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You might have been led to believe that success at the two-year community college level is defined by which four-year college eventually accepts you.

The community college ads tend to tout their success at four-year transfers. Each community college holds transfer fairs on campus. Practically all faculty and administration had attended four-year colleges, even if they’d gotten their starts at two-year schools, so they are in that four-year mindset.

And there is nothing wrong with that being your goal. But there are two growing trends that may mean that you don’t have to be in school for the next four or more years. You can instead just get a two-year degree, or even a one-year certificate.

The first is a trend called reverse-transfer. Students who already attended a four-year college are increasingly going to two-year colleges to learn practical skills.

The second trend is the growing number of employers that no longer require a fancy four-year degree and instead, pragmatically, are looking for mid-level employees with a practical two-year degree or special certification. This change in thought comes as two-year colleges are seen as more respectable than in decades prior, and, because they are governed by local boards, more responsive to regional needs.

We asked the experts which jobs no longer require a four-year degree.

“With the cost of education continuing to rise, many people are starting to question the common belief that a 4-year college education is a prerequisite for a well-paying job,” said Joe Weinlick, the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Beyond. “The reality is that you can learn many skills that can help you succeed in less time if you want or need to start working sooner, and there are excellent career options that can be both financially and personally rewarding.”

Weinlick listed several positions to that end (see sidebar), for example, “Radiation Therapists provide quality treatment to patients with cancer or cancerous tumors. Radiation Therapy, like many areas of healthcare, exists nationally and job candidates are sought out every day,” he said. “In addition to an Associate’s degree in Radiation Therapy, Radiation Therapists must be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.”

The salary? The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $77,560 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,720, and the top 10 percent earned more than $113,810.

Another company, CareerCast, recently Identified the “Top Jobs For Those Without a Four-Year College Degree,” which included Dental Hygienist, Paralegal, Personal Trainer and Web Developer as among the best professions.
Their study said a four-year degree isn’t everything:

“Americans have a combined $1.2 trillion in student loan debt – only home loan debt is higher. However, the rule of the workforce clearly states that the alternative to accruing that debt typically is worse: workers with a college degree will make 84% more in her or his lifetime than their counterparts without a degree, reports a Georgetown University study.”


“Starting a career without a degree may be unconventional, but succeeding in the workplace without one is far from impossible,” said Tony Lee, CareerCast publisher. “An entrepreneurial spirit and specialized training can help overcome the lack of a four-year degree.”

CareerCast suggests:
■ Working pro bono and taking on contract work are good ways to build a portfolio and compensate for not having a degree.  A willingness to get outside of their comfort zone is definitely an asset for those seeking a great job without a college degree.
■ Technological advances make building a network easier than just a decade ago. Tapping into social media and targeted job sites, such as the CareerCast Part-Time Network, offer contract opportunities to connect with potential clients.

As IT grows in importance worldwide, not only are more programmers and other related personnel needed, but the culture is all about performance, not pedigree. It doesn’t matter where you’ve gotten your degree – even if it’s a two-year degree – as long as you can do the job.

Donavan Thomas, a Senior PR Analyst with Arlington, Va., based CEB, added: “ CEB, in partnership with the White House and its TechHire initiative, recently uncovered the reality that demand for IT jobs is outpacing supply – by 2020, there will be 1 million more IT jobs than computer science students in the US. One way of solving this problem is for companies to forget conventional wisdom for recruiting technology employees (including the belief that all IT jobs require a 4-year degree) and begin hiring from nontraditional sources. In fact, our analysis shows that more than 40% of IT jobs can be done without a 4-year degree.”

So it’s not where you’ve studied, necessarily, but what you’ve learned. If you can’t picture yourself spending many more years in school by transferring to a four-year university, maybe you can learn what you need right here, right now in community college.

Perhaps knowing a well-paying job may soon be attainable could bring the finish line in focus – a two-year degree may be all you need.

CareerCast’s Top Jobs:

These growing fields only require a two-year degree or less:

Annual Median Salary: $35,330
Projected Hiring Outlook by 2022: 12%
Annual Median Salary: $43,640
Projected Hiring Outlook: 21%
Annual Median Salary: $35,170
Projected Hiring Outlook: 11%
Annual Median Salary: $39,940
Projected Hiring Outlook: 24%
Annual Median Salary: $48,900
Projected Hiring Outlook: 17%
Annual Median Salary: $70,210
Projected Hiring Outlook: 33%
Annual Median Salary: $49,840
Projected Hiring Outlook: 20%
Annual Median Salary: $34,160
Projected Hiring Outlook: 22%
Annual Median Salary: $61,370
Projected Hiring Outlook: 6%
Annual Median Salary: $46,990
Projected Hiring Outlook: 17%
Annual Median Salary: $31,720
Projected Hiring Outlook: 13%
Annual Median Salary: $65,470
Projected Hiring Outlook: 19%
Annual Median Salary: $55,870
Projected Hiring Outlook: 19%
Annual Median Salary: $28,640
Projected Hiring Outlook: 40%
Annual Median Salary: $62,500
Projected Hiring Outlook: 20%