Types of Colleges & Degrees


Types of Colleges

College is any type of education or training after high school. There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Students should find a college option that best fits their academic, social and financial needs.



There are many ways that colleges can be categorized. (Note that not all of these types of colleges can be found in Oregon.) Most colleges and universities fit into multiple categories. For example, there are public (partially funded by local and state governments) and private schools; there are liberal arts colleges and schools with some or all classes online; there are single-sex schools and schools with a special mission; there are military academies and religiously-affiliated schools. Here is the most common way to categorize colleges:

Community College

Public institution that offers programs that last up to two years. Community colleges are open to everyone with a high school diploma or GED and can be a stepping stone to a four-year degree. Tuition rates are usually the lowest among all types of colleges. In Oregon, Central Oregon Community College, Lane Community College and Southwestern Oregon Community College offer the option to live on campus; most community colleges do not.

Degrees: Certificate, Associate, Transfer

Public University

Public college or university that offers four-year programs. Basic entrance requirements in Oregon include a high school diploma or GED with a C- or better in specific classes. Public universities offer in-state tuition, which means tuition rates are lower for students who are residents of the state where the college is located.

Degrees: Bachelor's, may offer Postbaccalaureate Certificate, Master's, Doctoral or Professional

Independent, Not-for-Profit University

Private college or university that offers four-year programs. Entrance requirements vary, with some colleges admitting the majority of applicants and others only a small percentage of highly qualified students. Tuition rates are usually higher than public institutions, but they may be able to offer more generous financial aid packages.

Degrees: Bachelor's, may offer Postbaccalaureate Certificate, Master's, Doctoral or Professional

For-Profit College

Private institution, sometimes called a career or technical college, that offers undergraduate and/or graduate programs of various lengths. Many have specialized programs such as culinary or cosmetology schools, while other schools may have programs completely online (also known as distance learning). These schools are for-profit businesses, meaning they are expected to make money for their owners or shareholders. Therefore, tuition rates are usually higher than other types of colleges.

Degrees: may offer Certificate, License, Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral or Professional

On-The-Job Training

Apprenticeships: Paid on-the-job training and classroom learning for a specific trade. In Oregon, most apprenticeships are connected to the construction trade and require a high school diploma or GED.

Service Learning: Paid volunteer opportunities across the country and overseas through many organizations, including government agencies like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. Many offer student loan repayment options.

Job Corps: A free education and training program for low-income youth. Locations in Oregon include Astoria, Estacada, Glide, Portland, Troutdale and Yachats.


Joining the Military is a big decision. Think carefully and talk with family and/or a trusted adult as well as representatives from the Military as you consider your options.

Military Academies: Extremely elite and selective, students receive full four-year scholarships. Requires service after graduation.

ROTC: Train to be an officer while earning a Bachelor's degree with Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Scholarships are available.

Enlistment: Requires a high school diploma or GED. Money is available for college in exchange for full-time or part-time service.



Undergraduate Degrees

Graduate Degrees

Less Than 2 Years
2 Years
4 Years
More Than 4 Years
  • License
  • Certificate
  • Associate (e.g. AA, AS)
  • Transfer (AAOT)
  • Bachelor's (e.g. BA, BS, BFA)
  • Professional (e.g. BSN, BArch)
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate
  • Master's (e.g. MA, MBA, EdM)
  • Doctoral (e.g. PhD, EdD)
  • Professional (e.g. JD, MD)
Minimum years of school; some programs or specific degrees may vary.