Any degree-granting institution that is dedicated to research and education is generally considered an academic institution. Such institutions range from primary and secondary schools to post-secondary schools such as colleges and universities, and they are generally populated with a body of faculty who guide students through research and degree acquisition. An academic institution can provide a broad education of a variety of subjects or be subject-specific and cater to only one field of study.
The first academic institution a child will attend is the primary school, at which basic concepts such as reading and introductory mathematics are taught. Primary schools, also known as elementary schools, can be broken down by grades; for example, in the United States, many primary schools run from kindergarten to sixth grade, or from kindergarten to eighth grade. Schools that run from kindergarten to sixth grade generally funnel the graduates into a middle school, which encompasses seventh and eighth grades, as well as sometimes ninth grade.
Secondary schools are the next level of academic institution that students will enter. This is most commonly known as high school, as the grades included in this level are ninth through twelfth. While the grade levels included in this category range from country to country, a student usually enters this academic institution between eleven and fifteen years old. The curriculum at the secondary level picks up where the primary level leaves off, and it is usually considered the last stage of compulsory education.
Post-secondary schools include community colleges, colleges, universities, and specialized schools such as law school or medical school. Many students do not attend this type of academic institution after their compulsory education is finished, either because it is too expensive or because the student has chosen to finish schooling and join the workforce. Those who do attend such institutions often seek out financial aid in the form of loans, grants, or scholarships. Community colleges are generally less expensive and offer a more versatile class schedule to cater to part-time students who may otherwise be working day jobs.
Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctorate degrees can all be attained at the post-secondary level. These degrees generally require a rigorous course of study, as well as substantial amounts of research, particularly when working toward a master's Degree or PhD. Technical schools are two-year institutions that train students for specialized jobs in a variety of fields, from labor jobs to office positions.