Post-Secondary Education Definition

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Any schooling beyond the high school level is considered “post-secondary”. Post-secondary education is significant because generally in the U.S., any schooling before graduation of high school is publicly provided, but education after high school is optional and must to be paid for by the student.


    Post-secondary education is often referred to as higher education. Another name for it is third-stage or tertiary education. Primary education refers to the first school most children go to, which is called elementary school in North America. Secondary education refers to high school. Primary and secondary educations are often something students under 18 are required to attend. Post-secondary education refers to all education that follows high school, and so it is often optional. Undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational schools make up the various types of post-secondary education.

Undergraduate Schools

    Undergraduate schools are often just called college, and are the most common schools for a student graduating high school to attend. These typically take about four years to complete. In the U.S., an undergraduate degree will earn you a bachelor of science (B.S.) or a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree, depending on which course of study you choose to pursue. Humanities subjects such as history, English, languages and the arts will earn you a bachelor of arts degree. Generally, business and science subjects will get you a bachelor of science degree.

Postgraduate Schools

    A postgraduate degree is often earned at a university, and it can sometimes be earned at the same college where you earned your undergraduate Bachelor’s degree. Attending a school for a postgraduate degree in the United States allows you to earn a master’s degree in any number of subjects including master of fine arts (MFA), master of business administration (MBA), and master’s of education (M.Ed.), to include some of the more common degrees. A masters program will typically take about two years to complete, depending on the school and degree desired.

Vocational Schools

    Learning trades is done at vocational school. These are also called trade schools or career colleges. Traditionally, vocational degrees are not received at universities. These schools are different from other types of schooling after high school in that they focus more on preparing you for a particular job. The classes concentrate on practical application over theory. The coursework is more like training than scholarship. Examples of vocational type schools include dental school, veterinary school, and various schools that train for jobs involving computers. Some of these schools may require a previous undergraduate degree.

Terminal Degrees

    Some degrees are referred to as “terminal” because they are the furthest degree you can get in a particular field of post-secondary education. An example is the doctorate. Doctoral degrees allow you to put ‘Dr.’ before your name, even if the degree is not in the medical field. Literature, psychology, and history are some examples of fields you can receive a doctorate in. Some fields more associated with practice than theory, such as creative writing or acting, offer a master of fine arts as a terminal degree.

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