For the most part, the days of landing a well-paying job straight
out of high school without a four-year degree are gone. But good
jobs with growth potential without are still available without the time and
expense of a four-year degree. How? Through certificate programs and applied
degrees, like an associates of applied sciences degree (AAS).
degrees, like the AAS, means that students graduated prepared for immediate
entry-level employment in their field of study," says Alana J. Mauger, director
of communications for Montgomery Community College in Pennsylvania.
degrees meet the basic general education core requirements - math, English,
history, science and others depending on the field - of an accredited institution,
but they may not incorporated humanities and liberal arts courses that are
often part of traditional four-year degrees."
Mauger says health care
and advanced manufacturing are just two industries with plenty of careers
that don't require a university education.
"The biggest difference
with us [compared to four-year schools] is we're faster and more hands-on.
Students jump right into their chosen career path immediately," says Dusten
Carlson, marketing coordinator for Rockford Career College in Illinois. "It's
education on purpose. People come with a set goal in mind and they achieve
Rockford Career College, which was founded in 1862, is accredited
by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, and has articulation
agreements with several four-year schools, meaning students' credits will
transfer. Articulation agreements are fairly standard at community colleges,
but not all vocational schools or career colleges are accredited or have articulation
agreements. It's an important detail if you think you might want to continue
your education later on.
"Our associate graduates can go on and do
a fairly fast bachelor's degree," says Ann Stites, director of career services
at Rockford Career College.
Students can start with certificate programs
and "ladder" additional skills and credentials as they advance their career.
Stites says certified nurse assistant students often return for a 10-week
phlebotomy course, and perhaps get certified as patient care technicians.
they'll come back and do an associate's program to become a medical assistant.
Because they've completed the phlebotomy and other components, they can fast
track their degree." Likewise, a vet tech might decide to work their way
through veterinary school, or a paralegal may want to enroll in law school.
"Certificates provide a specific job-ready skill," Mauger says."Certificates
are also a good tool when someone wants to gain additional skills and credentials
that may help them advance on the job."
She notes an alumna who earned
an AAS in dental hygiene who is about to become a dentist. Employers often
pay some or all educational costs of workers pursuing certificates or additional
degrees that help them better perform their jobs.
Stites says a medical
assistant has numerous career options, including patient care, medical records
management and working as a lab assistant. "They don't just have to be a medical
assistant in a doctor's office," she says.
"There are many rewarding
careers that require only a certificate or an associate's degree," Mauger
A few other positions requiring a two-year degree or certification
- Radiologic Technician
- Surgical Technologist
- Medical Assistant
- Medical Laboratory Technician
- Dental Hygienist
- Medical Billing and Coding
- Automotive Technology
- Office Administration
- Digital Broadcasting
- Sound Recording and Music Technology
- Veterinary Technician
- Massage Therapist
- Information Technology
- Pharmacy Technician
"Many AAS programs require students pass industry certification and
licensing exams prior to graduating," Mauger says.
Employers are actively
looking for qualified applicants. Stites and Carson say veterinary technicians
and massage therapists are in especially high demand in their area.
no shortage of employers beating down our doors asking for our graduates,"
Carlson says. "But that's a good problem to have."
These types of
programs are for students who know what they want to do, and who want to get
a job as quickly as possible. While that often means students in their 20s
and early 30s, that's not always the case.
Stites recently spoke with
a 17-year-old student who told her that at age 15 she'd planned to graduate
high school early, enroll at the career college and be gainfully employed
in her chosen field by age 19. "And she's right on track," Stites says.
high school graduates and GED holders can still find work, Mauger points to
an impact report from the American Association of Community Colleges that
highlights the monetary value of a two-year degree.
with an associate's degree will earn $10,700 more annually at his or her career
midpoint than someone without a degree, and will earn $470,800 more over his
or her lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma."
her school, Mauger says the average student's return on their investment is
$6 for every $1 invested in their education.