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The average time to finish community college is about two years for full-time students and about four for part-timers. The amount of time to graduate varies on many factors such as financial situation, self-discipline, determination and learning abilities.
To get a degree in less time many students take summer classes or an extra class or more every semester. Depending on a student’s academic performance, academic advisors usually allow taking up to 3 extra courses each semester, but if the student’s performance is not that great, they may be forced to either study in summer or finish their degree no sooner than in two years.
Students who have full-time jobs don’t necessarily have to go to school part-time. Many community colleges offer evening as well as online courses, so make sure to talk to your advisor before scheduling your courses. He or she should be able to help you out. The average time to finish community college if you go to school part-time is twice as much as if you went full-time. Juggling a full-time job with full-time school may be challenging, but will benefit you in the long run.
If you want to graduate sooner or on time, it is important to decide on your major right away and stick to it. Students who change their minds too frequently end up taking more courses than is needed to graduate and as a result not only prolong the amount of time in college, but waste a decent amount of money.
If you are undecided while applying to college, make sure to take courses which will count towards your degree no matter which major you will end up choosing. General education courses such as English101 or Math 101 will count towards any degree and even if you decide to transfer to a four-year college before finishing community college, you should be able to transfer them without problems.
Students with associate’s degrees usually earn more money than students with high school diplomas, but less than students with bachelor’s or higher degrees, assuming that they work in the same field. However, quite frequently nurses with associate’s degrees earn more than social workers with bachelors or masters, so the level of degree is not always a factor in how much a person would earn.
In May of 2006, CNN.com published an article describing the 10 best paying associate degrees. Here are the professions which according to Career Builder, require an associate’s degree and pay about 50-60K a year:
1. Computer specialist ($59,480)
2. Nuclear technician ($59,200)
3. Dental hygienist ($58,350)
4. Radiation therapist ($57,700)
5. Nuclear medicine technologist ($55,840)
6. Fashion designer ($55,840)
7. Aerospace engineering and operations technician ($52,500)
8. Diagnostic medical sonographer ($52,490)
9. Registered nurse ($52,330)
10. Engineering technician ($49,440)
Overall, community colleges are a smart choice for everyone who wants to save money, earn a degree in a shorter period of time or boost their grades before applying to a four-year college.
According to Forbes magazine “a recent assessment of community colleges found that the 30 best scored higher than many four-year institutions when the schools were rated on a bevy of measures promoting teaching effectiveness.” Also, in July of 2009 Barak Obama proposed investing $12 billion in the nation’s community colleges. These are good reasons to give community colleges a try.
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Morsch, Laura “10 Best Paying Jobs for Associate Degrees. CNN.com. May 5, 2006; <http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/Careers/05/04/cb.associates/>
Ronstadt, Robert “Community College: Savings or a Trap?” Forbes. July 21, 2009;