Two-Year vs. Four-Year: What’s Best for You?

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Is a degree from a two-year technical college or a four-year university right for you? That depends on your personal goals and what you want out of a college experience.

In general, a technical college education is focused on preparing you for a specific career as soon as possible. A four-year college or university education offers a broader range of knowledge with less focus on how that knowledge is ultimately used in a career.

Here are some important factors to consider:

Time and Money

The annual cost of tuition, books and fees at a technical college is a little more than one-third of the cost at a state university. The difference is much greater when comparing a technical college with a major public or private university. Also, a technical college degree can be completed in half the time of a university degree, making the savings even greater.

Placement and Income Potential

Always explore a school’s placement record before making a decision about your higher education future. But be careful – placement figures for universities and technical colleges don’t always mean the same thing.

Because technical colleges are designed to prepare graduates for specific careers, their placement rates generally show the rate at which graduates obtain jobs in those fields. A technical college may even report how many graduates find employment after graduation and also how many find employment in their fields of study.

A university offers many programs designed to prepare a graduate for a specific career, but also offers many programs that aren’t directly employment-oriented. So a university’s overall placement rate may tell you how many graduates are employed after graduation, but provides less information on whether those graduates are meeting their career goals. However, the broader education from a university can offer a lot of flexibility to graduates.

There are differences, too, in interpreting information on how much graduates earn on average. In evaluating a technical college, you can learn more by looking at the average earnings for graduates in specific programs. Indeed, technical college graduates in some fields earn more than entry-level jobs attained by university graduates. However, you should also consider the opportunity for advancement after that initial post-graduation job. University graduates generally have access to higher paying jobs in the long run and earn more over the course of their lives.

Lifelong Learning

Graduation from college should never be looked upon as the end of your educational experience. Learning is a lifelong process. Many technical college graduates go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, either immediately after graduation, or by taking classes part-time after starting a career. Likewise, university graduates often find their opportunities greatly expanded by advanced degrees.

Ask yourself where you want to be after obtaining that college degree, and where you would like to be 10 and 20 years later. Examine your higher education choices with long-term goals in mind.

Social Experience

Many people look on their college education years as not just a time of academic education, but as a social experience. Four-year institutions offer greater social opportunities that usually include dorm and off-campus housing. Universities offer more opportunities in the arts, athletics and various clubs and organizations based on personal interests. While technical college will offer some opportunities for social interaction with other students, the social aspect will be less a part of the college experience.

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