is also home to a rich mixture of ethnicities, the largest urban park in the world (Fairmont Park) and one of the most iconic symbols of American independence, the Liberty Bell. It is here that the Founding Fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Today, Pennsylvania is one of the most populous states in the country, and is home to the world renowned Pennsylvania State University, a large number of Fortune 500 companies, and is also a thriving research centre. A good choice, then, for anyone looking to take up a poatgraduate course overseas.

Education profile

Most of the public universities in Pennsylvania fall under the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, although there are also a number of partially independent and private universities and technical colleges throughout the state that provide postgraduate courses.
The most prominent universities in the state include:

All of the above are highly performing research universities; the University of Pennsylvania is part of the Ivy League, a group of world leading institutions in the northeast of the US.

Pennsylvania has a strong history in the field of medical research, with Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (part of the University of Sciences in Philadelphia) the first college in the country to teach pharmaceutical studies, and the University of Pennsylvania housing the first medical school.

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 Pennsylvania’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 Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania

As a student on a postgraduate course in Pennsylvania you are likely to live in one of two places: Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Both are large cities that are home to huge numbers of students – the most highly regarded universities in the state are located here.

If you are studying a graduate program at Pennsylvania State University, however, you may be at one of 24 campuses that the institution has across the state. 

Philadelphia, as the largest city in Pennsylvania, is a city that demonstrates the nation’s rich history. Such landmarks as the Independence National Historical Park, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are some of the most important in the whole of the USA. It is also an extremely artistic city, with the largest number of public artworks in North America and one of the largest art museums – Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is at night that the city comes alive, however, with the Old City and South Street being a hub of restaurants and performance spaces.

In Pittsburgh, the state’s second largest city, also has a thriving theatrical and music scene. It also regularly appears close to the top on lists identifying the world’s most liveable cities, due to its low crime rate and the job opportunities that it offers its residents.
Outdoor areas in Pennsylvania are also numerous – there are over 120 free state parks in the area.

Working in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s economy is booming – if it were a country in itself it would be within the top 20 in the world.

Top sectors in the state include finance, banking, insurance, manufacturing, agriculture and transport – extremely varied sectors to consider if you decide to stay and work in Pennsylvania after the completion of your graduate program. In the 21st Century, the state is also seeing the beginnings of a film industry form.


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 Philadelphia most students who choose to live off campus reside around the Center City/ South Street/ Old City area.

Weather and climate

Pennsylvania’s climate is mostly humid continental, with cold winters and humid summers, although towards the centre of the state the weather is much colder and there is often a great deal more snow. Although extreme weather, such as tornadoes, is not uncommon, certain areas (the most notable of which is Pittsburgh) are largely protected and do not suffer. Rainfall is frequent throughout the whole state, all year.

What to do next

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