Thinking about going to college, but confused about the difference in 2 and 4-year schools? Want to know the difference between an A.A. degree and a B.A. degree?

We asked the U.S. Department of Education to teach us the basics.


We know: How Colleges Work

What does the word Ďcollegeí mean?

As itís typically used, college means post secondary (after high school) educational institutions.

How many kinds of colleges are there?

Basically, there are:


Colleges that take 2 years or less:

  • Technical colleges
  • Junior colleges
  • Community colleges
  • 2-year colleges

Colleges that take 2 years or more:

  • 4-year colleges
  • universities

Whatís the difference between a 2-year college and a 4-year college?

In general Ö

  • 2-year colleges offer programs that take 2 years or less. These usually include programs that lead to a license, a certificate, or associateís degree, including: A.A. degree (Associate of Arts), A.S. degree (Associate of Science). A.A.S. degree (Associate of Applied Science).
  • 4-year colleges and universities offer 4-year programs that lead to a bachelorís degree, including: B.A. degree (Bachelor of Art) and B.S. degree (Bachelor of Science).

Universities usually offer both bachelorís degrees and graduate degrees, including: Masterís degrees, Doctoral degrees and sometimes professional degrees such as law and medicine.

Whatís the difference between the various 2-year colleges?

In general:


Community Colleges serve people from nearby communities and offer academic courses, technical courses, and continuing education courses. Public institutions are supported by state and local revenues.


Technical Colleges have a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. Some technical colleges offer academic courses and programs. However, not all technical colleges offer two-year programs that lead to an associate of arts or science degree. Technical colleges may be private or public. Junior colleges and community colleges that offer many technical courses are often called "technical colleges."


Junior Colleges are two-year colleges that are private institutions. Some junior colleges are residential and are attended by students who come from other parts of the country.

Whatís a bachelorís degree and whatís an advanced degree?

A bachelorís degree is usually offered by both 4-year colleges and universities. When a student earns a bachelor's degree it means that he or she has passed examinations in a broad range of courses and has studied one or two subject areas in greater depth. (These one or two subject areas are called a student's "major" area(s) of study or area(s) of "concentration.") A bachelor's degree is usually required before a student can begin studying for a graduate degree.


A graduate degree (or advanced degree) is usually earned through two or more years of advanced studies beyond four years of college. This might be a master's or a doctoral degree in a particular field or a specialized degree required in certain professions such as law, social work, architecture, or medicine.



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