Getting a Higher Education

What Types of Education Exist?

When you think about pursuing postsecondary education, you might think that four-year colleges are your only option. People might be asking you “Are you going to college?” However, there are actually many different types of postsecondary education.

Community College

Community colleges, sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges, are low-cost public schools. They offer a variety of educational opportunities including a degree called an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) after you complete the required courses. They may also offer more specialized programs for specific jobs like nursing, carpentry, or electrical work. Different programs take different amounts of time to complete — if you go to school full-time, you can get an associate’s degree in about two years.

If you graduate from a community college and want to continue your education and get a bachelor’s degree, you can easily transfer to a four-year college. The four-year college will give you two years of credit for the coursework you have done, so that it should only take two additional years for you to get your bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges are good!

Community colleges may be an excellent option for you. They are usually more affordable than other schools, and they may have a campus closer to where you live. Furthermore, community colleges let you try going to college for two years before deciding whether or not you want to continue at a four-year college or university.

Technical School

Like community colleges, you go to a technical school for two years. The big difference is that a technical school usually only teaches you how to work in a specific field. For example, it might teach you specific skills you need to work in restaurants, hotels, fashion, the computer industry, or some other fields. While community colleges and four-year colleges generally offer an education that introduces you to many different fields, technical schools are designed to prepare you for one field in which you can get a job.

On-the-Job Training

Technical school is one type of vocational training. Another type of vocational training is “on-the-job training.” With on-the-job training, you get a job and are taught what you have to do by your employer.

One common type of on-the job training is an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships provide a structured way to learn a skilled occupation, craft, or trade. The California Department of Industrial Relations provides a searchable database of apprenticeship programs in California. CareerOneStop also has information about apprenticeship programs.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

When most people think of “college,” they think of a school you go to full-time for four years or until you get a bachelor’s degree. At a college or university, you will take a diverse set of classes that may teach you about many different things including history, languages, math, and sciences. Eventually you will choose a major, which is a focus that lets you specialize in a certain field and prepares you for working in that field after you graduate. If you study full-time, you may finish in four years, though some students take longer.

What's a university?

Four-year colleges offer bachelor’s degrees. Universities offer bachelor’s degrees, but also offer graduate education to students who want to get master’s degrees, Ph.D.'s, or other advanced degrees.

Resources About Higher Education for Students with Disabilities

  • Going to College is a great website that explores ways to think about what you want to do, what college life is like, and how you can plan for college.
  • Think College has important information for students, families, and professionals about how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can succeed in higher education.

Learn more