What is Post Secondary Education?


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Post-secondary education is a term that sounds somewhat familiar, yet, many people are not sure exactly what it means.

To understand what post-secondary education is, one first has to know how secondary education is defined.

What are examples of post-secondary education, and what is its importance? This article will explain all this and more.

Post-Secondary Education Definition and Meaning

Post-secondary education is also sometimes referred to as “tertiary education.” It is any education that comes after high school (secondary education).

Post-secondary education includes certificate programs and six levels of degree-granting programs. These are associate, baccalaureate, first professional, master, advanced intermediate, or research doctorate.

What Is Post-Secondary Education
What Is Post-Secondary Education

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What is the Difference between Secondary and Post-Secondary?

Secondary education is another way of saying high school education. Therefore, post-secondary education is the education that comes after secondary, or high school, education.

After high school is completed, any education that a student pursues would be post-secondary.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, post-secondary education includes certificate programs and six degree levels. These six degree levels are associate, bachelor, first professional, master, advanced intermediate, and research doctorate.

What are Examples of Post-Secondary Education?

Some examples of post-secondary education include university, college, community or junior college, or a vocational school. It also includes graduate school programs, such as masters programs, research doctorates, and professional schools.

Vocational Schools

There are many excellent vocational programs, all of which are examples of post-secondary education. These programs, also sometimes called career colleges, are meant to prepare their students for a specific job or career.

These careers being a medical assistant or other healthcare professional. They can also include being a cosmetologist, barber, hair stylist, or beautician.

Other programs that this type of school offers include HVAC repair training, mechanical training, and other skilled labor.

They can also include technology-related fields such as coding, graphic design, and IT.

Other examples can include various culinary and hospitality related career training.

Specific examples of vocational post-secondary education include UEI College, Concorde Career College, and CulinaryLab Cooking School. There is also California Career Institute, Brownson Technical School, and Career Academy of Beauty and many others.

Community College Degrees

A popular and cost-effective form of post-secondary education is education from community colleges. These are also sometimes called junior colleges.

Community or junior colleges generally offer 2-year, or associates degrees. They also often offer some certificate programs, as well.

Now, many community colleges even offer some 4-year, or baccalaureate degrees.

They also are frequently a stepping-stone to a 4-year college or university. The credits earned at the community college can usually be transferred and applied toward a 4-year degree.

They also often even have matriculation agreements with nearby universities. If students at these schools complete specific courses with a minimum GPA, they are guaranteed admission to the partner university.

There are a wide range of degrees and certificate programs that can be earned at community colleges.

These often include degrees in business administration or management, real estate, psychology, mathematics, chemistry, accounting or bookkeeping, and health services. Degrees can also be attained with a major in interdisciplinary studies, liberal arts, biological and physical sciences, or physics.

Other associate degree majors are criminal justice, law enforcement administration, speech or communication, computer science, legal assistant, or philosophy. They can also be earned in child care, visual and performing arts, drafting and design, kinesiology, and many languages.

There are many options, most of which lead either directly to fulfilling careers, or to a path of continuing education.

Baccalaureate Degrees

A baccalaureate degree is a 4-year degree from a college or university.

As with community college 2-year degrees, baccalaureate degrees come in a wide variety of majors, as well as minors.

There is a lot of overlap in the topics for 4-year and 2-year degrees. Four-year, or baccalaureate degrees, however, obviously go into much greater depth.

Four-year degrees can also lead directly to employment, or in turn, be a stepping stone to further continued education.

Some possible majors or minors for baccalaureate degrees include accounting, animation and visual effects, applied mathematics, health sciences, or art. One can also get a bachelor’s of science in nursing, biology, computer information, criminal justice, or engineering.

There are even baccalaureate degrees in biblical or religious studies, entrepreneurship, games and interactive media, and music. Journalism, marketing, teaching, international relations, and kinesiology are other majors, as well.

Graduate School Programs

There are also many graduate programs, all of which are examples of post-secondary education, as well.

Within the category of graduate school, there are multiple levels. These include masters degrees, research doctorates, professional degrees (first professional and advanced professional, and more.

Some specific examples include a Ph.D., Psy.D., or a Doctorate in Nurse Practice or Education. They also include juris doctorates (law degree), medical school, dental school, veterinary school, optometry school, and others.

The schools that offer these degrees are often universities. Many schools dedicated to specific professions that are outside of the university system exist, as well.

What is Not Post-Secondary Education

Sometimes, post-secondary education can be confused with other levels of education.

Most commonly, people may confuse this level of education with secondary education or even primary or middle school education.

In the U.S. education system, the progression of education first begins with early childhood education. Early childhood education is also known as pre-school.

After pre-school comes primary school. This is also commonly referred to elementary school.

The next level is middle school, or intermediate school.

After this is secondary education. Secondary education is most commonly known as high school.

As mentioned, any education after high school (secondary school) is post-secondary education.

Is Post-Secondary School Important?

Post-secondary school is a very broad category. It does, however, encompass bountiful ways for adults to expand their knowledge, earning potential, and employability.

Almost all paths for post-secondary school lead to higher income and more job opportunities. This is true whether a student is going to a vocational school, or pursuing an associates, baccalaureate, or graduate degree.

Income Level According to Post-Secondary Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a clear correlation between education level and average income level. The higher ones educational level, on average, the higher their income level.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics published data for the average weekly earnings of people aged 25 or older.

Their data showed that people with less than secondary education (less than a high school diploma) earn, on average, $520/week.

People who have completed secondary education (high school diploma, but no college), earn an average of $712 week.

Those who have completed some college – in other words, some post-secondary education, but no degree – earn slightly more. On average, they earn $774 per week.

Just some post-secondary education, even without a degree, results in an average income increase of 8.7%, versus just secondary education.

Undergraduate Degree Income Levels

Earning an associate degree increases average weekly income to $836. This is an additional $124/week, or $6,448 per year, for just a 2-year post-secondary education, versus only secondary education.

The 2-year post-secondary education results in an average of 17.41% more income than not secondary education alone.

The difference between a bachelor’s (4-year) degree versus only secondary education is even more dramatic. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1,173 per week, or a total of $60,996 per year.

This equals $461 more per week, or an impressive $23,972 more per year, than those with only secondary education.

People with a bachelor’s degree, or 4-year post-secondary degree, earn an average of 64.75% more than those with only secondary education.

Graduate and Professional Degree Income Levels

The graduate degree levels offer even greater increase in income.

A master’s degree, on average, allows a person to earn $1,401 per week. This is 96.77% more, or nearly double, what the average person with only secondary education earns.

Per week, this is $689 more than the average person with only secondary education. Per year, this adds up to $35,828 in additional income.

Those with doctoral degrees earn $1,743 on average, per week. This is $1,031 more than the average person with just secondary education.

Over the course of a year, this adds up to $53,612 in additional income than had the person only completed secondary school. It is also 144.8% more income than they would have earned.

Professional degrees typically help graduates earn the most money. People with these degrees earn an average of $1,836 per week, which totals $95,472 per year.

This is $1,124 more per week than the average person with only secondary education, or an additional 157% income.

Difference in Secondary vs. Post-Secondary Lifetime Earnings

As dramatic as the figures are above, they only take into account what one would earn in a week or a year. In reality, these are choices that are likely to affect a person’s socioeconomic level dramatically for their entire life.

The difference between these income levels not only adds up, it will compound, both in annual raises and through investments.

For the sake of comparison, we can look at the difference in lifetime earnings and investments over the course of 40 years. This would be from the time a person is 25 to the time he or she is 65.

The person who only has secondary education makes an average of $712 per week, or $37,024 per year. Let’s say they get a raise of 1% per year. Over 40 years, about a lifetime of work, they will earn a total of approximately $1,809,779.44.

Hopefully, they are able to invest 10% of their income per year (based on their original income, not counting raises). If they earn 8% on that money per year, then they would earn an additional $809,755 from investment growth.

Altogether, this equals $2,619,534 in lifetime earnings and growth. That sounds pretty good, especially for only having a high school diploma.

When compared with the higher earning and investing power of those with more education, however, it is less exciting.

Bachelor’s Degree vs. Only Secondary Education Lifetime Earnings

Assuming the same 1% annual raise, the person with the bachelor’s degree will earn $2,981,873.23. This alone is more than $1 million over what the person without post-secondary education earned during their working life.

Again, assuming this person invests 10% of their original income per month (not taking into account raises), it’ll grow more. With the same 8% returns, this will be an additional $1,335,437 from investment growth.

Altogether, the average person with a bachelor’s degree (assuming these investments) will reap $4,317,310 from income and investment growth.

This is $1,697,776 more total wealth over a lifetime than the average person with only a secondary (high school) education.

Professional Degree vs. Only Secondary Education Lifetime Earnings

Going through the same exercise for a professional degree, we’ll find that the average professional earns $4,667,279 in lifetime income.

Investing 10% of their original income (not including raises), at 8% growth, garners an additional $2,089,946. In total, the average professional will have made $6,757,225.

This is 2.58 times what the average person with only secondary education will make in their lifetime.

Of course, realistically, it is also easier to save money when one is making more. The higher ones income, the more discretionary income they have, which they could choose to invest. With less income, more of it typically needs to go to necessities, and is less available to invest.

So, the person with the higher income could more easily invest an amount much greater than 10%. This would, in turn, compound into significantly more wealth over the years.

What is Post-Secondary School?

Post-secondary school or education is also sometimes called “tertiary education.” It is any schooling after secondary education; in other words, after high school. Examples of post-secondary education include certificate programs and six strata of degree programs. These six levels include associate, baccalaureate, first professional, master, advanced intermediate, and research doctorate.


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