Finding the best path toward a rewarding and lucrative career can be challenging. Whether you opt for a four-year or two-year college, a technical or trade school, the military, or an apprenticeship depends on your career goals. The route to a career doesn’t have to be in a straight line, and sometimes your path will involve more than one type of college or training method before you arrive at your goal. Begin thinking about what you want to do with your life while you’re still in high school so that once you graduate, you’ll be ready to put your plans in motion.
Four-year colleges tend to focus on a specific area of undergraduate study, such as business or health care. Another option is a four-year university, which offers a wider selection of study areas. Universities also expand the degree options, including undergraduate, professional, and graduate degree programs. Both colleges and universities may be public or private, and tuition costs range from less expensive to very upscale and expensive.
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- Characteristics to Consider When Choosing a 4-Year College (PDF)
- The Transfer Student’s Guide to Choosing the Right College
- How to Choose a College – Which College is Right for Me?
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Two-year colleges are often called community colleges or junior colleges. These schools offer two-year associate degrees. Students who want to shorten the duration of study so they can enter the workforce more quickly often choose a two-year college. Another way students utilize two-year colleges is to use them as a stepping stone toward a four-year bachelor degree. After graduating from a two-year college with an associate degree, some students will transfer their credits to a four-year college to continue on toward the more advanced degree.
- Two-Year College Vs. Four-Year College
- Everything You Need to Know About Community Colleges
- Community College to University Transfer Credit Guide
- Community College FAQs
- Why Choose a Community College?
- Reasons to Choose a Community College
- How to Go From an Associate to a Bachelor’s Degree
- Is an Associate Degree Worth It?
Trade School or Certificate Program
A trade school or technical school is usually a private college that focuses on teaching skills that people will need to work in specific technical fields such as cosmetology, culinary arts, or law enforcement. Students choose a specific program at a trade or technical school and attend classes that teach the skills needed to work in their chosen field. Programs range in length from a semester to several semesters, depending on the field. Upon finishing, a student might have an associate degree or a certification.
- Technical Education Vs. Four-Year College
- Alternatives to 4-Year College: A Trade School Education
- Five Advantages of Going to a Technical College
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- Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend A Technical College
- Why the Top Students Are Choosing a Trade School Over Traditional College
Joining the military after high school is another option. Some people decide to join the military full time, and others prefer to join the part-time military reserves while they also go to college. You might also choose to join the military full time while taking some online college classes. A benefit of choosing the military before going to college is the tuition assistance you can receive after you finish your military commitment. The United States government offers a GI bill to pay up to 100 percent of tuition expenses as long as your school is accredited and your branch of the military service pays the school directly. You have to have served a minimum of 90 days of active duty service since September 11, 2001, to be eligible.
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Sometimes college or the military don’t feel like the right fit. In this case, you might prefer to start working right away after high school. An apprenticeship is one option in this case. Apprenticeships enable you to earn and learn at the same time. Some jobs that offer apprenticeships include carpentry, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and truck drivers. You may be able to find a formal apprenticeship program in your local area.
- 5 Reasons You Should Think about Apprenticeship for Your Child
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- Successful High School Apprenticeships (PDF)
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- A New Look at Apprenticeship: Linking School to 21st Century Skills (PDF)
- What is Apprenticeship?