College vs. University

written by Joanne Spaninnga printed in November 5, 2004


Which choice is best for you?

Let’s face it. There’s a certain prestige surrounding the fact that you are going away to university, than say, your local college. But don’t let the little things cloud your judgment when making one of the most important decisions of your life.


When thinking about post secondary education, you must consider the differences between career/community colleges and universities. A university education offers many broad opportunities and provides security whereas colleges offer specifically targeted programs which can be completed quickly and are easier to budget for. The deciding factor between university and college should ultimately be a matter of your personality and character.

Finance does come into play when deciding where to go to school. The duration of a university education is a minimum of four years in an honours program, and while this time is often spent gaining infinite knowledge, it is also spent incurring debt. A career college education can be completed from anywhere between eight months to two years, so any accrued debt is minimal. Statistics Canada says the cost of a two year college diploma is around $21,000 and that a four year university degree costs about $55,000. But what you invest may pay off later-Stats Canada also says that the average income per year for someone with a university degree is $48,648 whereas with a college diploma you’ll be earning about $32,736.

A university degree comes attached with a measure of security. It is a prerequisite for many professions. In some fields, like the medical, legal and business world, a bachelor’s degree must be earned before you move onto a more professional degree. Often, those who earn a university degree are firmly focused on one career for the duration of their employment future. While a university education may not give you the practical edge you need in the job market the academic programs encourage you to broaden your horizons and open your mind to new ideas and critical thinking.

A career college education may be a more practical choice. It also works like a university degree if you know exactly which profession to enter, like photography or esthetics – professions that require more practical training than academic learning. Other popular professions are freelance trade contractors and small business owners. A diploma from a career college may also be especially beneficial to those who intend to take over or work for a family business; they simply need to receive a background education quickly and cost efficiently.

University and career colleges attract two different types of people. There is no way to compare the two in terms of one or the other being the best. When you choose to continue with post secondary education, you must come to a decision about what you wish to achieve and how you wish to achieve it.