While the majority of parents would choose a four-year degree for their children, the fastest growing jobs are not coming from four-year colleges. The fastest growing jobs are coming from two-year colleges and technical schools. After serving in the military, many soldiers use the G.I. Bill toward two-year programs.
Fewer Students Attending Four-Year Colleges in the Future
While traditional colleges are enjoying full classrooms, this may not be the case in the future. Presently, high schools have high populations. But as smaller elementary classrooms advance through the school systems, senior class populations will decline. Student numbers will probably stay high in large populated areas but in the majority of school districts, there is decline. This will drive competition for students by all colleges.
The 4-year colleges that are enjoying solid enrollments today will not be able to count on this in the future. There is a trend for students to select the world of work, 2-year colleges and the military.
Two-Year Colleges Have a Strong Advantage
“Job opportunities will fall off in coming decades for Americans who don’t have at least an associate degree, according to a study released two weeks ago by noted economists at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.” So, when looking for a job, job seekers will need to have some certification as evidence of skills.
Employers are presently experiencing applicants lacking skills. Applicants are plentiful. The problem is that the applicants do not have the skills necessary for the positions. The skills required are too complex and too time consuming to learn on the job.
Many adults suffering from downsizing or outsourcing have enrolled in one- or two-year programs at junior colleges to become certified in a new skill. Des Moines Area Community College in Des Moines, Iowa expects a growing enrollment for fall of 2010 of 25,000 students.  This rivals enrollment at the largest universities in Iowa.
Two-year colleges have several advantages:
- Instead of paying for four years of college, junior college students attend classes for one or two years.
- Tuition is also less at a junior college with the costs often being half or less than half of a private college or a large state university.
- Junior colleges and technical schools require very few traditional college classes like history, writing, speech, or communications. The majority of classes are hands-on in the field of interest.
- Because many of the 2-year programs are “hands on”, book expenses are often lower.
- Employment is often more likely after graduation, especially in a down economy. Many jobs are in businesses that must fill positions to keep factories and energy sources running that can’t be cut.
- Students graduating from a two-year college will have a fraction of the debt in student loans and a better chance of finding work. This appeals to many high school students.
Retirements in the Work Force Affect Career Choices
Students are instructed to select careers that appeal to their talents and abilities. However, they must also consider employment possibilities after graduation. Currently, graduates from four-year institutions are having difficulty finding positions and many are in their second year of unemployment after graduation.
On the other hand, two-year colleges and technical schools have job opportunities posted that have not been filled. Following your dream is important but students need to be open to careers in technical fields.
Hottest Careers in 2022
What are the fastest growing occupations from 2022? According to Career Explorer, they are:
- Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts ($18,610-$96,860)
- Physician Assistant ($16,460-$74,390)
- Medical Assistants ($16,460-$74,390)
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians ($16,460-$74,390)
- Computer Application Software Engineers ($18,610-$96,860)
- Physical Therapist Aides ($16,460-$74,390)
- Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors (($7.09-$26.22 per hour)
- Database Administrators ($16,460-$74,390)
- Veterinary Technologists and Technicians ($16,170-$33,750)
- Dental Hygienists ($8.45-$39.24 per hour)
Many of these skill-based careers are offered at two-year junior colleges. Some are in such demand that they have waiting lists.
The phrase, “Work smarter, not harder” is very relevant when selecting a career. While a four-year college is necessary for traditional careers, the needs of society dictate employment. Some junior college careers have salaries in the range of $18,000 to $96,000. Going to college longer does not always produce higher salaries. A diesel mechanic (2-year degree) is often paid the same or more than a beginning teacher (4-5 year degree).
Most high school counseling offices will hold an Occupational Outlook Handbook [JIST, 2010]. These manuals contain information on
- Working conditions
- Advancement opportunities
- Training and education needed
- Projected growth
Projected growth is crucial information when selecting a career. After all, it isn’t just about selecting a career and a college – it is also about being employed. Investigate a potential career thoroughly before proceeding to a college campus.