Many people today, from all different walks of life, are striving for a means of higher learning, most often through some form of post-secondary education. But what is post secondary education? What are the options for gaining a post-secondary education? And what are the benefits of attaining one?
Part 1: What Is Post-Secondary Education?
Before figuring out what post-secondary education is, let's take a quick look at the "secondary" education first. Secondary education is mandatory in most countries, generally governed by federal laws and includes the middle and high school years (sixth to twelfth grade). The purpose of secondary education is to get students ready for either a vocational career or for further study.
Then what is post-secondary education? Post-secondary education includes any form of additional study that is completed after finishing your secondary schooling. It includes community college, graduate schools, professional certification and undergraduate education, and it can involve a wide variety of skill-sets, such as art degrees, business degrees, or the more hands-on learning, such as how to become a mechanic or tradesperson. The purpose of post-secondary education is to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their chosen profession.
Part 2: Why Should You Consider Post-Secondary Education?
There are many highly trained professions that require a post-secondary education in order to become a part of that particular workforce. Think of lawyers, doctors, electricians or investment bankers – these are jobs that require a high level of training and are not something that you can simply learn “on the job” straight out of secondary school.
Bigger Education = Bigger Salary
It can’t be denied that those who graduate from post-secondary education will generally have higher salaries than those who don’t. This is because post-secondary education opens up greater job prospects and more opportunities for career advancement, which then in turn equal bigger pay-packets and more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder.
Contributions to Society
Whilst many people are probably more focused on career prospects and potential earnings after graduating from post-secondary education, researches show that those with a higher education also end up making greater contributions to society. This is because they typically earn more, so pay more tax, have higher levels of health insurance and make larger pension contributions.
Astonishing as it may seem, a College Board report entitled "Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society" found that those who had completed post-secondary education were more likely to lead healthier lifestyles. The report stated that those with higher levels of education were less likely to smoke or be obese and also were more likely to spend quality time with their children.
Regardless of what you may study whilst embarking on post-secondary education, you are guaranteed to gain life experience, which for many students can be a real eye-opener to the world around them. Particularly for students coming from small towns, post-secondary education is an opportunity to experience new ideas, cultures and social scenes, allowing you to grow and develop as a human being.
Part 3: Different Types of Post-Secondary Schooling
University and College Education
One of the highest forms of post-secondary education, universities (or colleges, as they are known in some countries) are built around the principle of “academic freedom” and are usually divided up into numerous academic departments. A university education will typically take at least four years to complete, at the end of which a graduate will receive an academic degree. Universities also provide undergraduate and postgraduate education, and they are characteristically either government funded (in which case the government is in charge of approving new programs and allocating funds) or privately funded (which generally means higher enrolment fees but a greater amount of autonomy). Harvard University, Oxford College and Monash University are prestigious examples of this sort of education.
Professional Higher Education
Professional higher education differs from universities in that, they place a strong emphasis on integration with the world of work; in other words, they want to make sure that graduated students have not only the knowledge, but also the practical skills to succeed in their chosen vocation. Professional higher education typically includes a combination of study and on-the-job training and is a popular form of schooling for graduate colleges of veterinary medicine (such as The Norwegian School of Veterinary Science in Oslo, Norway), architecture (like Cornell University in New York, USA), or journalism (such as the famous Ecole Superieure de Journalisme in Paris, France).
Community/Junior College Education
Community colleges typically offer associate degrees at the completion of a two-year course of study. Their open admissions policy means that anyone over the age of 18 can enroll, although to study in a major, the student must also have a secondary school diploma. The lower admission fees, coupled with the generous admissions policy, makes community colleges a more viable option for many students, who then have the option of transferring to a university at the completion of their two years of studies. Junior colleges operate in more or less the same way, but are usually private institutions (like Modesto Junior College, attended by Director George Lucas) as opposed to the publicly funded community colleges (such as Corning Community College, attended by astronaut Eileen Collins).
Vocational, Technical, Business and Trade Schools
Open to all students, with or without a high school diploma, the focus at vocational, technical, business or trade schools is to provide specialized training for specific occupations. These schools are ideal for students who have chosen their desired profession and just need to be trained in the various nuances of their future profession. The courses are usually short, typically anywhere from a few weeks to two years, and there is a lot of emphasis placed on job training; this will allow students to graduate from their course, receive a certificate or diploma and then step straight into the work force. This form of training is particularly popular in Switzerland - a country that consistently scores at the top of world education rankings, where 2/3 of students attend a vocational school.