Community College in the USA - Associate Degree, Program Types, Benefits and Job Options

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    The 2-year degree program in the US is also known as ‘Associate Degree’ (also known as intermediate). The schools offering such program are known as a community college. They are 2-year schools which provide affordable postsecondary education as a pathway to a 4-year degree in the US. These colleges are regulated by the state government or local districts in the guidance of state agency.

    Associate degree carries 60 credits for two years instead of 120 to 128 credits in a 4-year program. The community colleges provide programs with broad base i.e. general education and concentrate upon the specific area of study. There are around 1,462 community colleges in the US.

    2-year UG Degree or Associate Degree Divisions

    The associate degree prepares the students for 4-year bachelor’s degree. Students can gain basic education at the community college level and get transferred to the University for further education.

    Programs in associate degree are divided into 3 parts: -

    • General Education
    • A concentrated area of study
    • Electives (programs chosen by interest)

    Types of Associate Degree

    A.A. and A.S. are also known as transferrable degrees and A.A.S. is the career-oriented degree which resembles first 2-years of the college where, along with prime subjects, general education is also provided. The students can transfer their credits to the 4-year university.

    • A.A (Associate of Arts degree)
    • A.S. (Associate of Science degree)
    • A.A.S. (Associate of Applied Science degree)

    Courses offered under each type of degree -

    A.A (Associate of Arts degree)

    A.A. mainly focus on broader liberal arts with focus on: -

    • History
    • Physical education
    • Graphic arts
    • Hospitality administration
    • Religion
    • Anthropology

    A.S. (Associate of Science degree)

    A.A. mainly focuses on broader liberal arts concentrating upon: -

    • Business administration
    • Computer engineering technology
    • Environmental science
    • Accounting
    • Biotechnology

    A.A.S. (Associate of Applied Science degree)

    A.A.S. offers career-specific skills to the students which encourage them for direct employment after graduation. Students are trained in these subjects – computer repair, electrical, electronics, construction and more. Some areas to focus upon: -

    • Architectural design and drafting
    • Civil engineering technology
    • Nursing
    • Accounting
    • Computer information systems
    • Management
    • Radiography

    Some subjects such as English, Science and Mathematics are also part of the curriculum. Such program helps the students to enter the job market immediately at the end of the studies.

    Online classes are also held for the students who cannot attend the classes or have other commitments as they do not stay near the school. Hybrid classes are also available for a combination of online and in-person requirements.

    Application Process for International Students

    • Apply online on the selected community college’s website.
    • Follow the deadline.
    • Submit the required documents on the address of the college.
      1. High School Record
      2. Submit “Affidavit for Support” Form
      3. Financial Documents
      4. A signed "Acknowledgement of F-1 Rules and Responsibilities"
      5. Passport Photo Page
      6. English Proficiency Test score

    Note: Requirements may change according to the college chosen.

    Pros and Cons of Community College

    Junior college or community college is a place where you can explore your interests and study only those subjects which lies in your interest area. There are advantages and disadvantages of everything. Community colleges also succeeds somewhere and fail somewhere else.

    Mentioned are the pros and cons of the community colleges in US: -


    Tuition Cost

    One of the major reasons why students attend community college is low tuition. Many junior colleges may even accept less than 2,000 USD per semester for full-time courses. Through Community College, students get a chance to plan tuition for 4-year universities if they take a transfer.

    Small Classroom Size

    The class size may not be as small as a private college but accommodate not more than 20 students. With lesser students in the class, professor may be able to concentrate on one-to-one basis with all the students. Likewise, students may also find their professor more accessible.

    Flexible Schedule

    Community colleges offer classes in shifts according to the schedule suitable to the students. The students who cannot attend regular school due to time constraint can surely attend Community College. They organize night classes and more schedule options.

    Decision – Making

    Many students may find themselves displaced while attending university. Some of them return and many do not. Attending community college provide an opportunity to learn what they want and get enough time to decide about the subjects to be opted in 4-year university which will prevent the students from dropping their studies.

    Other benefits of attending Community College: -

    • Provision of financial aid
    • Maintain school-life balance as students may attend the school on part-time basis.
    • To learn STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.


    Limited Curriculum

    Community Colleges offer 2-year curriculum to the students whereas 4-year universities offer more courses as compared to them.

    De-motivated Students

    There are students who take admission in Community College because they have nowhere else to go. To separate such students from the ones who have promising future, honors program is launched as a pipeline to 4-year bachelor’s degree programs.

    No traditional college experience

    Life at Community College is much different when compared to 4-year university life. Students have various opportunities and activities to get involved unlike Community College. Students here do not have enough co-curricular activities to participate in.

    Not all classes are transferrable

    There are selective classes which are transferrable to 4-year university programs. So make sure you know about the course at Community College before taking admission.

    How much an Associate Degree holder does Earns?

    Associate degree gives a boost to the students’ career. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average tuition of a student in community college is around 25,000 USD without any financial aid.

    Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that a person earning right after secondary school may earn around 718 USD per week. On the contrary, an associate degree student can earn around 799 USD per week which makes around 41,000 USD per year. That means, the student can pay back the tuition within one year of employment.

    Best 2-year degree offered in U.S.

    Mentioned are the average salaries of the students in early career life after graduating from Community College in US: -

    Major Average Salary
    Software Engineering 50,500 USD
    Networks and Telecommunication 53,300 USD
    Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) 44,000 USD
    Construction Project Management 41,500 USD
    Management Information Systems (MIS) 42,200 USD
    Electrical Engineering (EE) 44,100 USD
    Industrial Design (ID) 42,800 USD
    Robotics & Automation 50,000 USD
    Engineering 41,100 USD
    Computer Science (CS) 41,900 USD

    Apart from the top jobs mentioned above, given are few most well-known jobs for the students graduating from Community College: -

    • Associate in Business Administration
    • Associate Degree in Accounting
    • Associate Degree in Fine Arts
    • Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
    • Associate Degree in Science in Business Administration
    • Associate Degree in Psychology

    What does your Hiring Manager want from you?

    Community college may be a pocket-friendly and less-time consuming option but these factors do not matter in the job market.

    Most of the leadership position holders have earned at least traditional bachelor’s degree. They look for the candidates with the similar profile for full-time position.

    Community college graduates have to deal with hiring managers of different companies. They look for education and proficiency in the particular field. Apart from that, they require an aspirant who can fit in the company culture well.

    If the community college graduates are extremely competent in their fields or those who are enrolled for highly specialized field of study, they get more opportunities than others who apply for jobs with lot of competition.

    Regular 4-year universities may have skilled graduates with lot of opportunities but community college quality associate degree holders also have breaks depending upon their specialty.