types of postsecondary schools

Posted : May 2, 2006
Last Updated : June 18, 2019

types of postsecondary schools

You can choose from a variety of postsecondary schools when you begin your college search. By researching the different types of schools, you will be able to make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Here is an overview of the various kinds of postsecondary schools.


Universities tend to be large schools with a wide variety of programs. They may have several undergraduate and graduate schools, colleges, departments, or faculties (School of Engineering, College of Business, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Science, etc.). Universities have undergraduate divisions that award bachelor's degrees and graduate schools that award master's degrees. Some universities offer professional schools that award doctorates. Universities tend to have research facilities and an abundance of social opportunities (fraternities, sororities, sporting events, clubs, etc.). Universities may be public or private.


Colleges tend to be smaller than universities, but they still have a variety of programs. (Please note: Although colleges do tend to be smaller than universities, there are still some colleges that are just as big or even bigger than a university.) Four-year colleges offer bachelor's degrees. Graduate degrees may or may not be offered. The size of classes and types of social opportunities will vary from college to college. A college may be public or private, an independent institution or part of a larger university.

Community Colleges/Junior Colleges

Community colleges and junior colleges are two-year institutions that award associate's degrees and sometimes certificates in certain career-related subjects. These two-year colleges usually have less strenuous admissions standards and tend to be less expensive than four-year colleges and universities. Because of this, some students choose to attend a two-year college first to earn an associate's degree, and then they transfer to a four-year school to receive a bachelor's degree. If this is done, taking courses that can be transferred is highly recommended. Community colleges are public and non-residential, while junior colleges are private with students living on campus or in the surrounding community.

Technical/Vocational/Proprietary Schools

Technical, vocational, and proprietary schools emphasize preparation for specific careers, such as accounting, cosmetology, computer technology, culinary arts, health care technology, real estate, etc. Some schools specialize in only one area, while others provide a wide variety of programs. They award diplomas, certificates, licenses, and sometimes associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees. Although receiving accreditation from these schools will usually grant employment, students may or may not be able to transfer credits to traditional academic degree programs. The entire course of study at a vocational or technical school is often two years or less, although some can be three or four years long. Some of these schools are privately owned and operated, while others are public.

Public vs. Private

  • Public postsecondary schools are supported by state funds. Tuition for a public school is usually less expensive than that of a private school. Moreover, public school tuition for an in-state student is much less expensive than for an out-of-state student.
  • Private postsecondary schools are supported by tuition and donations. They are not tax-supported. While private school tuition tends to be higher than public school tuition, private schools can sometimes offer more financial aid to students for better affordability.

When it comes to choosing a postsecondary school, it is crucial to pick one that fits your personality and educational goals. After you have decided on the type of school you would like to attend, you can then narrow your selection down to more specific schools. Read College Selection for steps to take when choosing a postsecondary school.


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types of postsecondary schools

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