Postsecondary options


Most careers require at least some education or training beyond high school. One career may require four years of college while another may require a six-month program at a technical school. In most cases, your career choice will determine which of the following options is the most appropriate:

  • Technical college
  • Career training school
  • Two-year college
  • Four-year university
  • Military
  • Apprenticeship
  • Employment

Technical colleges provide affordable, career-oriented programs that enable students to begin their careers after only one or two years of college. Typically, class sizes are kept small and professors have worked, or are working, in a related career field. Students completing one-year programs receive certificates or diplomas, and students completing two-year programs earn associate degrees.

Degrees that may be obtained include A.A. (Associate of Arts), A.S. (Associate of Science), and A.A.S. (Associate of Applied Science). Students seeking a bachelor degree and who do not meet the entrance requirements of a four-year university and/or who want to save money and live at home, may start out at a technical college in a Liberal Arts and Sciences program or a program that is designed with a four-year college transfer in mind. The final decision as to whether a given course is transferable is made by the receiving institution. For this reason, when planning a particular program, it is recommended that a student verify the transferability of credits with the four-year university of choice.

Career training schools offer students short-term training in a wide variety of career fields. Some career training programs last only a few weeks while others could take up to two years to complete. These programs are designed to prepare students for specific careers such as barber and cosmetology, massage therapy, or information technology to name a few. Students spend most of their class time in job related settings where they receive hands-on training from experienced instructors.

Two-year colleges offer freshman/sophomore level university instruction. Students attend small classes and receive the personal attention of a private college at a public university cost. After freshman or sophomore year, students can transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor degree or stay and complete a bachelor’s degree offered in partnership with certain four-year schools. Many students like to begin at two-year colleges because they like the smaller environment. In most cases, students are also able to save money while still living at home.

Wisconsin two-year colleges allow students to apply through the guaranteed transfer program to a four-year University within the UW-System. Consult with an advisor from a two-year college for specific guidelines and requirements for the guaranteed transfer program.

A four-year college education, or bachelor’s degree, is necessary for approximately 20 percent of today’s careers. A bachelor’s degree can open doors, provide status and prepare students for financially rewarding careers.

All universities hope to attract well-prepared students. Universities vary in their majors offered, admission standards and costs. Four-year universities want students to have both a broad-based education and education in a specific subject area or major. To insure that students receive a well-rounded education, most four-year universities require that students take 25-50 percent of their classes in general education courses like English, math, science and history.

Because many of the general education courses are taken during freshman or sophomore year, “undecided” students can use their first year or so of college to fulfill general education requirements and to decide on a major. Entrance requirements vary by each university with some universities being highly selective.

In order to be accepted at a highly selective university, a student must usually have high ACT/SAT scores, a high grade point average and rigorous preparation.

Regardless of the entrance requirements, all universities want applicants who have followed a college prep program in high school. This generally includes four years of English, three years of math (algebra, geometry, third year of math), three years of science and three years of social studies. Foreign language is highly recommended, and two years of a single foreign language is required at some universities.

If students have not taken all of these courses it does not mean that they cannot go to a four-year university. In these cases, students may want to start out at a two-year college or a technical college then transfer to a four-year university after a year or two. Degrees from a four-year university include B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) and B.S. (Bachelor of Science). After a bachelor’s degree, some advanced degrees include M.A. (Master of Arts), M.S. (Master of Science), Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), J. D. (Juris Doctor/Lawyer), D.D.S. (Doctor of Dentistry Science) and M.D. (Medical Doctor).

The military trains young men and women to protect the interests of our country. In order to do this, the military offers qualified high school graduates a good salary and free job training. The military also provides discipline and structure as well as opportunities for career advancement and travel.

The United States military is the nation’s single largest employer. It offers training and employment in more than 2,000 specialties, 75 percent of which have civilian counterparts.

The four major branches of the military are: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Opportunities for students also exist in the Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserves. College students who take Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) will enter the military as officers while academically gifted students will find excellent educational opportunities at the four military academies.

Apprenticeship programs are for students who prefer a hands-on approach to learning. Apprentices learn a skilled trade through a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Apprenticeships are agreements in which employers pay individuals while they are learning their trade or profession. Apprenticeship programs demand hard work and dedication.

Those who receive their training through apprenticeship programs are provided opportunities for advancement. Some apprenticeship programs include cabinetmaking, tool and die, roofing, sheet metal, culinary, cement mason, bricklayer, early childhood education, plumber and electrician to name a few.

Employment is an appropriate option for some high school graduates. Sometimes a job can be turned into a career where a person moves up the ranks into a management position such as at a restaurant. Business and industry are always eager to find employees who are hard working, polite, punctual, well-groomed, willing to learn and get along well with others.