Veterans Wisconsin Education Portal

Understanding Higher Education

What types of public higher education institutions are available?

When making plans for your education, it is helpful to understand the differences among the multiple types of institutions of higher learning.

Locations of Wisconsin public higher education institutions.

What is a technical college?

A technical college offers programs that train students for a variety of technical career paths such as nursing, law enforcement, graphic design, or diesel mechanic, to name just a few. The programs vary in length and can confer short-term certificates, one-and two-year technical diplomas, and applied associate degrees. Some technical colleges also offer a liberal arts transfer degree that confers an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science Degree. Course transferability varies depending on whether a course is part of liberal arts college transfer program, applied associate degree program, or technical diploma program. In Wisconsin, public technical education is provided by the Wisconsin Technical College System.

What is a freshman/sophomore campus?

A freshman/sophomore campus provides the first two years of a liberal arts general education to enable students to receive an associate of arts and science degree and transfer into a baccalaureate degree program. Within the University of Wisconsin System, the thirteen UW Colleges campuses offer this degree.

What is a university?

A university is an institution for higher learning that grants academic degrees in a variety of disciplines and fields. Usually a university offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and professional degrees. A university is usually composed of a number of schools and colleges (College of Letters and Science, School of Business, etc.). The University of Wisconsin System includes public universities located across the state.

What is distance learning education?

Distance learning offers an alternative to the traditional on-campus classroom experience. Programs are designed to allow students to complete certificate, associate, bachelor, or graduate degrees through an online format. Some programs consist of assignments and exams that may be completed at your own pace, and some are offered  on a semester basis. University of Wisconsin institutions offer many distance learning opportunities, as does the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Types of Degrees

Associate Degree

An associate degree is awarded upon the completion of an academic program requiring approximately 60 credits (usually two years) of full-time preparation. Associate degrees are awarded by all of the freshman/sophomore UW Colleges, a number of the UW other institutions, and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges. There are different types of associate degrees. The Wisconsin Technical College System offers applied associate degrees in specific career programs. UW Colleges and serveral Wisconsin Technical Colleges offer associate of arts and science degrees that enable transfer into a bachelor's degree program.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is awarded upon the completion of an academic program requiring at least 120 credits (usually four years) of full-time preparation.

There are hundreds of possible majors at the University of Wisconsin institutions that confer a baccalaureate degree. You can learn what majors are offered at which University of Wisconsin institutions by searching MajorMania, or you can access all University of Wisconsin catalogs that list and explain all course and program offerings.

All four-year UW campuses offer degree programs that can be completed in four years.Several of these campuses provide pathway information showing the courses that you should take each semester. 

For information about admission requirements and how to apply to a University of Wisconsin institution, contact the Admission Office of the campus that interests you.

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