In the United States, the words college and university can be interchangeable, so it is no surprise it can be confusing when it comes time for students to choose one. Career Karma is here to guide you through the differences between college vs university.
In this post, we’ll explore what types of institutions they are, what they typically offer, and the education options they have.
Whether you’re interested in gaining your undergraduate or graduate degree, this article will help you understand the difference between university versus college so you can make the best possible choice for your future education.
What Is a College?
Oftentimes, schools with ‘college’ in their name are smaller institutions that focus on undergraduate education. However, the confusion lies in the fact that this is not always the case. Different types of colleges offer different educational levels. Let’s explore the different types of colleges more in-depth.
Community colleges (also known as junior colleges) typically offer two-year programs and are located in local areas to serve their communities. At these colleges, you typically earn an associate degree. Many community colleges also offer remedial education, GEDs, high school diplomas, technical degrees and certificates, and a limited number of them provide bachelor’s degrees.
Also, a reason why a student may choose community college is that they generally have an open enrollment policy, meaning anyone can attend. Furthermore, some students choose community college as a cheaper education path as they can complete their associate degree and then transfer credit to a four-year college to complete their bachelor’s degree.
A technical college also typically offers programs that take two years to complete. In the United States, a technical or vocational school is generally a place to learn about business, finance, hospitality, tourism, construction, engineering, visual arts, information technology, or community work. This type of institution is designed to train students for a specific job in a skilled trade.
Liberal Arts College
A liberal arts educational institution falls somewhere between a college and a university. It provides students an education in an immense range of academic areas instead of having them specialize in one distinct subject. These colleges are typically smaller than national universities and offer only undergraduate degree programs. They are stereotyped as being focused on humanities subjects. However, this is not always necessarily true as it depends on each liberal arts college.
Top 5 Reasons to Attend College
- It can be a cheaper educational option to go to community college and then transfer to a university.
- If you are looking for an associate degree, technical education, or certificate, it would be a much better option than attending a university.
- Class sizes are typically smaller, so students can expect more significant interaction with and accessibility to their professors.
- They typically have an open-enrollment policy, allowing anyone to enroll.
- Liberal arts colleges are smaller and allow you to study a broad range of academic areas. They also provide bachelor’s degrees.
What Is a University?
Universities are typically more expansive than colleges, sometimes consisting of multiple buildings that are confusingly called colleges. They typically focus on delivering undergraduate and graduate degrees to their students. The most significant difference between college vs university is that universities offer graduate programs.
Other differing factors are that universities offer four-year degrees and tend to be more dedicated to research and creating research opportunities for their students. Additionally, universities are typically either private or public schools and have more competitive admission rates. The admission process usually requires specific grade outlines and an application process. Moreover, national universities offer bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs.
Top 5 Reasons to Attend University
- If you would like to be in a bigger school that provides a wider range of educational subjects, then university may be for you.
- It can provide you with a bachelor’s, master’s, and even a PhD.
- If you would like to be a part of research in your field, then a university is the place to be.
- If you want to go into a career that typically earns a higher salary, a four-year degree shows more commitment and creates more career opportunities.
- Due to the competitive nature of universities, it looks more prestigious to gain a degree from a university when showing your CV to a prospective employer.
College versus University: Tuition Fees
Typically, an associate degree is more cost-effective than a bachelor’s degree as it costs around $20,000 to $25,000 vs $50,000 for a bachelor’s degree. This will make college a great choice if the financial burden of a university is too great for you.
However, a quick look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows that a bachelor’s degree will generally give you access to higher salaries, allowing you to earn more money in the long run. As a quick example of what we mean:
Requires an Associate Degree
Earns a median salary of $27,920
Requires a Bachelor’s Degree
Earns a median salary of $61,660
Requires a Master’s or Doctorate Degree
Earns a median salary of $79,540
Should I Go to a University or College?
This question can only be answered with your own financial, educational, and career goals in mind.
If you would like to pursue more technical training or take a cheaper education route, then look into what each college provides to find the right fit for you. If you aim to complete research and years of studying to get into your dream job, then a university is the likely path for you.
The differences between the two can be very subtle. However, remember to do your research into the career of your dreams and what level of education it requires, and then work from that foundation.