Types of schools

Degrees explained

Associate degrees are offered at community colleges. Generally, community colleges are open enrollment, but some programs are selective with limited enrollment. These programs usually have a separate application and specific admission requirements. It usually takes two years to complete (for a full-time student). If students plan to go on to a 4-year college, they need to make sure that their chosen associate's degree is transferable (meets the requirements of the 4-year institution).

    • Examples of degrees: Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of General Studies, Associate Degree of Nursing, Associate Degree of Business, Associate Transfer Degree*

Bachelor's degree programs are offered at public and private colleges. Admittance to these schools is competitive and based on prior academics, personal essays, entrance exams (ACT & SAT), and extracurricular activities. Speak with an academic advisor at a prospective school as soon as possible, even while still in high school, to find out degree program entrance requirements.

Also known as an undergraduate degree, these programs are designed to be completed in four years for full-time students, though many students take five or six years. Be sure to know your program and school's specific graduation requirements to avoid added time onto your time in undergrad.

    • Examples of degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Business, Bachelor of Nursing

Training certificates are offered at community colleges and private trade schools. They usually take less than two years to complete. It is a skill that is usually required to practice in a career field.

    • Examples of careers: hairdresser/barber, massage therapist, certified nursing assistant, automotive mechanic, welding

A master’s degree is an advanced degree also known as a graduate degree. The length of these programs vary depending on what field you are studying and whether you are attending full-time. Many people have a full-time job while attending classes online or at night for a graduate degree. Admittance to a master’s programs is competitive and based on essays, entrance exams (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) and undergraduate coursework/degrees.

    • Common degrees: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Social Work (MSW), Master of Education (M. Ed.)

A doctorate degree is the highest level of academic degree. Doctorate degree programs can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years depending on a chosen field of study and prior degree(s). Admittance to doctorate programs is competitive and based on merit, experience, essays, and other graduate coursework and/or degrees. Programs vary greatly based on field. Working at the highest level of medical or legal professions typically requires a doctoral degree.

    • Common programs: Law (J.D.), Educational Leadership, Medicine (M.D.), Physical Therapy, Counseling/Psychology, Pharmacy, Dentistry

Community Colleges


Two-year colleges offer programs that lead to an associate degree or certificate in a specified field. Course paths include:

  • liberal arts/transfer curriculum: covers many of the general education requirements for a baccalaureate degree

  • occupational/technical programs: develop technical skills for the workforce; for students new to the workforce or those looking to advance in their field

  • developmental education: helps students improve their basic academic skills and prepare for other college courses

  • non-degree seeking: courses created to respond to individuals’ and communities’ social, intellectual, and recreational interests


  • Save money: whether you intend to transfer after two years to pursue a baccalaureate degree or not, community college will help you save money on tuition (and potentially more costs like room and board, travel, and food).

  • Oregon Promise Grant: This state grant covers some or all tuition at any Oregon community college for recent high school graduates and GED recipients. Check OregonStudentAid.gov for application deadlines.

  • Oregon Transfer Degree: These degrees are designed for students who want to complete their first two years at a community college, with flexibility to then transfer to any institution within the Oregon University System (OUS). Talk to individual schools for more information. AAOT Degree Requirements

  • Schedule Flexibility: Most community colleges offer courses online, at night, or on weekends


  • Each community college has individual scholarship programs. Don't overlook these opportunities!

  • Create the same type of application plan that you would for 4-year colleges

  • If a student plans to transfer to a 4-year university after graduating, they should meet with a community college advisor and ensure that courses meet the transfer requirements. Not meeting requirements is a major obstacle students face when trying to transfer.

  • Apply for dual enrollment to take some classes at the community college and some at the affiliated university.

Universities and Private colleges


The Oregon public universities provide different learning environments for Oregon residents and out-of-state students. To determine which school may be the best fit, consider qualities like:

  • Setting (urban, suburban, rural)

  • Smaller student body (3,000-5,000) vs. larger (20,000+)

  • Class sizes

  • Athletics and activities offered

  • Academic requirements and rigor

  • Degree programs offered and specialties

  • Cost of attendance


  • Private colleges and universities are typically more selective than public universities, but this is not always the case. Some private schools are highly selective and their admissions will go far beyond the usual GPA, course rigor, and test score criteria.

  • Many private schools are religiously-affiliated, but the strength of affiliation varies. Speak to staff and students to learn more about how strong the religious influence is on campus.

  • Private schools are typically more expensive than public schools, but many also provide tuition waivers and scholarships for eligible students that make it comparable to public university tuition.

  • Some private colleges specialize in a field (health, arts, religious studies, etc.) and only offer a limited number of degree programs. Most offer bachelor's degrees and some offer advanced degrees.

  • Private colleges are often smaller than public schools, with enrollment ranging from about 50 students to 4,000 students.

  • Private colleges may value different characteristics in an applicant (community service-minded, overcoming obstacles in life, drive to learn, etc.). Speak with an admissions counselor to learn about what the school is looking for in its students.


There are many great post-secondary options outside of Oregon whether you're looking for a public or private college. Using the College Search Tools is a great way to start learning about those options and finding a good fit for the student.

One great tool for students considering non-Oregon options is to search through the Western Undergraduate Exchange. This exchange allows eligible students to attend select out-of-state schools without paying the full out-of-state tuition price. This can be especially helpful if a student's desired major/field of study isn't available at an in-state institution. Note: some schools have earlier application deadlines for WUE applicants.

Questions to ask students considering out-of-state education:

  • What is the total difference in the cost of attendance of going to an out-of-state school compared to a similar in-state option?

  • Has the student visited the campus and the city/town where the school is located?

  • What activities are available on or near campus?

  • How often do you plan to travel home? How much will it cost there and back?

  • Is the student ready to be far away from home and in a new area?

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