Best Jobs for Community College Graduates

Associate's Degrees With the Best Potential

••• Copyright Zigy Kaluzny / Getty Images

Many high school students overlook the community college segment when considering higher education. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, over 8 million students now attend community colleges, an increase of 40% since 2005. Why are community colleges worth a serious look in today's higher education marketplace?

Reasons to Consider Community College

Certainly, cost is one factor. According to the College Board, the average tuition for in-state students at public two-year colleges (the typical community college) for 2012-2013 was $3,131, while public 4-year colleges charged $8,655 and private colleges had an average tuition of $27,293.

Another compelling reason to consider community colleges is the rapid rate of growth anticipated in occupations requiring an associate's degree - the degree typically offered at community colleges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that associate's degree jobs will grow by 18% by 2020 while bachelor's degree jobs will grow by 17%.

Income level is yet another reason to consider a community college degree. According to the National Center for Higher Education Management, two-year college graduates earned an average of $41,251 while high school graduates earned an average of only $30,938.

A major reason for the relatively high growth rates and income levels for community college jobs is the specialized nature of many of the degrees. Community college students often study in disciplines where they develop skills that are readily applied to the marketplace.

The vast majority of the highest paying associate's degrees and those with the highest projected growth rates fall into three categories: healthcare, engineering, and other areas of technology. All of these segments are experiencing an above-average expansion in employment opportunities due to economic trends.

Top 12 Best Jobs for Community College Graduates

Of course, the best jobs for you with an associate's degree will vary based on the unique skills, interests, and values that you bring to the table. Two major considerations will be income potential and the availability of jobs. Here's a list of two-year degrees with solid income and growth potential:

Construction Managers attracted an average salary of over $80,000 in 2012, but keep in mind the fact that they usually had several years of construction experience in conjunction with their degree. Construction manager jobs are expected to grow by 17% by 2020. However, construction is a very cyclical field where opportunities will fluctuate greatly from expansion to recession.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Dental Hygienists are both expected to experience growth of 29% or higher by 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average income for these two fields exceeds $65,000.

Registered Nurses and Radiation Therapists both are slated for growth rates between 20-28% by 2020 with average salaries of over $65,000 and $75,000 in 2012, respectively.

Opportunities for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians are expected to expand by 52% by 2020 with an average salary of over $30,000.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians and Environmental Engineering Technicians are both expected to grow by 24% by 2020 and garner average salaries of $44,000 to $49,000.

Civil Engineering Technician Jobs are expected to grow by an average of 12% by 2020 and had an average salary in 2012 of $49,000.

Geologic and Petroleum Technician Jobs will expand by 15% by 2020 and had an average income of over $59,000 in 2012.

Jobs for Funeral Directors are expected to increase by 18% by 2020 and attracted an average salary of over $52,000 in 2012.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants can expect job growth of about 18% through 2020. The average salary for this field was $50,000 in 2012.

Jobs for Preschool Teachers will expand by 25% by 2020, and they attracted an average salary of just over $30,000 in 2012.

Respiratory Therapists and Radiologic Technologists are predicted to grow by 28% by 2020 with average salaries of over $55,000.

Jobs for Physical Therapy Assistants and Occupational Therapy Assistants are expected to experience job growth of over 40% and both had average salaries of over $52,000 in 2012.

For more information on these jobs and for information on other career options flowing from a community college degree, consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook.