Structure of American Public Higher Education

  • Photo of orientation leaders stopped in front of a residency hall while touring with students through campus

There are three main levels of higher education. The first level consists of two-year schools called community or junior colleges. These types of institutions award two certificates: an Associates of Science which is usually a vocational-oriented program, and an Associates of Arts which allows those students to transfer to the next level. In recent years, some community or junior colleges have started offering 4-year degrees but these opportunities are somewhat limited. The second level is comprised of 4-year institutions that offer Bachelor’s Degrees. There are 12 state schools in Florida that offer a variety of 4-year programs leading to a Bachelor’s Degree. This part of the educational system is often called “undergraduate education.” Some of you will elect to continue your education beyond the bachelor level by attending a graduate or professional school and earn a Master’s Degree, a doctorate, or a degree in law or medicine. These represent the third level of higher education.

By electing to enter Florida State University, you have chosen to begin your academic career at a state, research extensive institution. These tend to be large institutions with both an undergraduate and a graduate component. The undergraduate program represents the teaching function of the university. In graduate school, the focus shifts from teaching to research and the creation of new knowledge.