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Post-Secondary Studies Program

Post-Secondary Studies Program

Considering post-secondary studies? 2-year or 4-year or certification? Public or private or online? And do you need high school? Learn about the options.
Looking for post-secondary credentials and trying to sort through the options? Do you want a certification, or a degree? If a degree, do you want a two-year or four-year degree? Asking - Who can help me write my college essay? Do you need a high school diploma too? And finally, should you seek your degree or certification from a public or private provider? And what about all the private for-profits that advertise online and that promise conveniences such as accelerated study options, elearning, correspondence courses, and studies that fit your schedule?

With today's struggling economy there seems to be increasing enrollment in higher education. A similar enrollment jump was witnessed during the Great Depression according to the authors of "Higher Education in the United States: Historical Development."

The Options: an Overview

Vendor certifications – from Microsoft, CISCO, Linux, and McAffee – are required for many jobs in the computing field although not generally for data entry and clerical or secretarial jobs (for the latter all you may need is experience and/or a good score on a test provided free by your prospective employer).

Many community colleges provide certifications and training in a variety of fields as well as associate's degrees, and in many programs, for example in law enforcement and nursing, you work toward both. Community colleges may also partner with local schools to provide GEDs.

State universities and non-profit colleges usually provide four-year degrees; few provide certifications or two-year degrees. For-profit colleges may provide two-year and four-year degrees as well as certifications, perhaps with accelerated learning options which allow students to learn at their own pace. Many advertise online. However some of these institutions are not accredited by a recognized accrediting body, and studies completed at a non-accredited school will generally not be accepted by other schools or employers.


Certifications certify proficiency in a particular field (commercial driving, air conditioning, electrical work, health, education, law enforcement, Windows, or networking). Some fields today with good job prospects (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor's information) include networking, web development, health, and in spite of the housing market, real estate. However, some certifications (advanced networking or Windows for example) are most useful to people already working in the field. For some certifications (generally teaching) you also need a four-year degree.

Before getting some certifications (networking and Windows again), prior experience is helpful – but if you are willing to take an entry-level position (for example, in a call center servicing customers with technical problems, non-profit, or office supply store where you help customers find and repair their computers), you can get such experience, complete your certification, and advance. For other certifications, such as teaching, you may sometimes get hired in a "high needs area" without prior experience. "High needs areas" are usually areas with many low-income students, and it's possible to have some of your student loans forgiven for teaching in "needs" areas. However job satisfaction in teaching as in other fields, as well as employer satisfaction with your performance, will generally be greater when you have previous experience and/or have completed an internship. Some certification programs will place you in an internship or help you look for a job,

Some vendors of technical products, including Microsoft and CISCO, offer "vendor's" certifications that are widely recognized. In other cases, it's necessary to verify that a certification you are completing is recognized by prospective employers. To do so, you may need to talk to the firms that might hire you. Some certifications, such as teaching, can only be provided by the state (or sometimes the county) department of education (although a university can "certify" that you have graduated from an accredited teacher preparation program). Many positions also provide their own on-the-job training and certifications.

Two-Year or Four-Year Degree?

As noted, some certifications can be pursued together with a two-year degree (associate of science or arts). Nursing studies are generally pursued together with a two-year degree, with a four-year degree an option later.

If you hold a GED rather than a traditional high school diploma, a two-year degree may prove you can stay with your schooling. And once you've completed 15-to-30 semester hours or more of college, a GED becomes as good as a regular high school diploma if you want to enlist in the military. Without college, GED holders may need higher ASVAB scores in order to enlist.

A two-year or associate's degree is an option when you think college coursework will be helpful in your field, but are not ready to pursue a four-year degree (for financial or personal reasons, because of job commitments, or because you are not sure that four years of study is needed in your field). For some jobs, however, including teaching and many computer jobs, you do eventually need to complete a four-year degree, and pass exams as well. A four-year degree also enables you to enlist in the military as an officer. All schools offering an associate's or bachelor's degree should accredited by a body recognized by the Council for Higher Education accreditation. You can learn how to investigate a school's accreditation at "Before Enrollment: Researching Your Study Program."

A high school diploma or GED is normally required before you can begin studying for either an associate's or bachelor's degree. However, it's possible under a program called "dual enrollment" to complete some college coursework while working toward your high school diploma (dual enrollment is discussed in more detail in "Accelerated High School and College: Dual Enrollment").

GED or High School Diploma?

A high school diploma or GED is the credential needed for many entry level jobs, including many jobs in banking and customer service, and for substitute teaching as well as some nursing and law enforcement positions in some states (other states and positions may require more). Likewise a high school diploma or GED is needed today in order to enlist in the military.

Samples from some GED preparation books, such as Rockowitz. et. al., GED 2018-2019 (14th ed., Barron's/Google Books) may be available online. Information about the enlistment requirements of various military branches, is also provided online by the various branches, and as noted above the diploma may be preferred over the GED:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marines
  • Coast Guard

Students who have completed their high school coursework without passing their "required exit examination" can be issued a "certificate of completion," according to Edward Attwell, the essay helper. These students may then have the option to receive their diplomas when they pass the exam.

If you have completed home schooling that is not accredited (by organizations such as HEWIR/ACIS, for example, which accredits home schoolers in Georgia), higher S.A.T. or A.C.T. scores may be needed for college admission.

Again, you need a high school diploma or GED for many entry-level jobs, and unlike a certification, which is only good for jobs in the field you are certified in, your diploma is good everywhere.

The Cost of Schooling

Today's private non-profit college tuition ranges from as low as $426.00 per credit at Cedar Crest in Pennsylvania to about $50,000/year at some schools are increasing tuition. Public university fees vary by state (tuition remains lower in some states and in Canada).

For-profit colleges sometimes finance student education themselves (that is, provide "in-house" funding), at sometimes high, sometimes modest interest rates, but most rely on financial aid funding. In-house funding may be easy to get, but perhaps more important today than a four-year degree (these are more and more plentiful in the U.S.) is a good credit report. Some for-profits may even boost the fees they collect by enrolling students in classes they never take – a practice which can result in mounting student debt, according to an article on "guerilla registration" published in the Huffington Post.

Student Debt and Proprietary Colleges

Proprietary schools have low four-year graduation rates for students in degree program (though not for students in certification program) when compared to non-profit and state universities, and higher loan default rates (for the rates, see the Federal Student Aid Gateway's "Institutional Default Rate Comparison of FY 2016, 2017, and 2018 Cohort Default Rates"). Over 20% of students in for-profit degree programs default according to many reports. The for-profits also offer admission to more types of students including more high-risk students, which the for-profits say is part of the reason for the low graduation rates and loan defaults – although in some cases, the problem may be that students discontinue their studies because of mounting debts.

This does not mean you should not consider a "for-profit" college but it's important to research your school carefully before deciding on it, and make sure that it's accredited, has what you need, and will not leave you with debts you cannot pay. So do not hurry to buy essay papers online.

Taking an Entry-Level Position

Often it takes more than a degree to land a job in a field you are interested in. Experience may be almost as important. Although some programs offer first-hand experience via an internship, taking an entry-level position is another route. What are entry level positions? Generally the lowest paid positions in a field, entry level positions show your interest, and can help replace an internship when one is unavailable, providing that that is economically feasible to you.

You may find an entry-level job, perhaps part-time, as a computer sales person, seasonal security guard, teacher's aide or substitute teacher, or service station attendant in a shop that also provides repairs. If you don't have to commute far from where you live or go to school, an entry-level position may be economically feasible. A teacher's aide position in a school your children attend may also be workable (but beware the tendency to follow your child everywhere). Atlanta CEO Kevin Grimes, who left school for the military, and then, via the military, got back into school, got started by leaving a good job for a low paying job in order to get in field, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Some certification examinations should not be completed until you have worked for at least a few months in an entry level position, but in today's tight job market, accepting a lower wage requires thinking.

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