10 Colleges That Teach Real Life Skills

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: February 9, 2024, Reading time: 16 minutes

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Many high school students are at a crossroads when confronted with their future. Should you earn a traditional degree or go for programs that will equip you with practical, lifelong skills? Thankfully, certain colleges offer programs that teach real-life skills that are integral to your success beyond the classroom!

A variety of factors affect the usefulness of life skills, often depending on one’s circumstances, beliefs, age, geographic location, and culture. They may also be relevant in different stages of your life, and not just in your college life.

While it is not often required to learn life skills at school, there are many colleges and universities in the country that teach college students important life skills. It is even possible to earn a college education that focuses on practical and critical skills!

Colleges That Teach Real Life Skills

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The 10 Best Colleges That Offer Real Life Skills Courses

Life skills courses come in handy when you try to deal with life’s challenges. The value of each skill may also vary depending on one’s unique circumstances.

Are you on the hunt for colleges that teach real-life skills? Start your school search right here! Featuring specific skills like finance, communication, language, leadership, management, and everything in between, our list is all about giving you formal education that can scale up your skills into high-paying careers!

University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin–Madison
Madison, Wisconsin

Personal Finance

The University of Wisconsin is home to the School of Human Ecology (SoHE) where faculty and advisors work with students in preparing the latter for careers that enhance one’s quality of life.

This school offers various majors that focus on equipping college students with practical skills leading to exciting professions, including sociology, economics, marketing, psychology, and personal finance.

Under the Department of Consumer Science, two undergraduate degree programs that focus on the economic well-being of consumers and society are offered.

At the end of the program, college graduates should be able to attain a solid foundation through various opportunities beyond classroom learning. They obtain important interpersonal skills by joining student organizations and internships and maintaining active local community involvement.

Bachelor of Science in Personal Finance

Personal Finance has become an increasingly important real-life skill in this modern day and age. The Department of Consumer Science offers a Bachelor of Science in Personal Finance. This degree program teaches students to look at economics from the perspective of the ordinary individual.

In this program, college students learn to become financial experts in their own right, with the ability to keep their personal finances intact. You can expect to pursue careers in various in-demand fields, including financial technology, consumer behavior, and financial product development.

The University of Tampa

The University of Tampa
Tampa, Florida

Communication and Speech Studies

The Department of Communication – University of Tampa is a good choice for students who want to acquire a strong educational foundation in a truly dynamic field of media and arts. This includes television and radio, journalism, video production, advertising and public relations, and intercultural communication, among many others.

As real-life skills, communication and public speaking are important to understand the way humans connect and communicate in various settings, whether in digital, personal, or professional relationships, corporate, healthcare settings, and other organizational contexts. 

In the communication programs, you will get the opportunity to enhance both your professional life and academic abilities, all of which are integral to fostering change, negotiating conflict, and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

Bachelor of Arts in Communication & Speech Studies and Bachelor of Science in Personal Finance

This degree program equips college students with the necessary skills to develop their communication and critical thinking capabilities. This is where they learn to examine communicative events and apply persuasive strategies.

They will cover relevant college courses such as oral communication, public messages and technology, communication and law, freedom of speech and First Amendment studies, and many more. At the end of the program, you are expected to develop effective persuasion and presentation skills to help in the delivery of articulate arguments.

Culinary Institute of America

Culinary Institute of America
Hyde Park, New York

Culinary Science

For those who want to master the world of food, the Culinary Institute of America offers various degree programs designed to expand your career options and elevate your skills in the fields of culinary, food business, and sustainable food systems, among others.

Recognizing the vital role food plays in societies, this educational institution provides a strong foundation for college students preparing for meaningful careers in the food and hospitality industry.

The culinary program emphasizes building hands-on skills that allow you to innovate in the kitchen while having the opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills to encompass leadership, teamwork, and entrepreneurial expertise. Most of the college courses in the program are immersive and collaborative.

Bachelor in Culinary Science

This program focuses on helping you discover the way food impacts the senses, develop new products, and apply scientific methods in the kitchen. You will be able to develop a deeper understanding of the science behind food and beverages, which are essential in creating creative, delicious, and consistent culinary experiences.

You are expected to apply sensory evaluation techniques to cultivate your skills and knowledge of the functionality and positive impact of ingredients. Plus, this program gives you the chance to gain real-world experience through joining a paid internship for one semester at one of the institution’s food industry partners.

Columbia University

Columbia University - School of Professional Studies
New York, New York

Conflict Resolution

Boasting a rich heritage in conflict resolution theory, Columbia University is considered a leader in the discipline. As one of the most important real-life skills, conflict resolution can be applied in a variety of fields, including education, healthcare, law, business, and economics. The school allows students to learn from premier scholar-practitioners when it comes to negotiation and conflict resolution.

It is important to gain a better and deeper understanding of the root causes and dynamics of conflict as this will allow you to work through disputes with reasoned and resourceful negotiation skills. This is the type of training that Columbia University provides.

Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

This graduate degree program aims to equip you with skills integral to resolving conflicts. This includes courses focusing on tenacity, interpersonal competency, opening lines of communication, and developing self-awareness, among others. You can expect flexible program options as it is designed to meet the needs of working professionals.

The program allows you to choose among core areas of study, including conflict resolution within and between organizations and international development and peacebuilding.

Franklin University

Franklin University
Columbus, Ohio

Management and Leadership

Delegating tasks and meeting deadlines are just some of the core qualities of good managers and leaders. Franklin University seeks to help effective leaders develop a vision that empowers young people, which is integral to improving productivity, increasing profitability, and raising employee satisfaction.

There is great emphasis placed on honing your leadership skills and abilities. This is done through the assessment and evaluation of various leadership styles and the creation of career development plans. You will learn to apply a state-of-the-art leadership framework integral to the success of the workforce.

Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership

Offered under the Ross College of Business, the management and leadership program equips you with the necessary skills to lead your organization to the next level.

The program’s rigorous curriculum focuses on combining leadership, organizational culture and performance, change management, and strategic execution. Hands-on experience is a top priority in this degree through the completion of project case studies and capstone assignments. 

Augusta Technical School

Augusta Technical School
Augusta, Georgia

Automotive Technology

One of the most necessary practical skills is knowing how to do basic car maintenance, with us being a car-reliant society. According to Statista, there were 275.9 million registered vehicles in the country in the year 2020.

All these will require some form of car maintenance or repair sooner or later, and skills in auto maintenance can be a good and fulfilling income source, aside from a handy skill.

Through its School of Aviation, Industrial and Engineering Technology, the Augusta Technical School offers a range of programs related to the automotive service and repair industry.

Augusta Tech also offers several Technical Certificate of Credit programs that deal with specific vehicle systems and/or types including Automotive Chassis Technician Specialists and Automotive Climate Control Technicians, among others.

Diploma in Automotive Technology

The Diploma in Automotive Technology is a 55-credit program that prepares students for positions in dealerships, fleet repair services, and independent service providers, or to forge ahead as self-employed auto mechanics. The program covers both theory and practical application and also includes Basic Computer Literacy.

As part of soft skills, Interpersonal Relations and Professional Development is a separate core course. Should students pursue credentialing once they complete the course, they are entitled to participate in ASE Certification (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence).

University of California Davis

University of California Davis
Davis, California

Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems

UC Davis is a leading institution when it comes to agriculture and offers a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems. The negative impacts on the environment of decades of our conventional farming practices and systems are being felt, and it is acknowledged that our food supplies can be put into jeopardy at any time.

This degree program takes a sustainability lens to approach the technological, economic, social, and policy aspects of our food production systems.

Alternatively, UC Davis also offers a BS in Agricultural and Environmental Education and a BS in Animal Science & Management. UC Davis is widely known as one of the best universities in the country that offers an agriculture degree, and in fact, ranks #7 nationally in US News/ best universities for the Agricultural Sciences.

BS in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems

The degree is interdisciplinary, preparing students to gain a systems-level understanding of our agricultural and food systems, and emphasizing addressing issues of sustainability. The degree emphasizes experiential learning, and students get to choose between three tracks within the program: Agriculture & Ecology, Food & Society, and Economics and Policy.

The degree program features both on- and off-campus fieldwork, as well as internship placements. The degree program has a total of 135-158 units depending on the student’s chosen track.

UC Berkeley Extension

UC Berkeley Extension
Berkeley, California

Paralegal Studies

It is an important life skill to have at least a basic grasp of our country’s laws. After all, all the activities we do as members of our society are governed by one or more laws. Short of taking the path of being a full-blown lawyer, you can take the skill of legal knowledge further by training to become a paralegal.

Paralegals work in supporting roles to attorneys and law firms. Many colleges and universities offer paralegal training as certificate programs, with some available online. UC Berkeley Extension’s Paralegal Certificate is fully online and equips you to gain a paralegal job in any state.

Paralegal Studies, Certificate Program

The Paralegal Studies certificate is available only online. The Certificate Program includes teaching you how to do legal research, organize case files, communicate with clients, and more.

The program has 3 required courses and 3 electives that make up a total of 8-semester units (360 hours of instruction) and can be earned in 6-18 months. Interestingly, 90% of surveyed graduates were able to put lessons learned into their work in less than 6 months. Also, 82% of surveyed graduates would recommend the certificate program.

Alfred State College

Alfred State College
Alfred, New York

Construction Management

The built world is an ever-changing landscape where real-estate developments and infrastructure improvements and maintenance works are an integral part and a common occurrence. Alfred State is one of the universities offering formal education for the essential real-life skills of building and construction.

It enjoys a very high employment and transfer rate of 99% in 2021 and tied for 10th in the US News Best Northern Regional Colleges school rankings in 2020.

Under its Building Traders Department, various programs integral to the building industry are offered, including masonry, heating, heavy equipment operations, ventilation and air conditioning, building construction, and masonry and heating.

These are essential for those who want to build rewarding careers in the construction industry. Part of the program offers minor courses that provide one with specialized skills.

Minor in Construction Management

Tackling the major components of contracts, estimating, scheduling, and project administration, the Minor in Construction Management requires the completion of 15 credit hours. You will be required to choose among several electives to hone your expertise when it comes to construction management. The latter must be approved by the department.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University
Washington, DC


We live in a highly interconnected and globalized multicultural world, where exposure to a foreign culture and that culture’s language/s is a daily occurrence for many of us. In our globalized world, knowing a language opens doors not just to more opportunities for employment and career advancement, but to cultural exchange and understanding as well.

Georgetown University offers a Major in Arabic that opens your eyes to the rich culture of the Middle East.

BA Major in Arabic

The AB program has a minimum requirement of 120 credit hours and a minimum of 38 courses. Of these, 36 credits are devoted to General College Requirements. The program covers not just the standard Arabic language but also features courses on Middle Eastern culture and history.

The degree also incorporates an integrated writing requirement. Arabic major students enrolled in Arabic language courses are required to take an oral proficiency test that lasts around 30 minutes.

The Importance of Learning Practical, Lifelong Skills

Most colleges and universities focus on academic excellence and often put practical, real-life skills in the backseat. While academic skills are vital to student development, many skills are indispensable when it comes to effectively dealing with the demands and obstacles of life.

Improves Your Mental Well-being

Most real-life skills have the power to instill an understanding of who one is and what one wants to get out of life. It gives them an interesting thing to focus on, beyond the rigor of academic pursuits.

They can sharpen their knowledge and expertise for practical purposes, allowing them to put their minds to something they are good at and can impact their lives beyond the workplace.

With real-life skills, you will be able to solve problems and build relationships. You can even perform practical demands like household repairs and auto maintenance. Not only that, but some of these skill sets can help you navigate the digital world, understand interest rates, and apply first aid.

Equips You with Financial Literacy

Money and economics will always be interlinked in one’s life. Not many schools are teaching students to effectively manage money, although it is one of the most crucial skills with lasting impact. Students need to learn to manage their credit cards, save money, balance their checkbooks, and file their taxes at the very least.

Teaches You to be Responsible and Accountable

You must be responsible for your actions and take responsibility for them instead of blaming others. Most real-life skills provide students with skills to cultivate a new way of thinking while sharpening their problem-solving skills. This helps you to learn how to take charge, lead the way and manage your own emotions, making you more responsible in the process.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Which One Do You Need?

Hard skills refer to the specific trade/job-related knowledge and abilities that a person needs to have and master to perform their job or profession effectively.

For an auto mechanic, an example would be knowing how to operate diagnostic software and replace parts, for a statistician, it would be knowing how to design a data-gathering tool and choose the right sampling design.

Soft skills, meanwhile, refer to the qualities that would help a person thrive in their workplace. As they form part of an individual’s personality, soft skills also apply beyond their school and professional lives and enable a person to be a well-rounded member of society.

Common examples would be emotional intelligence, self-confidence, stress management, teamwork skills, time management, and critical thinking.

Colleges That Teach Real Life Skills - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What are life skills? Why are they important?

Essentially, life skills are a set of competencies that allow you to make big decisions, communicate with others, and help yourself succeed. This may encompass money management, conflict negotiation, project management, time management, or even culinary arts. They play an important role in life beyond the classroom. With real-life skills, you will be able to navigate through the hurdles and challenges of life.

Should life skills be mandatory in college?

Currently, life skills are not required in higher education. While not all life skills could be relevant to one’s life, it is still worth looking into equipping first-year students with a set of practical skills that can prepare students for life after school, even if it is something as simple as understanding health insurance or doing proper stress management. These skills are important in adult life.

Do you need to earn a degree to learn real-life skills?

The simple answer is no. Real-life skills do not have to be learned through formal education. Many of these can be learned through enrolling in short-term courses or even on the job. A lot of real-life skills can be acquired by self-studying.

That said, a degree that teaches real-life skills is undoubtedly more systematic, comprehensive, and hands-on. The skills you learn become useful for pursuing a high-paying and fulfilling career.

What are the career prospects for those who completed real-life skills programs?

It depends. Many trades-related certificate programs guarantee at least entry-level positions in college graduates’ chosen industry once they graduate, and the chance to achieve certification.

Depending on a student, they can then use these as springboards to start their career as industry professionals if they pursue further education. Still, others use the specific skills they learn to strike out as self-employed service providers, and eventually for others, industry consultants.

Is earning a program that teaches real life skills worth it?

Generally yes! Technical trades like construction and auto repair teach students hard skills that they can surprisingly apply to other aspects of their adult life outside of their job and are a handy addition to your practical skillset.

Still, a lot of these degrees are certificate-level programs that are taught by a large number of institutions and require less time to complete, and do not have the typically prohibitive cost associated with a full 4-year Bachelor’s Degree.

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