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What is College?

You often hear that you need to "go to college" in order to get a good job. But what is college? There are many types of colleges.

The term "college" often is used to describe most education after high school. You might also hear the phrases "higher education" or "postsecondary education."

All of these terms can describe programs or training available to those who have a high school diploma or GED.

Reasons to Go to College

Are you looking for a short-term training program that lasts just a few weeks? Or a degree program that takes a few years to complete? Either way, while going to college is a big commitment, there are many benefits.

A college degree or certificate can help you get better jobs. Typically, higher levels of education can lead to higher-paying jobs. Jobs that require higher education typically offer higher wages than those that don't.

Other College Benefits

Jobs requiring a college degree or certificate:

  • often have better benefits and better working conditions.
  • are less likely to be part of layoffs than lower-skilled jobs.

Things you will gain in college include:

  • skills employers look for - like critical thinking, problem-solving, writing, and computer skills.
  • practice using time management and meeting deadlines.
  • learning teamwork and how to get along with people of different backgrounds and ages.

Types of College

College can include two-year or four-year programs. The school can be public or private. Do your research to pick the right type of school to meet your education or career goals.

  • Public technical colleges are schools that offer hands-on, career-specific training. Students typically complete their programs and are ready to work in their chosen careers within six months to two years. Some students transfer their credits to a four-year college or university. Technical colleges offer many career fields and small class sizes.
  • Community colleges are public schools that offer general-education courses and two-year programs. There are programs in many career fields. Students typically graduate with a certificate or an associate degree. Some students transfer their credits to a four-year college or university.
  • Private career schools provide short-term programs to prepare for specific careers like massage therapy, truck driving, or computer animation. Most schools offer small class sizes and assist students with job searches. Students typically graduate with a certificate or an associate degree.
  • Public state universities offer bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and sometimes doctoral or professional degrees (like medicine or law). Most university programs are four or more years. On-campus housing is often available.
  • Private colleges and universities can be for-profit or nonprofit. Some are religiously affiliated. They offer bachelor's programs. Many have master's and professional degree programs. Most schools offer on-campus housing.

Types of Degrees

Choosing the type of degree program to enroll in is as important as choosing the type of school to attend. Different careers require different types of education. Be sure to check the requirements for each school. You might have to earn a specific degree before you can get another.

  • Undergraduate Certificates and Diplomas
    An undergraduate certificate or diploma can help you gain a specific skill or train for a specific job. You can usually earn a certificate in one in a year or less if you are a full-time student. Certificates are usually earned at community or technical colleges. Some four-year colleges also offer certificates.  
  • Associate Degree
    An award offered by technical, community, and some private career colleges. This degree usually requires at least two years of study beyond high school. There are many types of associate degrees. Some associate degrees can transfer to another college to complete a bachelor's degree. Always talk to an advisor at your current school and the school you plan to attend to see how it will transfer.
  • Bachelor's Degree
    This degree is required for most professional careers. The degree usually takes four years to complete at an accredited college or university.
  • Graduate Certificate
    This award requires 9 to 30 credit hours of study at a graduate level.  It is in a focused area of study.  
  • Master's Degree
    This degree typically requires you to have a bachelor's degree first. It usually requires at least one, or up to two, years of full-time coursework at an accredited university. You must also complete a thesis, or original research project and paper.
  • Education Specialist Degree
    This degree is a graduate degree in the professional education field.  The degree may be sought by someone with a bachelor's or master's degree.  
  • Professional Degree
    This degree requires two or more years beyond a bachelor's degree at an accredited university. It is the minimum requirement for some professional careers, such as lawyer and pharmacist.
  • Doctorate Degree
    This is the highest-level graduate degree. It requires at least three years beyond a bachelor's degree. It can sometimes take four to six years to complete at an accredited university.

Online Programs

In a traditional classroom, you often learn by doing activities led by your instructor. Online courses are different because you are not in the same location as your instructor or other students. In fact, you may never meet your instructor or classmates in person.

Taking an Online Class
You "attend" an online class by visiting the class web pages. You complete assignments according to the class schedule. Students communicate with the instructor and classmates using e-mail and online discussion forums.

This class format can be more flexible than in-person classes. Students can often log on to the course at any time of the day (or night). Computer skills and determination are necessary to be successful. You'll need keyboarding skills. You also must be able to write so that others can understand.

Interaction and Feedback
Online students may have more contact with their fellow students online than they would in the regular classroom. There are many ways to interact online, including discussion boards, e-mail, and group activities. It can be a fun way to meet students. It can also be a great way to broaden your learning experience.

Students may also receive more personal feedback than they would in a traditional classroom. Your fellow students might read and respond to your work. Your instructor might give you more comments.

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