Our Name

Why is our name Graduate School USA?

Let us tell you.


sealThe name Graduate School has more to do with our founding. The school was created for Department of Agriculture scientists, many of whom already had secondary degrees. They needed “graduate” level courses that they could get at a college or university. But, they could not take the time away from their jobs at the USDA to take these courses; as a result, the USDA was tasked with providing them. These were credit courses that could be accepted at colleges and universities throughout the country.

As planned, the original courses were graduate level. For example, one of the first classes we offered was Soil Physics, which is the study of soil's physical properties and processes. It is applied to management and prediction under natural and managed ecosystems. Soil physics deals with the dynamics of physical soil components and their phases as solid, liquid, and gas. This is quite a bit to digest, isn’t it? This graduate-level course is the type you would get at a university at that time. And, since the course was offered in the evening, it suited the agriculture scientists who could not take time away from their jobs. What better name for a school that was teaching graduate-level courses for USDA scientists than USDA Graduate School.

Things Change Quickly!

By 1935, only 10 of the 31 course offerings were science based. Other government agencies hearing about the quality of the training, wanted the school to offer training in other areas, such as leadership and management. In fact, we are the first organization in the nation to offer leadership training to government employees. The school offered increasingly more courses to a variety of agencies on subjects such as foreign languages, office management, writing, and communication, to name a few. During World War II, we trained thousands of people who came to Washington DC to help in the war effort in all forms of office management, such as filing, punch card operation, and shorthand.

gs logoBut by the 1960s, all those graduate-level courses for USDA scientists were gone, and the school forged ahead to being a provider of training for the entire federal government. By 1971, the school had completely moved away from graduate-level courses and became a provider of continuing education. The school changed its name from USDA Graduate School to Graduate School USDA in acknowledgement that we trained more than just USDA employees. We were the government’s trainer, but we were still part of the USDA.


A New Era

In 2009, the end of an era took place. After 88 years as a partner with the USDA, we became an independent nonprofit educational institution and ended our long and eventful relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, changing our name to Graduate School USA. So, why keep the name Graduate School when we no longer offer graduate-level courses? The answer is, we are still committed to the vision of those who created the school in 1921 — providing outstanding training to federal, state, and local government professionals to help them in their careers and help their agencies achieve their missions.



How did it all start? Learn about the origins of Graduate School USA and the people behind the vision. 

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We don’t award degrees. Why are we called “Graduate School” USA? Let us tell you.

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Graduate School USA | Anniversary


Explore our rich and diverse history: 100 years of GSUSA instructors, curriculum areas, and dedication to the federal workforce.

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For over 100 years, we have had thousands of outstanding instructors. Meet some of them.

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For over 60 years, our outstanding training has gone around the world. Read our story about our international training.

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We were the first organization to offer leadership training to government professionals. Hear from those who have benefited from our training.

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