The difference between the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA



So, you know you want to compete at the college level, but do you know what division level best fits your interest, talent and expectations? It’s important to consider all division levels available during your college search. Below is a breakdown of the different division levels from the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA:

NCAA Division I
Division 1 programs recruit top talent, making it the most competitive division level in college sports, not just in the NCAA, but across all governing bodies. Perks of Division 1 programs include large budgets, full-ride scholarships, expensive facilities, and the opportunity to train and travel with other top tier athletes.

Currently, there are 286 NCAA D1 softball colleges across the country, with opportunities in nearly every U.S. state. Of all the Division 1 women’s college softball programs, which best meet your family’s athletic, academic, social and financial needs? See a list of top college softball programs here.

NCAA Division II
Division 2 programs are still highly competitive, but athletes are provided more balance in their lives, as training and competition aren’t as intense. Scholarships are also offered at this level, generally as a mix of full-ride and partial scholarships.

At the Division 2 level, there are more than 150 women’s college softball programs to choose from. To find out which programs meet your family’s athletic, academic, social and financial needs, check out this list of top college softball programs here.

NCAA Division III
Student-athletes often overlook Division 3 programs at the start of the recruiting process because they don’t receive the same recognition as Division 1 and 2 programs. What athletes don’t realize is they can still expect high competition levels, but practice seasons are shorter, and there’s more of an academic focus. One main difference at the Division 3 level is athletes can’t earn an athletic scholarship. Instead, Division 3 institutions offer many other forms of financial aid, merit, need-based or academic scholarships.

With more than 400 D3 women’s softball programs in the NCAA, it’s easy to overlook a school that might be your perfect fit. Here’s a list of the top Division 3 women’s college softball programs.


If you’re looking to compete at a smaller or private college, the NAIA might be a better option for you. A much smaller community than the NCAA—with a little over 250 schools—the NAIA is a great alternative that still allows athletes to compete at the next level for an athletic scholarship.

There are 195 NAIA softball college program. That’s 195 rosters that need talented softball players. Check out this list of top NAIA women’s college softball programs.

Junior college (JUCO) are two-year institution that give student-athlete a look into college athletics are like before transferring to a four-year college. It’s very common for student-athletes to compete at the JUCO level as they work on their NCAA eligibility or are trying to save money. Junior colleges can—and do—offer scholarships depending on the school and how well funded the program is.

With more than 500 junior college softball programs, the opportunities are almost endless. See a list of top NAIA college softball programs here.