It’s no secret that the most sought after and best-paying employment opportunities are typically reserved for applicants who have completed some type of postsecondary education. If you are a high school student or recent graduate, you might be wondering what comes next. Postsecondary schools offer a wide array of educational opportunities to meet the unique needs of a diverse population. Whether you are interested in a traditional college degree or career and technical programs, pursuing a postsecondary education can unlock new doors and increase your earning potential.

Tip

Postsecondary education is schooling that happens after high school.

What Is Postsecondary Education?

The postsecondary definition is essentially any schooling that occurs after the completion of high school. Secondary education refers to high school. If you earn your high school diploma, then you have completed your secondary education. To pursue a postsecondary education, you would need to enroll in a college, university or trade school after completing high school. Since there are so many options available, do your research to ensure that you choose the postsecondary institution that best meets your individual needs.

Vocational vs. Career and Technical Education Programs

Some people confuse vocational education with career and technical education. While both prepare students for jobs that don’t necessarily require college degrees, like plumbing or cosmetology, career and technical education programs are designed to better fit our 21st century world.

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CTE programs are more academically rigorous and assist students in qualifying for middle-class jobs in skilled trades, applied sciences and technology. Most high schools offer vocational and CTE programs that can help students develop skills before graduating, but even if you didn’t take any vocational or CTE classes at the secondary level, there are various technical and career colleges available to help you reach your goals. Most technical and career colleges offer programs that can get you ready to work in two years or less, which is faster than a traditional college that would require a minimum of two years for an associate degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree.

Villanova University, for example, is a private college in Villanova, Pennsylvania that PC Magazine lists as one of the best colleges for technical careers. The annual tuition for Villanova University is approximately $29,000 and includes a new laptop, tech support calls and state of the art labs. Students at Villanova University can download lectures, take exams, submit papers, receive grades and perform a variety of other activities online.

Another popular technical college is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has its own operating system and runs a completely wireless campus with over 3,000 wireless access points. The annual tuition for MIT will run you approximately $34,000, but you can benefit from MIT even without enrolling because the university has an OpenCourseWare system that provides free course materials online to any user in the world.

Florida Career College offers vocational and trade school programs with flexible schedules that allow you to take day, evening or weekend classes. The annual tuition for FCC is about $18,000, and some of the programs offered include business office administration, cosmetology, dental assistant, information technology, nursing and pharmacy technician.

Traditional Colleges and Universities

Traditional colleges and universities offer academic degrees in various fields of study, all of which require completion of certain general education credits. General education credits refer to the core curriculum that serves as the foundation for an undergraduate degree. Most degrees require somewhere between 42 and 60 general education credits depending on the area of study. This usually takes approximately two years to complete and includes courses in English, math, natural and social sciences and humanities.

The amount of time required for a traditional academic degree depends on the field. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, and annual tuition costs range from $9,970 for public colleges to nearly $35,000 for private colleges. Graduate programs leading to a master’s degree, Ph.D. or specialist degree vary in length depending on the program, but the average annual tuition for graduate school ranges from $30,000 for public colleges to $40,000 for private institutions.

Why and How to Apply to Postsecondary Schools

The bottom line for why you should consider pursuing a postsecondary education boils down to the acquisition of meaningful skills and greater earning potential. People who complete postsecondary education programs generally land better jobs and higher pay than those with only a high school diploma.

Different programs have different application requirements, but you’ll generally need a completed enrollment application (which typically incurs a small application fee of about $25) and proof of high school graduation. Some programs have additional requirements, like an admission essay or an interview with an admission officer. Most schools allow you to complete part or all of the application online, so check the admission procedures on the website for your chosen postsecondary school for the exact requirements.

About the Author

Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University and works full-time as a classroom teacher in a public school. She teaches middle school English to a wide range of students from struggling readers to advanced and gifted populations. In her spare time, she loves writing articles about education for TheClassroom.com, WorkingMother and other education sites.