Adult higher education typically refers to college degrees or college level courses. In addition to education at college levels, adult higher education could also include certificate programs obtained through technical and trade schools. People who want to continue with their education beyond a high school level typically must possess a high school diploma or must be able to prove they have passed a high school equivalency examination, usually referred to as a general education diploma (GED). College degrees are typically divided into four main levels, which are associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral.
An associate’s degree is the lowest level of degree, usually a two-year program. There are several different types of associate's degrees, but some of the most common are in the field of science, arts, and business. In many cases, this type of degree lays the groundwork for more advanced studies. Some colleges specialize in two-year programs. This type of school is often referred to as a "junior" college.
One of the most common types of adult higher education involves four-year programs that result in obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees can be obtained in most any subject area, but some of the more common areas of study are education, business, liberal arts, and computer science. Credits that have been obtained while earning an associate’s degree can usually be applied to bachelor studies.
Master’s degrees typically involve two additional years of study after acquiring a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master's degree often leads to higher salary and more job opportunities. This type of adult higher education is not as common as lower level degrees, and though a master's degree takes longer to obtain, many people believe that it is well worth the additional time and cost.
One of the rarest types of adult higher education is in the field of doctoral studies. In most cases, a doctoral degree is considered the highest level of education in a specific field of study. The time it takes to earn a degree of this type can vary depending of the field, but usually takes at least eight years. Many people obtain their doctoral degrees while they are already working in their field of study, and in some cases, work-related experience could be translated to actual course credit.
For those interested in entering into vocational careers, certificate programs are often available at vocational schools or junior colleges. These programs usually take much less time to complete than other types of adult higher education. Some common certificate programs include licensed practical nursing, electrician, and paralegal.