The Different Types of Colleges and Universities

Finishing your secondary education puts you in somewhat a stalemate. For starters, you have to choose whether you want to pursue college or get a job and start life as it is. 

If you fancy the former, you have to think about the course you’ll take and where you’ll take it. 

This article is all about defining the types of colleges and universities to help you with your enrolment. 

Going to the proper institution is just as important as deciding on a program. You want to get into a university that specializes in the study you need. 

Although universities are unique and versatile, they fall into categories and have specialties that you need to consider. 

You won’t be optimizing your nursing study when you’re in a university that prioritizes engineering programs. 

Junior College

Junior colleges — otherwise known as two-year colleges — are focused on providing entry-level tertiary education. 

The majority of programs offered in this college are associate’s degrees. These need two years to complete and are mainly about skill-based or technical education. 

This institution is perfect for those who want to experience college and add “some college” into their resume. Most of what junior colleges teach are practical. What makes them also advantageous for those who are uncertain is the advancement and flexibility options later on.

Finishing a two-year degree program will allow you to acquire a bachelor’s degree in just two or three years at a four-year college or university. This practice is common among those studying in junior college.

Here are a few degrees you can acquire at junior colleges:

  • AA – Associate of Arts
  • AAA – Associate of Applied Arts
  • AE – Associate of Engineering or Associate in Electronics Engineering Technology
  • AS – Associate of Science
  • AGS – Associate of General Studies
  • ASN – Associate of Science in Nursing
  • AF – Associate of Forestry
  • AT – Associate of Technology
  • AAB – Associate of Applied Business

Vocational School

Vocational schools or technical institutions are junior colleges. However, they are specific to providing short courses that allow students to learn the specialized skills required to do specific jobs.

Although most vocational schools do not follow the norm of providing grades creditable to finish a two or four-year program, they provide certificates. 

Most of the programs vocational schools offer last only for weeks or months. Instead of providing students the abstracts, they teach hands-on, practical knowledge used in the actual job.

Liberal Arts College

Liberal Arts colleges are institutions that focus on providing four-year undergraduate education. 

These institutions prepare students for several entry-level positions in many industries. However, some of these institutions also provide graduate-level programs. 

If you’re sure of a career path and want to jumpstart and excel in that field, studying at a liberal arts college is the way to go. You have to be careful, though, at choosing the institution as you need to know their specialty. 

Most often, these institutions tag themselves with a suffix, e.g., Ross School of Business. 

Here are a few degrees you can acquire at liberal arts colleges:

  • Bachelor of Architecture (BArch)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA, AB, BS, BSc, SB, ScB)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science (BAAS)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology (BAppSc(IT))
  • Bachelor of Design (BDes, or SDes in Indonesia)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng, BE, BSE, BESc, BSEng, BASc, BTech, BSc(Eng), AMIE,GradIETE)
  • Bachelor of Science in Business (BSBA)
  • Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BSET)


Universities provide the highest education possible. You can take on graduate-level programs that lead to acquiring a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in a university. 

These institutions often have more advanced studies available with more facilities than colleges. You may consider them as a level-up version of a liberal arts college. 

Some universities provide programs that allow you to shorten your time to obtain a Ph.D. Granted, you have to meet their requirements.

If you want to climb the top and get your name out there with a better shot at establishing yourself as an expert in your desired field, studying at a university is your best option.

In a university, you can have the following:

  • Master of Accountancy (MAcc, MAc, or MAcy)
  • Master of Advanced Study (MAS)
  • Master of Economics (MEcon)
  • Master of Architecture (MArch)
  • Master of Applied Science (MASc, MAppSc, MApplSc, MASc and MAS)
  • Master of Arts (MA, MA, AM, or AM)
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

Engineering University

Engineering universities are institutions with priorities in the engineering field — civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical, geotechnical, and other physical sciences. Most of these institutions also provide vocational or technical courses. 

What makes them different from the rest is their facilities. Most engineering schools have spent millions acquiring up-to-date machinery that our modern world uses today.

Most engineering programs take four to five years to complete. 

Research University

A research university is one focused on research. 

Most often, these institutions still provide everything that a typical university offers. However, they are optimized to produce masters and doctors. 

Their focus is to provide graduate students even higher education through doctorate degrees. Many of the professors in this institution work on research rather than teach their discipline. 

Religious Colleges

There are institutions out there that focus on refining one’s belief while providing education. These are religious colleges.

Religious colleges can fall into any of the categories above, but they require their students to incorporate certain practices throughout their stay in the institution. 

Some institutions will enforce their practices while others do not. Religious practice enforcement is rare for universities. 

Military School

Unlike all of the institution types mentioned beforehand, military schools are different. Although these military schools still focus on providing higher education, they provide them with an emphasis on the framework of the country’s military. 

Getting into military schools or academies will consequentially land you a duration-locked career in the military — army, navy, airforce, and intelligence. 

You can acquire degree programs in the areas of business, engineering, technology, and military science. The main objective of military academies is to produce well-educated officers that will serve the country. 

Public and Private Colleges

Public colleges and universities are fully or partially owned by the state board of education. This type of institution is supported by the taxpayers of the state, making it more affordable than its counterpart. 

Private colleges and universities, on the other hand, are more expensive. Private institutions often do, however, have better facilities as they get funds through more sources than public institutions. They still abide by the standards set by the board of education. 

Any of the institutions mentioned above can fall into any of the two categories. 

Specific Institutions

Tribal Colleges and Universities

These colleges’ objective is to provide quality education to the minority of people living in the country. They prioritize Native American students while also adhering to their unique culture and accomplishments. 

Tribal institutions will respect events and occasions by the natives and will have different ceremonies and rights compared to traditional schools. 

Women’s Colleges

As the name suggests, women’s colleges focus on only providing admission to women. This practice is to allow women to learn in a community where they are not the minority. 

These institutions also have more female faculty, administrators, employees. Like other colleges, they provide the same level of education to their students. 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are education institutions founded before the U.S. has approved the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin).

These institutions today accept any student — regardless of race. However, they are focused on empowering African-American students. 

Where to enroll?

You should enroll in wherever you think works best for you to achieve your goals. 

Every institution is different and has its focus. Put yourself in one that prioritizes your field.

However, you should still take note that your success is not dependent on how well the institution provides you education. 

It depends on how willing and dedicated you are to learn and become the expert you wish to be.