Information Resource: U.S. Department of Education
The community college system originated in the United States in the early 20th century. Community colleges (sometimes called junior colleges) fulfill several key missions:
They generally offer two-year degree programs leading to the associate degree, as well as short certificate and diploma programs in a variety of academic and vocational fields. There are approximately 1,100 public and 700 private two-year colleges in the United States.
Education and training for professional occupations can take place at the undergraduate or graduate level. For example, engineering, the engineering technology fields, nursing and accounting generally require an undergraduate degree. Architecture and teacher education require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree depending on the entry point, and a first professional degree following a prior undergraduate degree is required to
Photo: Stanford University, California
There are more than 600 public and 1,700 private, four-year colleges and universities in the United States.The academic titles awarded by these institutions include undergraduate degrees such as the bachelor’s degree and graduate degrees such as the master’s degree and the doctorate. U.S. degree titles are not governed by national laws; therefore, colleges and universities exercise wide discretion in the nomenclature they use for degrees and program requirements for graduation. Accrediting associations, described below, may exert some influence on degree titles, as do the labor market and the professional academic community.
Colleges & Universities
The basic undergraduate degree in the United States is the bachelor’s degree. It generally requires four or more years of full-time study. The associate degree, which is offered at community colleges, described below, typically requires two years of full-time study.
The basic graduate degree is the master’s degree, which usually requires one to two years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree. The research doctorate degree (Ph.D. or equivalent) usually requires a minimum of five to seven years beyond the bachelor's. However, the total time required can vary significantly depending on the institution, student and field of study.
Postsecondary education in the United States is widespread and diverse. There are approximately 9,000 postsecondary institutions in the United States. This total includes over 4,000 degree-granting institutions, such as colleges, universities and community colleges, and over 5,000 non-degree-granting institutions that provide specific vocational, technical and career training.
One of the most attractive features of the U.S. higher education system is the flexibility it provides through the number and diversity of institution types it encompasses.
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