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What Is Post-Secondary Education

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Differences Between Post-Secondary and Higher Education

As its name suggests, post-secondary education includes any further educational activities a person may undertake after having obtained complete secondary education. The most common case is graduation from high school. The next step is to apply to an institute or university, which is usually referred to as a higher educational institution or attending some courses or other type of educational activity that cannot be classified as ‘higher.’

In general, the difference between higher education and post-secondary is defined by the status of the institution or organization the person attends. If it is officially labelled as a higher educational institution, this activity is named accordingly, and if it is not, the ‘post-secondary’ is to be used. In most cases, the latter means less specialized training and a less reputable degree.

Differences Between Post-Secondary and Secondary Education

However, regardless of the institution type, the purpose of post-secondary education is to obtain a certain level of specialization in some selected field. At the same time, at the high school, a student normally gets a broader scope of knowledge and practices, without significant specialization.

The following list summarizes the key differences between the post-secondary and secondary education types:

  • In most countries citizens are entitled to obtain secondary education, but not post-secondary education.
  • Students bear more responsibility for their curriculum, housing as well as for reporting any special conditions (such as disability) in a post-secondary educational institution.
  • Students have to focus on their specialization and are expected to be more proactive in this area while receiving post-secondary education.

One needs to follow these main steps to obtain a degree in a post-secondary education institution:

  1. Graduate from a high school or other official secondary education institution
  2. Make an initial payment as required and continue making timely payments after enrollment
  3. Successfully pass admissions tests
  4. Attend all mandatory courses and pass the graduation exams

Main Types of Post-Secondary Options in the US and Canada:

  • Four-year colleges and universities. Essentially a part of higher education system allowing students to earn bachelor’s degrees after completing the degree programs. Typically, such an institution also has some graduate and professional programs where students can get even deeper specialization and obtain a master’s, specialist’s, or doctoral degree. A significant number of colleges and universities are available for American students, from the world’s top ones such as Harvard or MIT to smaller and less prestigious ones, with different admission criteria and academic standards. 
  • Two-year colleges. An Associate of Arts (AA) degree or an Applied Science (AAS) degrees are typically available in such institution type. Earning one of these degrees usually allows a student to proceed their education in a four-year college or university, depending on the specialization field. Two different subtypes are available: 
    • Public community colleges which have open-admissions policies but typically are not residential. 
    • Private junior colleges which usually require entrance examinations or certain equivalent experience.
  • Vocational-Technical schools and programs (public or private) which offer educational and training programs specifically targeted to some narrow professional areas: computer technician, nurse’s aide, geriatric medical assistant, broadcast technician, veterinarian assistant, plumbing, air conditioning, truck driving, barbering, or cosmetology. Receiving this type of specialized training is usually considered as a mandatory requirement before applying to respective job. The following subtypes need to be mentioned: 
    • Adult education: includes free tutoring and instruction in basic areas such as reading, writing, and thinking skills for people who do not yet have high school diplomas or need additional training in these primary areas. 
    • Continuing education programs: typically housed at colleges and universities. Students may enroll into these programs to explore the respective college academic courses on beforehand, for general educational purposes, or to retain their certification. In most cases, the only requirement is to pay the course fee. 
  • Life Skills Programs. People who do not possess the necessary academic or social skills to attend four-year colleges or universities, two-year colleges, or vocational-technical programs can select this option. Such programs are becoming increasingly popular throughout helping students to increase their necessary academic skills and knowledge and also to obtain a certain level of social and life management skills. The main goal of life skills programs is teaching and training people to maintain their independence.

Getting post-secondary education in modern highly specialized and rapidly changing world is practically a necessity for everyone aiming for better knowledge about technology, nature, or society. Obtaining a specialization in any narrow field requires years of practice and theoretical studying, which is hardly possible to obtain through self-tutoring. At the same time, due to the development of the online educational segment, nearly everybody has now obtained broader options of receiving post-secondary education remotely.

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