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You’ve heard about 2-year and 4-year colleges. But what’s the difference? And how do you know which is right for you? Listen up! These are questions to consider:

What educational experience does your career require?

The type of degree needed to perform different jobs varies, so explore the minimum requirements needed for your desired career path. A medical transcriptionist needs a certificate after high school. Computer support requires a bachelor’s degree. Start at The site allows you to search jobs and see the education needed for careers.

What colleges offer what degrees? What are the differences in degrees?

2-year community colleges (like Southeast, Metro, Northeast, Central, Mid-Plains, and Western) offer associate’s degrees, certificates, and diplomas.

  • Typically certificates and diplomas are earned after learning very specific skills in a specialized area (welding, certified nursing assistant). An associate’s degree includes these skills plus more general courses, including writing and math courses.
  • Some popular community college programs across Nebraska include: building construction, electrical, HVAC, auto body, nursing, business administration, accounting, criminal justice, and early childhood education.

4-year colleges and universities include: the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney), the state colleges (Wayne, Chadron, Peru), or a variety of private colleges (like Wesleyan, Creighton, Hastings). These colleges offer bachelor’s degrees.

  • A bachelor’s degree program will investigate topics more in-depth, giving additional theory behind ideas and offering the popularly-used phrase, a “well-rounded” course of study. In additional to general courses (writing, math, science), you’ll spend more time learning about your course of study.
  • Many 4-year colleges also offer master’s and doctoral programs – you’ll need to discover if your career path will take you onto this additional education after a bachelor’s degree. For example, you earn a bachelor’s degree in biology, and then apply to medical school to pursue a doctorate.

How much will I pay?

A huge difference in the colleges are the cost.

  • Community colleges are usually the most inexpensive college route. Tuition (the cost for classes) is generally around $3,000-4,000. Some students will complete general courses at a community college with less expensive tuition, then transfer to a 4-year school to complete their course of study.
  • 4-year colleges and universities can be public or private. Public schools receive state government/tax funding and are typically cheaper, think $7,000-9,000 in tuition per year. A 4-year private college’s tuition will range between $21,000-40,000 in Nebraska. But don’t let the sticker price stop you from planning to go; many times financial aid can help cover significant costs.

So let’s sum up the differences:

2-year community college 4-year college or university
Career Options Explore your interested career path to find what type of education is needed!
Degree Types Associate’s degree, certificates, diplomas bachelor’s degree

master’s, doctoral degree

Cost $3,000-4,000 $7,000-9,000 (public)

$21,000-40,000 (private)

What’s the next step? Figure out your career path. Then search for colleges that offer it. Good luck!

By Kristin Ageton