The job market appears to be evolving rapidly in recent years, as the Great Recession has caused a shift – and even a nearly complete disappearance – of many industries. This evolution has sent many adult workers back to school, searching for new career paths that would be more lucrative and stable. The academic landscape often looks very different to adult workers worried about supporting and balancing families and working around professional schedules to achieve their education dreams. With that in mind, consider this list of adult-friendly community college degree programs and tips to help you determine whether now is the right time to pursue a community college degree.
Is Now the Right Time for Community College?
There are a number of reasons to consider continuing education as an adult, including:
- Inability to advance in your current position without additional education
- Sudden unemployment (such as a layoff) and difficulty finding a new job without a degree
- Need to make a career change when current career runs out of opportunities
- Fulfill a lifelong dream of achieving a college education
All of these reasons are legitimate courses that lead to community college. However, before you leap, it is important to count the cost – including the time and money involved in higher education – to be sure you are prepared to make the investment. Next, research all your opportunities, in terms of schools and degree programs, to be sure you find the best one for your needs.
Degrees from the Plus 50 Initiative
The Plus 50 Initiative is a program that was created by the American Association of Community Colleges in 2008. The program was designed to provide the support older adults need to return to college. Yahoo lists some of the top degree programs for adults in this age category based on recommendations from the Plus 50 Initiative. Some of the options include:
Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists in grocery stores, hospitals, and drug stores, dispensing medication and providing patient service. This degree program is included in the Plus 50 Initiative because it provides older workers with the competitive edge they desperately need. According to Yahoo, the field is projected to have job growth of around 32 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Accounting is a recession-proof career path that benefits workers of all ages. This field is also recommended by the Plus 50 Initiative because a number of colleges across the country offer degree programs in this area specifically for older adult students. Yahoo reports that an associate degree in accounting could lead to positions as a bookkeeping clerk or accounting clerk.
Eight community colleges on the Plus 50 Initiative list included computer science and technology degree programs. This field teaches older students more about the ever-evolving technology field and prepares them for many different career options.
According to the Plus 50 Initiative recommendations, a degree in business administration raises the workplace value of an aging workforce. The field can branch into human resources, accounting, and international business management positions. This is a good choice for workers needing additional training to advance in their current field.
Degrees with Salary in Mind
In addition to degree programs specifically chosen for the over-50 crowd, many community college offerings provide excellent starting salaries for adults who have already built their income level over many years in the workforce. According to Forbes, some of the best degree options for adults with specific salary requirements include these positions and average annual salaries:
- X-Ray Technician ($52,000)
- Registered Nurse ($55,000)
- Dental Hygienist ($57,000)
- Computer Support Specialist (between $46,000 and $60,000)
- Solar Panel Consultant ($50,000)
- Funeral Director ($52,000)
- Graphic Designer (up to $50,000)
Online Degrees for Ultimate Flexibility
Adults heading back to school must juggle many responsibilities along with their studies. Many have families to support and care for and full-time jobs. To accommodate the busy adult schedule, online programs offer the best flexibility. Hudson Valley Community College lists some of its popular online degree programs on its website, which include:
- Business (Accounting, Administration, and Marketing)
- Criminal Justice
- Dental Studies
- Computer Information Technology
- Public Administration
- Teaching Assistant
Some online programs offered at community colleges are solely provided online, while others are hybrid program that includes some class work and online studies. These programs offer student-directed schedules regarding when students take classes, and some even offer flexible deadlines for assignments.
Choosing an Adult-Friendly School
Once you have chosen a degree program that fits your professional needs and personal lifestyle, you may also have a number of area community colleges to choose from. To ensure the school you choose is “adult-friendly,” ask a few questions:
- What is your ratio of adult students vs. recent high school graduates?
- How flexible is your course scheduling? (Schools that offer evening and weekend courses tend to cater to adult students.)
- What type of job placement services do you offer?
- How quickly can I earn my degree? (Some schools wanting to attract adult students offer accelerated degree programs to get students into the workforce faster?)
- Can I get credit for my practical work experience?
With the right school and degree program, community college students of all ages can find tremendous benefits from higher education. With these tips, adults urged to pursue a college degree will have the information necessary to start down the best academic track for their needs.
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