Types of Postsecondary Education

U.S. education includes 12 years of regular schooling, often preceded by a year or two of pre-school education. The final seven years of regular schooling are called “secondary” education, and they can be followed by the four-stage higher education degree system of associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. In addition, you can complete various non-degree certificates and diplomas. In addition, there are special education services, adult basic and continuing education, leisure learning programs, and continuing professional education and training programs. Completion of each level or stage is a prerequisite for access to the next, and a variety of assessment and evaluation tools are used to determine learning needs, academic achievement standards, and eligibility to proceed to higher levels of education.

Vocational and Technical Education

Vocational and technical education is offered at both the secondary and postsecondary levels in the United States. This type of instruction is provided both for unlicensed and licensed occupations, and ranges from basic skills to complex technical programs requiring extensive postsecondary level. Vocational and technical programs are frequently offered by employers, unions, professional associations, private training services, and traditional educational institutions, and they are among the most popular types of education offered via distance education technologies.

Undergraduate Postsecondary Education

Undergraduate postsecondary education is the U.S. terminology for formal education after graduating from secondary school but prior to advanced study in the research disciplines or professional fields.

Undergraduate studies are generally divided into two phases: a set of distributed course requirements involving basic study in a variety of subjects, and a concentrated program of study in a single subject.

Two degrees are awarded at the undergraduate level: the associate’s degree and the bachelor’s degree.

Students at the undergraduate levels may earn certificates or diplomas in addition to degrees or instead of them.

Graduate Postsecondary Education

Graduate education is the term used for studies undertaken after you are awarded a bachelor’s degree. It is called post-graduate or advanced education in some other countries.

There are two types of graduate postsecondary education: professional study that requires the student to have already earned an undergraduate degree and research study following either a bachelor’s degree or a professional degree.

Two degrees are awarded at the graduate level: the master’s degree and the doctoral degree.

Distance Education

Distance education is an increasingly popular way to complete everything from a short professional course to a graduate degree. There are numerous institutions offering undergraduate degree programs using distance education teaching methods. Under the distance education model, students no longer attend classes in a classroom on a campus. Instead, classes are delivered from a distance using technologies such as the Internet, satellite television, and video conferencing.

This means that international students can study for a U.S. degree without leaving their home country, though they will almost certainly have to go to the U.S. for short periods of face-to-face contact and study on the campus. Studying for a degree via distance education requires students to have special qualities such as self-discipline and the ability to work on their own. If you are considering distance education, you should thoroughly research the quality of the program, the accreditation of the institution in the U.S., and the school’s recognition in your home country. This way, you can make sure this option is appropriate for your future goals.

Distance education is a vehicle for delivering education to persons whose location, circumstances, or work make remote links necessary or convenient. It is not considered a separate type of education altogether.


Many varieties of education and training opportunities exist in the U.S. that are not formally structured, do not result in recognized degrees, or do not result in transferable credit or professional recognition. These include informal seminars and presentations on topics related to work issues and products.