Types of schools and programs
Explore four-year, two-year, and other program options.
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Why the type of school matters
Before you start your school search, think about the type of college or school you'd like to attend. The type of school you choose can impact the cost, length of program, and experience. Ask yourself:
- Would you prefer a public or private college?
- Can you get what you need from a 2-year program vs. a 4-year program?
- Have you considered a trade school or vocational program?
- Is it important to attend school with a special interest or mission?
Knowing the types of schools that would be a good fit can help you speed up your search. Get a basic understanding of what's out there and then try our Program Explorer to find school options in Texas. If you still have questions, create a My Texas Future account and set up time to talk through your options with an academic advisor.
Make a plan and hold onto it.
“Community college made me believe that I could do it. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth doing is.”
Diana Trujillo Pomerant, Mission Lead, Mars Rover, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Four-year colleges and universities
Four-year institutions offer four-year programs where you can earn a bachelor’s degree. Students often choose this option if they want more time to explore different degree programs. For example, you may know you want to pursue business but you’re not sure of the exact field. A four-year program lets you take basic business courses before choosing a major, like accounting or marketing. A bachelor’s degree can open a bigger range of career options within your field.
Colleges and universities may also offer graduate degrees, such as a master’s degree or doctorate. A master’s degree usually requires you to earn a bachelor’s degree first. In some cases, a master’s program may accept your work and life experience instead.
What’s the difference between public vs. private schools?
Public colleges and universities get funding from state governments. But private schools only rely on tuition and donations. As a result, public schools usually have lower tuition fees than private colleges, especially for in-state students.
Public schools are also much larger in size, which means they can offer a wider range of programs. But because of their size, public schools’ classes are usually larger than private schools. With their smaller size, private school students often enjoy more classroom attention.
Community colleges usually offer two-year programs where you can earn an associate degree or a certificate. Community colleges offer flexibility at an affordable price. For example, after completing your program, you can decide between starting your career or pursuing a bachelor's degree. Some community colleges may also offer four-year programs for certain bachelor’s degrees.
Community colleges also offer flexible course schedules for working professionals. They usually have night classes you can attend after work hours or virtual classes you can view on your own time.
Trade schools (vocational and technical schools)
Trade schools are also called vocational or technical schools. They teach you the skills you need for a specific career. Like a community college, you can earn either an associate degree or a certificate. Students may choose a trade school over a community college if they know the exact career they’d like to pursue and its requirements. Trade schools offer for a wide range of careers, including dental hygienists, IT technicians, plumbers, electricians, legal assistants, or radiation therapists.
Unlike community colleges, trade schools don’t require you to complete general education courses. Instead, coursework focuses on the exact skills and knowledge you’ll need on the job. The length of the program can range from less than one year to three years.
There are many great jobs that don't require a four-year degree
“I got a job as a paramedic right after I got out of school. And I’m already out of debt.”
Madison Bulard, Paramedic
Specialty schools and programs
Some colleges may focus on a specific interest or mission.