Two-year degrees opening doors to fast-growing occupations

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Published: February 11,2008

Consider a few of these interesting statistics about two-year college degrees:

• Jobs requiring an associate degree are projected to grow by 32% over the 2000-10 period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• Approximately 75% of jobs in healthcare require a two-year degree or less, and health care jobs are in one of the most in-demand and fastest-growing professions.

• It is estimated that 43% of graduates of a four-year college will fail to find a job that requires their degree.

• Only approximately 20% of job openings require a four-year college degree.

While people with the highest education levels make the most money over their career, quite a few people start a four-year college and don’t finish. People who opt for the two-year associate degree, by contrast, are much more marketable in the job place.

Skills in demand

“I think the biggest thing we are having problems with is getting people to see they can go into the one or two-year training options and earn a good living from those, a lot more than if they went to a four-year college and then quit,” said David Campbell, career-technical dean for the Rankin campus of Hinds Community College. “There is good demand for two-year associate of science applied degrees. More and more people are hiring people with the two-year associate of science degrees. It continues to be in more demand. There is just a bigger push for hiring those folks than there used to be.”

The last Census indicates that only 20% of adults have a four-year degree. Campbell said the problem is that when people don’t finish college, in many cases they don’t have a lot of skills to go to work with.

Exploring options

“Students are so strongly encouraged and pushed towards a four-year degree that they don’t necessarily explore their two-year options to see if they could earn a good living from that,” Campbell said. “Sometimes people will get a two-year degree in something they really enjoy, and a lot may go back and get the four-year degree after that.”

Campbell thinks it would make a lot of sense to encourage more high school students to look at two-year degree options. A two-year degree is not only much less expensive, but it’s where many of the jobs can be found. And it is important to business and industry to have graduates trained in the skills most needed in today’s workplaces.

“The mission of the community college is very important to economic development in Mississippi,” Campbell said.

Mississippi trends right along with the national figures regarding the hottest job categories. Of the top 30 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., 17 are healthcare related.

‘Big demand’ in healthcare

“Generally anything in the health field is in big demand here in Mississippi and in the rest of the country,” Campbell said. “We have quite a number of health-related programs here at Hinds, and we have no trouble getting students and no trouble placing the students once they are finished. Anything in allied health is big like registered nursing and practical nursing.”

Medical assisting is one the fastest-growing professions nationally. Campbell said a few years ago, not many students knew about the option to become a medical assistant. But now the college doesn’t have any trouble placing students in its medical assisting program. Enrollment has been growing.

Another fast growing-occupation in the medical field in Mississippi as well as nationally is pharmacy technicians. Hinds Community College just started a program in that in 2007.

While there has been a lot of media coverage in recent years about computer jobs moving overseas, there remains great demand in the U.S. for computer skills.

“Computer networking is still one of the fastest-growing occupations nationally, and it continues to be in demand here locally,” Campbell said. “It is the top fastest-growing occupation nationally.”

Office occupations like office clerks and administrative assistants continue to be in very popular. Culinary arts is another area that is growing, as well as anything with hotel and restaurant management. The childcare field also offers a range of opportunities.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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