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Postsecondary Education Definition

This is also called Tertiary education, the level of education following successful completion of high school, often called secondary school. It is a higher-level education, and it includes universities and colleges, also trade technical and professional schools. The Post education student usually receives a diploma, certificate, or university degree.

Education is decentralized from the federal government and is independent of its regulation. Post-secondary education is often different from one another, as we have private and public institutions.

While some of the institutions are both small and big, some are affiliation with religious groups, and others can be rural, urban, and secular. Depending on your choice, many options are often defined locally.

This education is an ongoing course of study that provides you with skills centered on a career that allows you to find your career as you develop a wealth of knowledge in this particular field.

What is Considered a Post-secondary Education?

Post-secondary education refers to an education that goes beyond high school, as the postsecondary education meaning comes from its name, i.e., after secondary school.

 Any school that offers certificates for trade, diploma, and college degrees are referred to as a post-secondary school, and many times it can be either be below or above the college degree; it can be the master’s degree, professional degrees, and doctorates.

Any education after high school that is aimed at making the student further to an advanced study or to focus on a specific career.

What is Postsecondary School?

These are schools that offer a program that is on a more advanced level than the high school. The schools can either be private or public, and the schools are available with a variety of courses that the student can choose from.

Postsecondary schools require that you must have passed through high school because being a graduate from school is one of the entry requirements. These schools offer courses both at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level. While some of them might be schools that equip the student vocationally and technically to become fit for the labor market.

It does not matter the certificate the school offers, but the fact you have to pursue it after high school makes it a postsecondary school. Examples of some of these schools are universities, colleges, junior or community colleges, and Technical or vocational or trade or career schools.

Differences Between Secondary and Post-secondary Education

The course work in Postsecondary college is always more rigorous and intense than in secondary education. You will have to study more after each class.

In secondary school, your teachers might still treat you and relate with you on the basis that you are still young, but once you start postsecondary education your professors will consider you as an adult.

The subject taught in secondary schools invariably teaches the student the basic things of life, i.e., how they can live, communicate and connect with people with courses such as math, English, and communications. And some students start working directly with a diploma from high school.

While the Postsecondary courses teach the student to be thinkers, innovators, professionals, and researchers. These courses prepare them for more advanced responsibilities both in life and in their workplace.

The secondary school students must attend a class every time and mustn’t miss because the teacher will notice, but the postsecondary school classes have a larger audience, so you might decide as a postsecondary student not to go along with classes. Whether you will fail or not, it solely depends on you.

Postsecondary school study is more flexible than secondary school, your choice, and limitless, and you can decide whether you are choosing a thing or not.

The timetable for subjects at the secondary school in the USA is fixed, and the post-secondary institution of higher education timetable is flexible enough for you to plan and decide everything yourself.

The different types of postsecondary schools available are different for different purposes, depending on the student’s needs. Some of them are public and private, while some are larger and others smaller. 

Some of the schools are four years, two years, while others can require more years. The four-year schools offer bachelor’s degrees as the qualification, and the two-year colleges offer the associate degree as a qualification.

Other schools can offer masters, doctorates, and other certifications. So, what are the different types of Post-secondary institutions?

Types of Post-secondary Institutions

  • Colleges

The college is a four-year program that awards a bachelor’s degree i.e., BA, BS, BAFA, and BAS. Some of these colleges also award graduate degrees such as Masters, while others offer two-year associate of arts and science degrees. 

 And the college might be specialized e.g., Nursing and Medicine, or offer a wide range of courses, for example, Liberal art with an emphasis on humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The classes in college are often fewer than in university classes.

  • Universities

The university offers both undergraduate and graduate programs and might even have a college of humanity, and professional and graduate studies such as the school of law and the Med school. 

 And universities also have more focus on academic and scientific research, and the classrooms are always more crowded than the colleges. This is because Universities offer associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees.

This type of school offers a lot of courses and programs; therefore, they are always having a lot of resources. Sometimes Graduate students are the ones that will take some classes as teaching assistants for the professors because most of the professors are always busy researching.

  • Community Colleges

These are public institutions and offer two years of associate degree programs to students. Additionally, they also offer technical and vocational programs that will prepare the students for their future careers.

The school is generally accessible and mostly accessible by a student who is 18 and above at the time of admission. You can always attend community colleges to pursue a two-year program before you transfer to a college or university where you can pursue your bachelor’s degree program.

Most people prefer Community College because it is often more affordable, and the standard of admission is lesser than a four-year bachelor’s degree.

  • Junior Colleges

Junior college offers the same courses as the community colleges, but it’s private and not a public institution supported by the Government.

  • Career or Technical Schools

These are also called technical colleges; the school can be either operated privately or by the public. They offer programs that are either two years or less. Some programs might last only for weeks and months, depending on the requirement.

They are focused mostly on preparing and equipping students with the necessary technical and vocational skills to become employable immediately after school. At the conclusion of the program, the student can receive certificates, licenses, and associate degrees.

Technical schools are similar to trade schools, although the technical school teaches the student what makes an occupation work, and trade school focuses on the practical skills that can be applied.

  • Vocational and Technical Education

Vocational and technical training provides students with professional teaching and training without a bachelor’s degree or diploma. Vocational and Technical course aims to prepare and equip students for occupations by providing technical and conceptual training with practical experience in a particular field.

This education is mostly for students that are not fans of a four-year bachelor’s degree. Within a shorter period, students can learn the necessary things to make them qualified for their chosen trades.

And the workforce in the US is made up of a larger percentage of people with technical and vocational certificates. In this type of postsecondary education, the program will be in direct alignment with the career.

Some Examples of Technical and Vocational Education:

  • Dental assistants
  • Occupational therapy assistants
  • Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
  • Nursing assistants
  • Cosmetologists
  • Electricians
  • Fitness trainers
  • Chefs
  • Emergency Medical Technician and paramedics
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics
  • Diagnostic medical sonographers
  • Personal care aides

Undergraduate Postsecondary Education

Undergraduate education is the first postsecondary after high school. This type of education offers a degree as the qualification for the student. It can either be a two-year or a four-year degree program.

The associate is more accessible and only takes two years to complete. The associate’s is sometimes known as the transfer degree because it can either be studied to be used for advancement to higher learning or immediate employment. It is not specialized.

The associate degree is divided into two types: the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science. 

The bachelor, on the other hand, uses the four-year option that is more specialized and has more entry standards and requirements than the associate. They can also either be used to further pursue higher learning or can be career-centered.

Although the program is four years, there are institutions that offer an accelerated option; the accelerated degree allows you to earn your degree in a shorter period. 

There are different types of bachelor’s accredited in the US, but four out of them are generally known, and these are: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a Bachelor of Applied Science.

It can be studied part-time or full-time, but many bachelor students tend to go full-time.

Some examples of undergraduate Postsecondary Education:

  •  Associate of Science (AS)
  •  Associate of Arts (AA)
  •  Associate of Science in Accounting (AS)
  •  Associate of Technology (AT)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Associate of Engineering (AE)
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
  • Associate of Forestry (AF)
  • Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT)
  •  Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (BArch)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science in Business (BSBA)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)
  • Bachelor of Administrative Studies
  • International Business Economics (BIBE)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
  • Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BSET)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
  • Bachelor of Technology (BTech)
  • Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science 

Graduate Postsecondary Education

This is the highest level of achievement in academics, and it comes after the undergraduate degree. The graduate degree has the highest level of specialization, and it is more concerned with career.

Depending on your chosen program, the duration of this postsecondary education can last up to eight years and can be as short as one year. Mostly for people that are seeking executive positions in the organization or an individual that wants to work in academia or a research institute.

The entry requirement for this education is the undergraduate and other things based on each institution.

Postsecondary education is divided into two, Master‘s and Doctoral degrees. The former can take up to three years or as short as one year. It is often the next program people pursue after their undergraduate.

A master’s degree is always more specialized than undergraduate education, and it is a point where most people change their careers. The master’s degree offers different types of options, the common types, specialized, and professional. 

The common types of master’s degrees are Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Applied Science.

While the doctoral degree is the most advanced education, it is the highest academic qualification that can be attained by the student. The completion can take up to eight years or less. Research is of utmost importance at this level, and it is mostly pursued by people working in academia.

Unlike undergraduate education, it is mostly pursued while working at the same time. Most of the students at this level are older adults and experienced professionals.

The doctoral degree can be professional, research, higher, or honorary. 

Some examples of graduate Postsecondary Education:

  • Master of Arts – M.A.
  • Master of Economics – M. Econ
  • Master of Professional Studies – MPS 
  • Master of Architecture – M. Arch.
  • Master of Applied Science – MAS.
  • Master of Physics – M. Phys
  • Master of Political Science 
  • Masters in International Economics – MIE
  • Master of Public Administration – MPA
  • Master of Advanced Study – M.A.S.
  • Master of International Studies – MIS
  • Masters of Business Administration – MBA
  • Doctor of Business Administration – DBA
  • Doctor of Philosophy – Ph.D.

 Benefits of Postsecondary Education

Even though post-secondary education is not the main requirement for employment, in this changing economy, a post-secondary degree will increase your chance of getting employed.

Post-secondary education might not be compulsory and will not be pursued by everybody, but it gives you more chances of acquiring more skills and getting knowledge. 

Another benefit of post-high school education is personal development; postsecondary education will require that you have intense and rigorous studying, which will, in turn, improve your level of critical thinking.

Also, you will be able to improve your communication skills, both written and verbal. The writings and assignments at the post-secondary level are more advanced, and every assignment completed will help you learn how to communicate effectively.

Most students are still confused about their career choice up to the post-secondary level. But with different electives and general courses at the undergraduate level, they will be able to identify their area of interest.


As stated earlier, post postsecondary education might not seem compulsory to everybody because there are many jobs you can happily secure with a high school diploma. The time, cost, and effort needed to complete the post-secondary education might be much, but it will certainly pay off.

If you consider the opportunities that being a graduate offers, in terms of personal development, career development, and acquisition of different skills, then you would give postsecondary education a second thought.

Where you have to be careful is, at the point of choosing your field, always ensure it is tailored according to your goal, both personal and career.

Frequently Asked Questions 
What is Post-secondary Education in the US?

Post-secondary includes all education that you can pursue after high school. It is often concluded as a term only for university and college education, but it also extends to trade or technical education and community colleges.

What grade is secondary education?

The secondary education is between grades 6 to 12.

What is considered postsecondary education?

The education that takes place after high school includes universities, colleges, and technical or vocational schools.

What is a private postsecondary education?

Education is undertaken at a privately owned postsecondary school other than the ones owned by the state government.

Is a bachelor’s degree in postsecondary education?

A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate study that is part of postsecondary education.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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