3 Paths You Can Take at a Community College
Unlike four-year universities, which lead students toward a bachelor’s degree, students who attend community colleges can expect a variety of options for their educational journey that meet their specific goals. Here are three paths you can take at your community college.
1. Transfer to a four-year university
After earning general education requirements, many community college students transfer to a four-year university, saving thousands of dollars in tuition costs. If credits from the first two years of taking general education courses transfer, learners typically enter enrollment at a four-year university as a junior.
Below are a few tips community college students should consider before transferring to a four-year institution.
- Make sure your college credits will transfer
- Many community colleges offer transfer programs designed explicitly for streamlining student transitions to four-year schools.
- Students should also self-advocate and ask transfer advisors if their community college has any articulation agreements with partnering universities. These agreements can reduce the need to retake courses in the future. (Some states require four-year universities to accept a minimum amount of credits by law!)
- Prospective four-year students should also be cognizant of the grades they need to maintain in their community college classes to receive full credit at their transfer school. This requirement may include a specified minimum grade point average (GPA) or that all general education classes apply toward the students’ major and ultimate career path.
- Students should also check the price of their four-year university of choice before starting the transfer process. Since the sticker price will likely increase for four-year schools, prospective students can use net calculators commonly found on traditional college and university websites to prepare for the investment, as well as start researching for grants and scholarships offered by the four-year school or outside organizations, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation or Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Learners may also talk to financial aid administrators about their fiscal options.
- Before applying to a four-year school, students should also connect to professors in their career fields to stand out in the application process.
2. Enroll in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program
CTE programs enhance career-readiness skills for in-demand jobs, and over 12.3 million students across the country are enrolled (careertech.org, n.d.). Career and Technical Education tracks start as early as middle school and progress to postsecondary institutions. Exploratory pathways for learners across the lifespan, CTE programs are for students of all ages with plans to attend college or advance their careers.
- Career and Technical Education offers various professional training opportunities, such as 16 common career clusters for competency training in a hands-on context.
- CTE curricula focus more on technical skills and employability than traditional academia and textbook memorization. CTE is also considered education in which economic development meets work-based student achievement.
- Supportive Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) are also available at most institutions. Standard CTE student organizations include:
- Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
- Future Farmers of America (FFA)
- HOSA Future Health Professionals
- CTE programs provide abundant workforce opportunities, as institutions have strong ties with local industry employers for student internships, training, and future employment prospects.
3. Engage in professional training
Professional training encompasses a variety of learning and development programs designed to build career and character skills. Professional programs are effective for streamlining processes, enhancing employee confidence, safety, and teamwork building. In addition, professional training can help contribute to an organization, increasing job satisfaction and the possibility of promotion.
The most common professional training programs include:
- Orientation — Familiarizing employees with the daily work environment and company culture. Orientation also introduces employees to the company’s mission, values, structure, team, policies, procedures, paperwork, and benefit plans.
- Onboarding — Department-related training sessions from the time of hire until the employee can perform their job independently. Onboarding sessions address the employee’s specific needs, access to information, technical aspects, work performance, department goals, and employee engagement.
- Products and Services — Coaching that provides information on company offerings such as product benefits, features, instructions, maintenance, options, price, and warranty.
- Safety Training — Protects from work-related injuries, especially those that use hazardous materials. Examples of safety training include construction and foodservice safety, and first aid.
- Soft Skills Development — Training on the intersection of professionalism and personality for a respectful, collaborative culture. Examples of soft skills development include conflict resolution, leadership, presentation, problem-solving, time management, and work ethic.
- Team-Training — Sessions where coworkers collaborate to grow motivations, positive work environment, productivity, and strong team development.
- Technical Skills — Examples of technical skills training include data analysis, coding, software administration, and social media management.
- Quality Training — Classes to ensure products meet the standards imposed by the company, industry, or governing regulations. Quality training can sometimes lead to certification, verifying compliance with quality standards, quality control, product technique, or evaluations.
Benefits to training employees include:
- Improving company talent and technical skills,
- Preparing workers for promotions,
- Satisfying performance standards, and
- Demonstrating to employees that they are valued by investing in their skillset.
Whether students transfer to a four-year university, attend Career and Technical Education, or enroll in professional training, lifelong learners should consistently aim to advance, build their craft, and master their professional passions.