Nearly 9 million people (about half the population of New York) are enrolled in community colleges, but only one-third of those who enter will complete an associate degree within three years. However, earning an associate degree can improve employment outcomes and boost lifetime earnings, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. We know that about 4 of every 10 people who earn two-year degrees go on to earn bachelor’s degrees, and they do so at significantly lower costs than entering four-year programs directly because many prerequisites of a four-year program have been satisfied. The progression from an associate to a bachelor’s degree is not always straightforward, but community colleges offer undeniable opportunities.
Two-year programs create a bridge into the college world. Many students come to college fresh out of high school without a clear idea of what they would like to do and find that associate-level programs are a way to explore their options. Many other students are older, with some college or work experience along with family obligations.
High-paying two-year programs at community colleges can vary significantly depending on location. For example, students in the Los Angeles area might find excellent career-oriented programs in the health sciences, including nursing, medical laboratory technology, and medical office management. Along the East Coast, dental hygiene, engineering technology, and hospitality management programs are popular. Finally, automotive collision and repair programs, turf management, and paramedic training are offered at community colleges throughout the United States. With the right combination of knowledge and skills, associate degrees can give students the springboard they need to achieve their goals.