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How Does a Community College Bachelor's Degree Help Me?

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More and more students are making the decision to earn a bachelor's degree through a community college. Learn more about these programs and how they can help you achieve your professional and academic goals.

Bachelor's Degrees at Community College

Though the concept of a bachelor's degree from a community college is still a new one, the movement is rapidly gaining popularity. Almost half of the country (22 states in total) are home to at least one community college with 4-year degree programs. You may be worried that these degrees are somehow less legitimate or not worth as much as a bachelor's degree from a standard university, but rest assured that these degrees are every bit as valid.

Diplomas

But is this degree right for you? Why should you enroll in such a program instead of a more traditional associate's degree or certificate program? The article below profiles a few of the many advantages that you will enjoy as a candidate for a bachelor's degree at a community college.

Save Money

Tuition is often the most important consideration for the majority of students, and community college serves as an affordable alternative to the astronomically high prices found at 4-year schools.

According to the College Board, the average cost to attend a private 4-year university was a whopping $32,405 as of 2016. In most cases, it is not uncommon for students to spend more than $100,000 as they seek their degree. Though in-state students at a public school enjoy a slight break, their tuition bill will still be somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 total. Of course, these figures assume that you graduate on time. Students who fall behind or change majors may need to stay at college longer and incur an even higher tuition bill.

Piggy bank & books

Community colleges, on the other hand, offer comparable education at a fraction of the price; the average annual cost of these schools was $3,435 in 2016. At such a rate, you could spend almost 10 years working towards a bachelor's degree without even reaching the cost of a single year at a private university.

Earn More

In addition to saving you money while attending courses, earning a bachelor's degree at a community college also sets you up for a more lucrative future. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in the Class of 2015 had an average starting salary of $50,219, which marked a 4.3 percent increase from the Class of 2014.

On average, people with a bachelor's degree earned almost twice as much as those who only have a high school degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that professionals over the age of 25 with a bachelor's degree had a median weekly income of about $1,137. Professionals with only a high school degree, however, only earned about $678 in the same period.

This pattern of higher wages also includes students who only have an associate's degree. These students earned about $798 per week, which is significantly lower than their counterparts with a bachelor's degree.

Better Opportunity

Earning a bachelor's degree opens doors that are otherwise closed to students with less education. Many jobs, in all fields, list a bachelor's degree as the entry-level education requirement. Of the 575 jobs profiled by the BLS, 142 listed a bachelor's degree as the minimum amount of education required from prospective applicants. Graphic designer, computer programmer, and chief executive are among the many professions that are accessible only to students who have earned a 4-year degree.

Even if it is not required, having a bachelor's degree can also make it much easier to find a job. For example, the BLS notes that an associate's degree is the most common prerequisite for web developers, but also mentions that many employers prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree. Having a bachelor's degree can also qualify web developers (and other professionals in general) for promotion to more senior leadership roles.

Successful job interview

Earning a bachelor's degree at a community college can also help you avoid unemployment. According to the BLS, people with a bachelor's degree had an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, which is far better than the national rate for all workers (4.3 percent). Students without a degree, however, are far more likely to find themselves without a job. High school graduates with no college education had a 5.4 percent unemployment rate, while those without a high school diploma clocked in at a staggering 8 percent.

Pursue Further Education

Depending on your professional and academic goals, a bachelor's degree can be either the last stop on your journey or simply another stepping stone on the path to a more advanced degree.

If you want to earn a master's or even a doctorate, a bachelor's degree from a community college will be enormously beneficial. Bachelor's degrees are virtually a mandatory prerequisite for graduate school. A very few select programs may allow students with sufficient work experience to enroll, but the vast majority of graduate programs require a 4-year degree, often in a related field.

Path to higher education

Whether you're looking to enter the workforce immediately or continue your academic journey, a bachelor's degree from a community college is sure to be of great help as you attempt to achieve your academic and professional goals.

By Bill Sands
September 2016
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