Public institutions are state supported. Private for-profit institutions are businesses. Private not-for-profit institutions are independent – for instance, the school might have been established by a church or through local community donations rather than by the state government.
Four-year institutions offer bachelor’s degrees, and some offer advanced degrees. Two-year institutions offer associate’s degrees. Less-than-two-year institutions offer training and award certificates of completion.
You can use the U.S. Department of Education’s search tool to find information about schools in all these categories.
Here’s a more detailed description of the kinds of schools you might hear about as you plan for your post-high-school education:
College — A four-year college grants bachelor’s degrees (Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Science). Some colleges also award master’s degrees.
University — A university grants bachelors and masters degrees, and sometimes includes a professional school such as a law school or medical school. Universities tend to be larger than colleges, focus more on scholarly or scientific research, and might have larger class sizes.
Community college — A public two-year college granting associate’s degrees and sometimes certificates in particular technical (career-related) subjects. Many students start their post-secondary education at a community college and then transfer to a four-year school, either because a community college tends to be more affordable than a four-year college, or because of the open admissions policy at community colleges.
Junior college – A Junior College is similar to a community college, except that a junior college is usually a private school.
Career school, Technical school, Vocational/Trade school- These terms are often used interchangeably. These schools may be public or private, two-year or less-than-two-year. Career schools offer courses that are designed to prepare students for specific careers, from welding to cosmetology to medical imaging, etc. The difference between technical schools and trade schools is that technical schools teach the science behind the occupation,