What Is a Community College?

A community college, sometimes called a junior college or technical college, is a 2-year educational institution. Programs offered at a community college include certificates and A.A., A.A.S or A.S. degrees. Admission and tuition may be more accessible than at 4-year schools, but credits can often be transferred to universities.

Community College Past and Present

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, community colleges date back to the early 1900's and really took off after World War II. By the late 1990's, more than half of all postsecondary students had their first college experiences through community college. Today, community colleges allow students to study at the collegiate level for two years at an even more comprehensive level than when these institutions first started.

Possible Careers for Community College Graduates

Dental Hygienist Preschool Teacher Registered Nurse Automotive Technician
Degree Required Associate's degree in dental hygiene and license Requirements vary by state, but may include certification or a degree in education Associate's degree in nursing and license Industry certification, many employers prefer an associate's degree
Work Environment Dentist's/medical office Public or private school, childcare center Hospitals, doctor's offices, home care, residential care facilities Private garage or self-employed
Median Pay (2014) $71,520 $28,120 $66,640 $37,120
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 33% 17% 19% 9%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Community College Degrees

A community college offers degree options in various fields of study. Students may obtain an Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), or a certificate. Students who choose to start their education at a community college will often continue their studies at a 4-year college. For example, over 52,000 students who attended schools in the California Community College system transferred to 4-year institutions in 2010, as reported by the California Postsecondary Education Commission. Some areas of study offered through community colleges include:

  • Healthcare
  • Automotive and mechanics
  • Business management
  • Communications and design
  • Information technology

Community College Enrollment

Community college student populations can range from a couple hundred students to more than 100,000, depending on the size of the school and its location in the country. The type of students who enroll may also vary. Data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission shows that about 36% of students in the California Community College system were over 25 years old in 2009.

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