What are You Doing After High School?

The possibilities of post-secondary education

Post-secondary education, or college, is a level of education or training that goes beyond high school. While many are familiar with the term “college” often times they may not know that institutions of higher learning can be classified into  many different categories. Knowing the different types of  colleges might be the first step in helping a student narrow down their research to see which institutions best fit their needs, abilities, interests, and intended career path.


Career, technical, trade or vocational courses

Associate Degree

Bachelor’s Degree


Master’s Degree


Doctorate Degree

Typical Time to Graduate

1 - 2 years​

1 - 2 years

4 years 

Bachelor's degree plus 1 - 2 years additional study

Bachelor's degree and Master's degree plus 2 - 3 years additional study


Types of Post-Secondary Schools

Career Schools

Career schools, also known as technical, vocational, or trade schools focus on hands-on application of skills need to do a specific job. This kind of institution is similar to a community college in that it offers specific career-oriented programs that last from a few months to a couple of years. Most are specialized and offer intense training in one specific skill area.


Community Colleges/Junior College

Community colleges typically offer two-year

associate degrees that prepare you for a certain career while giving you the possibility of transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. They may also offer certificates that align with your intended field.


Liberal Arts Colleges

These types of colleges are typically four-year institutions that emphasizes a broad undergraduate education. It offers exposure to the sciences, history, philosophy, music and art in an effort to provide a well rounded education while pursuing a bachelors degree. Most liberal arts institutions are private.



Universities offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and sometimes have professional schools such as law school or medical school. Universities tend to be larger than colleges, may have larger class sizes, and often focus on scholarly or scientific research.


Other Classifications of

Post-Secondary Schools


Specialty Institutions

Examples: Art Institutions, Nursing Schools,

Engineering Colleges, Military Schools, etc. focus on a

specific areas of study or career fields.

Public Institutions

Public colleges are funded by local and state governments and usually offer lower tuition rates than private colleges, especially for students who are residents of the state where a college is located.  Public colleges and universities often times offer more degree options, and bigger classroom sizes.


Private Institutions

Private colleges rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students.  Private colleges have many of the same degree options and traditionally small classroom sizes.


Religious Affiliated Institutions

All religious affiliated colleges are private institutions. Because of the separation of church and state, no public funding can be used by private religious education institutions. Students attending a religious affiliated institution are often required to attend certain religious classes or courses and may have to meet special entrance requirements.