Can I Use Community College To Help Me Change Careers?
Our guide to using community colleges for changing careers. Get ahead in life and discover a world of opportunities.
You may sometimes feel like you are stuck in a career that is taking you nowhere fast. Or perhaps the current job is not that bad, but you feel you have the potential to achieve a lot more and you are simply not utilizing your abilities to the best.
Well, you are not alone. Many working people live an unhappy work life because they are either afraid of change or they simply don’t understand how to go about making that change.
If you find yourself amongst this group of frustrated individuals, then this is the perfect guide for you. The truth is that people have successfully used community colleges for changing careers to do something that makes them happier, more fulfilled, and gotten paid more in the process.
Read below as I will not only show you why changing a career is a good idea but I will also share a complete guide on how to go about it.
Looking to change careers?
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First things first - Is it is a good idea to change a career?
So, to start with, let me assure you it is very normal to feel that you are ready for a change. Most people get into their first few jobs simply out of necessity or availability and not because it is what they are really passionate about.
Marylou, the journalist who loved to bake
Fresh out of college, the only vacancy my friend Marylou could find for herself at the time was as a content writer. Three years later, she had become a full-time journalist and was actually very good at what she did.
But even then, every morning she would drag herself out of bed to go to work. Her heart was simply not into it. When I talked to her, I found out that she always dreamt of becoming a pastry chef instead. She loved baking and had a natural talent for it even though she had no training.
Marylou’s story has a happy ending because eventually, she found the courage to go back to college, study hard, change her career, and now runs her own home-based baking business. She is up early, loving life, and has a spring in her step every morning. Her entire life turned around with a simple career change.
Why do people change careers?
People change careers for many reasons. See if any of the below seem to hit home:
You want a more interesting job because the job you have right now is boring as hell!
The industry you work in is really stressful and it has started to affect your health.
You hate your boss… he/she is either always negative or incompetent and you want to look at other options.
You just want more money, man. Your current job is barely helping you make ends meet.
You are ambitious and your current line of work can simply not help you reach your career goals.
You find it increasingly difficult to maintain a work-life balance at your current position.
Your skills and natural abilities are not compatible with your current job.
You want to get out of the family business.
You want to move to a bigger city with more opportunities or perhaps to a smaller, more peaceful town.
You got laid off because the company you worked for shut down, got merged, or got acquired.
Your job is simply not compatible with your life priorities or perhaps even a hindrance to it.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. People want change for the better and everyone deserves to have something better for themselves and for their loved ones if they are willing to make the effort for it.
How community colleges have been helping people change careers
Unlike regular educational institutions, community colleges are subsidized by the government to serve a single-minded purpose -- they help create relatively quick career opportunities for people in their communities.
A university curriculum is designed to offer 4-year degrees in broad categories of subjects that yield long-term employment benefits. A community college, on the other hand, is designed to give you a shorter 2-year Associate’s Degree. For example, an associate’s degree in nursing may be offered because there is a hospital in your community that badly needs nurses.
This happens mostly because community colleges are finely tuned to the needs of their surrounding communities, including local business needs, and they understand the workforce supply-demand gaps better. They are simply built to work that way.
3 key reasons why a community college is your best bet for a career change
While community colleges offer many benefits in terms of improving career prospects, they can really make an impact in three important ways:
Cost of education
The single greatest benefit of attending a community college is cost-saving. On average, a community college’s Associate’s Degree, Diploma, or Certification costs one-third compared to other private institutions. This creates opportunities that would otherwise be not available to most underprivileged people.
After all, not everyone can afford to just drop their jobs and commit to a 4-year degree program at a university. Many people work to earn a living and to make ends meet. They have responsibilities, bills to pay, etc. In this scenario, good quality education at a subsidized cost is really a huge blessing.
If money is a reason that is holding you back, then here is a list of courses that can help you learn a new skill and switch careers... all under $50!
As mentioned earlier, community colleges are really tuned into their surrounding communities and understand what is in demand. This is why they are able to offer relevant education that can immediately get you a job.
A person with an Associate’s Degree can increase his annual earnings by 33% compared to someone with a High School Diploma or GED. Not only that, most community colleges have excellent placement programs that help you get interviews and help you land a job you want.
Designed for non-traditional students
Since the objective of every community college is to help its surrounding community find better opportunities, they are designed to offer solutions against things that typically become hurdles in that endeavor.
For example, all community colleges have flexible schedules to accommodate students with existing jobs. This way you don’t have to compromise by giving up your current job in order to learn a new skill and change your career.
Additionally, there are childcare options for parents and tuition assistance for those who can’t even afford to pay the already subsidized fee (you have to meet certain criteria for this and it varies from scholarship program to scholarship program).
What kind of jobs are available to community college graduates?
What programs a community college offers may depend on the need of the surrounding community. But in general, most community colleges offer a variety of programs that can land you a job, help you upgrade your current position, or change your career.
From traditional liberal arts and STEM classes (pre-med) to developmental education and technical courses, most community colleges have a wide range of options. Some typical examples of programs offered and how much they make annually are:
What kind of qualification can I get from a community college?
While some community colleges do offer full 4-year Bachelor’s Degree programs, they are more popular for their 2-year Associate Degree and short Certification Courses. You need to figure out for yourself If this is ideal for you, depending on how much time you want to invest in studying to change your career.
In some cases, you might be out of options so you would want a quick change, which means a short Certificate course works best for you. These certificates are typically anywhere between 1 year to a few weeks long. The other consideration, of course, is how much money you can spare for your education.
While certificates may be the cheaper and quicker option they don’t carry as much weight on the job market as an Associate’s Degree would. Having said that, in some careers, a certification is all you will ever need to get in, like cosmetology or massage therapy.
For most white-collar jobs, a 2-year degree is what you will need to move up the career ladder. These typically include accounting, law, computer programming, marketing, insurance, etc.
Of course, you can always add a certificate to your Associate’s Degree to make you a more attractive candidate for employers. As an example, you have an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science and you add a short certificate course in Network Security… suddenly, you have way better chances to get the attention of a potential employer who is looking for a candidate to handle his computer network.
Converting a 2-year Associate’s degree to a Bachelor’s Degree
You might not know this, but many students are using community colleges to complete the first two years of their 4-year Bachelor’s Degree to save tuition. The way this works is simple.
Get yourself enrolled in a 2-year program at a community college. Before enrolling you make sure that there is a 4-year university program that is willing to accept your Associate’s Degree credit hours from the community college you are applying to.
Complete the 2-year program at one-third the tuition fee it would have cost you to do the first two years at a university. Upon completion, you get your Associates’s Degree. Congratulations!
STEP 3 (Optional)
Use your new Associate’s Degree to get yourself a better job in the market if you can manage both university and a job at the same time. This will help you afford University tuition.
Transfer your credits to a 4-year program and voila! You have a Bachelor’s Degree and you have saved yourself thousands of dollars.
Career change checklist (CCC)
This CCC will help you from the first to the final step of your career change, so let’s just dive into it.
You might want to switch careers into sales because you have seen a friend make good money in it, but you need to assess for yourself if you can actually do a sales job. For example, successful salespeople are extroverts who have great networking skills, are talkative, make friends easily, and have a natural ability to convince people.
While some of these skills can be learned, introverts generally tend to struggle with people dealing skills. So ask yourself if this kind of thing is something that you can sustain in the long run.
Most community colleges offer free online assessments that help you determine if a potential program is something you will potentially excel at. Take those assessments to ensure you are not committing yourself to something you will regret later.
Audit your existing skills
A great advantage to you could be to look at a career that utilizes any skills you have right now. Do a thorough audit of things you are really good at. Do you have good communication skills? Are you good at math? Can you cook well? Even something that is not obvious initially could hold a clue to what you might excel at later. For example, if you are good with computers and enjoy playing computer games, you might actually enjoy and excel at making computer games.
Salary estimates are tricky
Don’t be too easily swayed by published salary estimates for a potential job. These estimates tend to vary drastically and you usually don’t start at the better end of these estimates. Talk to people who are currently doing that job to understand what real salaries are in your local area.
Talking to these people will also help you understand how long it takes to climb the ladder to reach the upper brackets of the industry salaries and what it takes to get there (certifications, degrees, etc)
Do you find yourself excited at the idea of going into your new career? You need to be sure you are passionate about cooking before you actually consider a career as a chef. Many people get into a career change for better pay and end up regretting a few years later because they end up hating the job.
Consider what you will be sacrificing
What you put in for changing a career is not necessarily just about tuition and study time. Ask yourself the tough questions.
For example, are you a parent or caring for an elderly? Will you be ok with changing to a job that has long and odd hours? Are you physically fit enough to handle the on-job demands of a firefighter? If you love the outdoors are you certain a desk job is going to be good for you?
Ask all these questions before you decide on a career change. Most community colleges have career counselors who can help you answer these questions.
List and plan for the credentials required
Do you need just a 6-month certificate to get you the career change you want or do you require an Associate’s degree? Do you need to top that Associate’s Degree with one or more certificates to get that pay jump/promotion? Does it help if you convert that Associate’s Degree to a Bachelor’s Degree?
Whatever the requirements are, you need to chart your way through them by planning how to achieve them in the right order, step by step… even if it means taking gaps in between. Planning always gets you better results.
Prepare for placement examinations (if any)
Most community colleges require you to take placement examinations. More often than not, these examinations are not for the purpose of selecting who gets into the college as by their very nature, community colleges are designed to help people in their communities.
These tests do, however, tell the college if you need any remedial education before you can start the program. With just a little prep you can save yourself unnecessary remedial study time.
Find a community college
Unless your requirement is to get a simple certification only, you should not just blindly enroll yourself in a program at any community college.
If you plan to convert to a Bachelor’s degree, find out if there is a university that is willing to transfer the credits from your 2-year program to their 4-year program.
There are other things as well, like how is the record for job placements at the community college you are planning to enroll in. Sort all these things out before you commit to a college and a program.
Although all community colleges are subsidized, some students still struggle to pay for tuition. Figure out how you will pay for the tuition. See what kind of grants and scholarships are available. As a final resort see if you will need to take out a loan and calculate how you will pay back that loan.
Commit to and make the change to a better future
If you have checked all the boxes above, all that remains is a leap of faith. Changing careers is always risky but people who don’t take at least a small amount of risk in life never get ahead in it. So commit to your new course in life and enroll in your community college of choice.
For a list of community colleges click here and for a list of courses that might interest you, click here.
Changing careers can be a daunting proposition. Many people, however, change careers to move on to better things in life. Go through our checklist to see if the change you desire makes sense for you and then use the great advantages community colleges offer to make that career change.
I wish you all the luck for your future… now take that leap forward!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I change my field of study through community college classes?
Absolutely yes, in fact, many Americans are using the special benefits offered by community colleges to do this often.
Can I convert a 2-year Associate’s degree to a Bachelor’s Degree?
Yes you can, after completing your two-year Associate’s Degree at community college you can transfer those credits to a four-year Bachelor’s program. Here is a great article to show you how to do this.
What kind of jobs can I get after attending community college?
From traditional liberal arts and STEM classes to developmental education and technical courses, most community colleges have a wide range of options.
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