Further Education in the US

How to continue your studies after school

Further education generally refers to education undertaken by adults of all ages after leaving full-time study, often after years or even decades of intervening occupation. It doesn’t include degree courses taken at college or university directly after leaving high school, which come under higher education.

It also excludes short day and evening classes, e.g. those held at community colleges and usually termed ‘continuing education’ (although there’s often a fine distinction between further and continuing education). Further education includes everything from basic reading and writing skills for the illiterate to full-time professional and doctorate degrees at university. On many university campuses, more students are enrolled in further education courses than in regular degree programmes.

Often adult education students don’t need to be high school or college graduates or take any tests or interviews, and they’re generally admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. A high school diploma is required for some courses, although General Educational Development (GED) tests allow students to earn a high school equivalency diploma (also called the Graduation Equivalency Diploma).

This is important to those wishing to continue their education in college or in career-oriented programmes. There are a number of books detailing how to pass the GED, many of which include a mock test that can be taken before the exam. To make courses available to the widest possible number of people, course and tuition fees are kept to a minimum, and retirement age students and the unemployed may receive a discount. Recent innovations, including Learning Anytime Anywhere partnerships between colleges and businesses, in order to promote distance learning, and Community Technology Centers, which are being established in rural and ‘economically distressed’ areas, are helping to increase access to further education.

Adult education courses may be full or part-time and are provided by two and four-year colleges, universities, community colleges, technical schools, trade schools, business and technical schools, and elementary and high schools. Courses are also provided by private community organisations, government agencies, job training centres, labour and professional organisations, private tutors and instructors, business and industry, industrial training programmes, museums, clubs, private organisations and institutes, correspondence course schools, and educational TV programmes. More and more adult education programmes are becoming available on the internet, including courses which offer university or continuing education credits for completion.

Over 4,000 trade schools provide training for 130 occupations from aviation mechanic to X-ray technician. However, you should avoid schools that aren’t state-licensed and nationally or regionally accredited by an agency approved by the US Department of Education. Many colleges, such as community colleges, offer a comprehensive range of continuing and professional education classes. Many further education courses are of the open learning variety, where students study mostly at home. Correspondence colleges, most of which are private commercial organisations, offer literally hundreds of academic, professional and vocational courses, and enrol many thousands of students annually.

Each year millions of students attend further education courses at universities alone, many of which are of short duration and job-related, and scheduled in the evenings, at weekends and during the summer break. Lecturers may be full or part-time faculty members or professionals practising in the fields in which they lecture. Students generally aren’t required to take a minimum number of courses per term or to take courses in succeeding terms. You can register in a formal vocational programme or simply take a course for pleasure.

The most popular fields in further education are business administration and management, education, engineering, health professions, fine and applied arts, physical education, language, literature, religion and psychology. The federal government underwrites the cost of basic further education, so that older students (particularly members of minority groups) can go back to school for the rudiments of an education they failed to get as children, including reading, writing, maths, history and geography.

Further education also gives students the opportunity to complete their high school studies, which in some cities can be undertaken in Spanish and other languages. Many cities and states offer career, vocational and continuing education programmes in public schools, including English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

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