3 Growing Fields You Can Retrain for at a Community College

Many careers that will be in demand over the next decade require credentials you can earn at a 2-year school

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2012

In-Demand Community College Majors
In-Demand Community College Majors

The recent economic recession made Americans realize the fragility of some professions. For example, millions of workers in the manufacturing industry lost their jobs and discovered the difficulty of finding a new one, even if they relocated. The good news: As employment lowered in some sectors, it grew in others.

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The expense of retraining for a growing field can be a problem for many of the unemployed. Thankfully, community colleges provide a lower-cost option for those on a tight budget; the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average cost for tuition, room and board at a public 2-year institution was $7,703 annually. Compared to $15,014 at public 4-year institutions and $32,790 private 4-year schools, that’s quite a bargain.

But can you train for in-demand jobs at community colleges? Absolutely! Here are some of the growing fields you can enter with credentials earned at a 2-year school:

1. Allied health. This is a broad category of healthcare occupations that lie outside the core fields of medicine, dentistry and nursing. Two of the more popular allied health careers you can train for at a community college are medical assisting and medical billing and coding.

Medical assistants work in hospitals and physicians’ offices, doing clerical work and routine healthcare tasks. Getting started in medical assisting requires completing a 1-year certificate or 2-year associate’s degree, after which you can apply for medical assistant certification from a professional organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job growth in this field to be around 34% though 2018, and the median annual wage for medical assistants was $28,860 in 2010.

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Medical billers and coders keep patient records, code those records for insurance purposes and issue bills to the appropriate parties. To enter this profession, complete an associate’s degree program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). BLS data estimates that medical billing and coding employment will increase by 20% through 2018, and the median annual wage in this field was $32,350 in 2010.

2. Criminal justice. Criminal justice includes corrections, customs, forensics, police work and more. Homeland security is one of the up-and-coming specialties in this area that you can prepare for at a community college.

Homeland security professionals generally come from occupations like law enforcement, healthcare and emergency management. All can play a critical role in increasing public safety. If you have experience in a related field, homeland security training and certification can be done at the community college level by earning a homeland security certificate. If you’re just entering the workforce or coming from an unrelated field, an Associate of Criminal Justice – Homeland Security is the way to get started.

3. Information technology. Another very broad area, information technology (IT) includes professions like network security, web development and many others. Community college programs in IT tend to focus on professional certifications, which are often (but not always) designed for those who already have some education and experience in the field.

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Security administration certification prepares you for work protecting linked computer systems from accidents and threats. Some certificates in this field confer a title, such as Network Administration and Security Professional (NASP) or Certified Cisco Network Administrator (CCNA). The BLS estimates that employment in the field will grow by about 30% through 2018 – a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Web development certification teaches you how to create websites for businesses, individuals and organizations that want a presence on the Internet (which is pretty much all of them). The most advanced certificates in this field prepare you for the CompTIA i–Net+ and World Organization of Webmasters Certified Professional Webmaster certification exams. Passing them is often necessary to land the most lucrative and prestigious web design jobs.

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