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As it turns out, you do not need a four-year degree to land your dream job, a community college is another option. Community colleges were widely known as junior colleges, but over time, that tag has slowly faded. For many years, community colleges have been playing a crucial role in preparing students for the job market.

Today, there are more than a thousand community colleges in the United States, offering a wide range of certificates and degrees that prepare students for their first entry-level job. Moreover, community colleges can also be a pathway into the four-year university for those who want to continue with their education.

What Is a Community College?

This is a higher education institution that offers a 2-year program that can lead to an associate degree. Other programs in a community college may include occupational programs (usually one and two-year study) and a transfer program towards a traditional university degree.

Community colleges became popular at the beginning of the 20th century to help young adults realize their educational dream. Traditional education is not enough you need vocational training, a 2-year degree, or a 4-year degree.

What Is the Difference Between a 2-year and 4-year Degree?

Community college serves the community in which it is located and offers associate degrees which usually only take 2-years if going full-time.

A 4-year college or university will offer students a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Two-year community college is also less expensive compared to the four-year degree program.

The average cost of a typical community college curriculum is around $3,000 to $4,000 annually. Looking at a four-year degree program the cost is around  $7,000 to $9,000 (public) and $21,000 to $40,000 (private).

The selection process for admission also varies between two-year and four-year programs.

Community colleges normally have much more open admission rules compared to four-year programs, which have a more restrictive enrollment policy.

Pros and Cons of going to community college

Pros of Community College

i) Cost

One of the most compelling reasons people go to community college is the affordable cost of tuition. Most of these colleges cost a few thousand dollars per semester.

You compare that cost to going to a public university or private college and the savings are huge. There are many ways to reduce the cost of college tuition.

ii) Small Classes

Most of the community college classes tend to have around 25-35 students, which makes it easier for professors to interact and know their students. Students will find their instructors very accessible and can easily approach them when help is needed on coursework.

iii) Qualified Professors

Some of the professors in the 2-year community college tend to be fresh out of their master’s program while others are seasoned academics with an impressive teaching track record.

Cons of Community College

i) Light Workload

The workload in a 2-year community college can be somewhat lighter compared to a state university.

ii) Limited Curriculum

Because a community college is a 2-year program, expect to find a limited curriculum. If you intend to obtain a 4-year degree, you will have to transfer to a different university once you are done with your two-year program.

iii) Degrees You Can Get Are Limited

You will be limited to the degrees you can get at a community college. We discuss some of the top-paying 2-year degrees in the next section.

Is a Community College Degree Worth It?

Yes, going to community college is worth it. There are reasons why you may decide to enroll in a community college, including lack of funds, time, or any other factors.

The best thing about enrolling in a 2-year degree is that you have a chance to go get a 4-year degree if you like.

Additionally, a 2-year degree will get you out of school faster and into the job market compared to a 4-year degree program. You can start making money then later you can enroll part-time to get a 4-year degree.

College Students

What Are the Best Community College Degrees?

A community college degree can help you land a job quickly or advance your studies in getting a 4-year college degree.

Let us now look at the degrees offered in community colleges and classes you must take as well as the job market projection, average pay, and what it entails.

1. Registered Nurse – Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

This 2-year degree program allows you to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). Once you have graduated from this program, you are eligible for the NCLEX-RN exams which you must pass to become licensed by the state.

The classes include:

  • English.
  • Chemistry.
  • Statistics.
  • Communications.
  • Psychology.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nursing is expected to grow by 11%.

In general, a registered nurse is supposed to monitor, record, and report the symptoms or any changes in the conditions of a patient.

The average salary of a registered nurse is $47,480 plus.

2. Respiratory Therapist

The demand for a respiratory therapist has been growing higher and higher, meaning job stability is not an issue.

Moreover, the opportunity to help other people and make a lasting and significant change in their lives means you get much more satisfaction out of your occupation than just the salary.

The classes include:

  • Cardiac Anatomy and physiology.
  • Emergency care.
  • Pulmonary anatomy and physiology.
  • Critical care techniques.
  • Cardiopulmonary diseases

The roles you will be undertaking as a respiratory therapist include handling of life support mechanical ventilation systems and administering aerosol-based medications.

The average salary of a respiratory therapist is $60,000.

3. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists offer preventive oral care under the supervision of a dentist. They usually clean the teeth and examine the mouth for any signs of gingivitis, damage, as well as other dental diseases.

The classes include:

  • Mathematics.
  • Chemistry.
  • Speech.
  • Psychology.
  • Biology.

Dental hygienists’ employment is expected to grow by 11% by 2028, which is much faster compared to an average of all the other job titles.

A dental hygienist performs such tasks as applying preventive materials to the patient’s teeth and teaching patients how to take care of their oral health.

The average salary of a dental hygienist is $75,000.

4. Medical Lab Technologist

A medical lab technologist performs intricate tests that enable other healthcare professionals like physicians to spot, diagnose, and treat illnesses.

The classes include:

  • Chemistry.
  • Basic lab procedures.
  • Microbiology.
  • Hematology.
  • Microbiology.
  • Bacteriology.

Medical lab technologist growth is expected to be 18%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

The main duties of a medical lab technician are to gather samples and run tests.

The average salary of a lab technician is $53,000

5. Occupational Therapist Assistant

An occupational therapy assistant works closely under the supervision of an occupational therapist to treat patients with challenges performing day-to-day routine activities due to injuries, illnesses, or disabilities.

He or she helps a patient perform a specialized exercise for treatment plans as well as teach them how to use tools that may make these activities easier.

The classes include:

  • Psychology.
  • Anatomy and physiology.
  • Medical terminology.
  • Gerontology.
  • Rehabilitation theory.

Occupational therapy assistant jobs are in demand and the growth rate is projected to be 33%.

An average salary of an occupational therapy assistant is $59,310.

6. Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistant works under the direction of a physical therapist to provide physical therapy services. They work with patients helping them with their physical therapy exercises.

The classes include:

  • Biomechanics.
  • Anatomy and physiology.
  • Exercise physiology.
  • Neuroscience.

Physical therapy assistant employment is expected to grow much faster than average due to an increase in demand for physical therapy services.

An average salary of PTA is $58,200

7. Cardiovascular Technologist

A cardiovascular technologist or vascular technologist is a health officer who diagnoses cardiovascular issues. They usually use medical imaging techniques such as ultrasound to diagnose vascular problems, heart conditions, or other conditions that lead to heart diseases.

The classes include:

  • Invasive cardiovascular technology.
  • Cardiac electrophysiology.
  •  Adult echocardiography.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job is expected to grow by 14%.

An average salary of a cardiovascular technologist is $68,750.

8. MRI Technologist

MRI technologist works with magnetic resonance imaging scanners. This job involves injecting patients with contrast dyes for the images to show up on the scanner.

The classes include:

  • Physiology.
  • Anatomy.
  • Pathology.
  • Patient care.

This career is expected to grow by 9% by 2028, which is faster than average.

The average salary is $70,420

9. Radiation Therapist

A radiation therapist helps treat cancer as well as other illnesses by administering radiation treatments. He or she can work in hospitals, outpatient centers, or offices of physicians.

The classes include:

  • Physics.
  • Physiology.
  • Algebra computer science.
  • Human anatomy.
  • Research methodology.

The radiation therapist job market is expected to grow by 14% by 2028.

The average salary of a radiation therapist is $82,330.

10. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

The diagnostic medical sonographer will use specialized equipment to produce images used for assessing and diagnosing several medical conditions.

His or her responsibilities include taking the history of a patient, analyzing technical information, and generating images with the use of sonographic equipment.

The classes include:

  • College physics.
  • Algebra.
  • Biology.
  • Physiology.
  • Anatomy.
  • Chemistry.

There is a high demand for sonographers, with employment in this field expected to grow by 14% by 2026.

The average salary of a diagnostic medical sonographer is $72,510.

11. Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians help veterinarians in diagnosing and treating animals. Their jobs include testing urine, blood, stool, and other body fluid samples as well as administering drugs and vaccines.

The classes include:

  • Biochemistry.
  • Animal nursing care.
  • Anesthesia training.
  • Vet pathology.
  • Animal diseases.
  • Pharmaceutical training.

The demand for a veterinary technician is expected to increase by 19%.

The average salary of a veterinary technician is $32,565.

12. Nuclear Medicine Technologist

A nuclear medicine technologist is a professional that looks at how the human body functions so that they can help diagnose and treat various illnesses.

The technologist usually combines imaging, chemistry, patient care, physics, mathematics as well as comp tech and medicine.

Nuclear medicine technologists usually prepare and administer small quantities of radioactive substances known as radiopharmaceuticals to patients for treatment.

The classes include:

  • Chemistry.
  • Computer tech.
  • Biology.
  • Physics.
  • Mathematics.

The future of nuclear medicine technology seems bright as the demand is expected to grow by 7% by 2028.

The average salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is $76,820.

13. Avionics Mechanic

An avionic mechanic is responsible for all the electronics on an aircraft and the wiring that links to the electrical system. He or she troubleshoots or installs intricate electrical systems.

The classes include:

  • Aeronautics.
  • Brazing.
  • Electronics schematics.
  • Aviation meteorology.

The growth for avionics mechanics is expected to grow by 3% by 2028.

The average salary for this occupation is $55,085.

14. Electrical Engineering Technician

An electrical engineering technician focuses on installing and maintaining electrical control systems and tools and modifies electrical prototypes, assemblies, and parts to fix a problem.

The classes include:

  • Circuits and electronics.
  • Circuit theory.
  • Chaos, fractals, and dynamical systems.
  • Basic electrical technology.

The growth in electrical engineering is expected to be just 2%.

An average salary of an electrical engineering technician is $64,330.

15. Paralegal

A paralegal is a person who is trained in subsidiary legal matters but is not fully qualified to become a lawyer. He or she conducts legal research, locate and interview key witnesses, and draft legal documents and pleadings.

The classes include:

  • General practice law.
  • Comp writing.
  • Legal research.
  • Administrative law.
  • Dispute resolution.
  • Litigation.

Paralegal employment is expected to grow by 12% as of 2028.

The average salary of a paralegal is $42,264.

16. Web Developer

A web developer is responsible for writing web design programs in various computer languages to come up with the layout of a website.

Classes include:

  • Web development classes.
  • Database learning.
  • Programming PHP, Java, Etc.
  • Visual basic.

Web development is expected to grow by 13% to 2028.

An average salary of a web developer is $73,000.

What Is the Cost Savings to Go to a Community College Compared to a 4-year College?

Going to a community college will help you save a lot compared to joining a 4-year college. You can save up to $30,000 or more by enrolling at a community college rather than going to a 4-year college.

Should I Go to Community College Then Transfer to a 4-year College?

This is a great way to save money. You can go to a community college first and then transfer to a 4-year university or college for the final 2 years.

This way, you can land a job after completing the 2-year program and fund your final 2 years of your 4-year degree.

You will need to make sure that your credits can transfer to the 4-year program from the community college you are attending.

Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons why you should enroll in a community college to get an associate degree. The most obvious reason is that a 2-year community college is less expensive and can get you into a well-paying job in 2 years.

The degrees offered at a community college can help your land a high paying job quickly in fields that are growing. You will not go wrong with picking a community college to go to for your first two years no matter the degree you are pursuing.

Written By
Derek Carter is the founder of PathIntoCollege a website that helps high school students transition to college. He contributes articles about how to get into college and what career paths college students should look at during college. His articles are published on many different educational and career websites. Learn more about getting into college or college careers visit his website at PathIntoCollege.com

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