Week Thirty-one Better jobs:
Two-Year vs. Four-Year 
Higher Education 

Whether you are just graduating from high school or looking for a stable career, choosing between a two-year or four-year educational program is a complicated decision. The traditional route has been to get into a four-year university, get a bachelor's degree and reap the benefits of moving forward to receive another level of education (Master's, PhD, etc.) all while increasing your salary in the workforce and increasing earning potential over a lifetime.

Today, while still highly considered and sought after, the traditional route of post-secondary education is becoming less common. The paradigm for preparing for higher education is shifting from many individuals attending four-year colleges or universities to them attending two-year colleges or vocational schools. For many, a four-year institution may be too expensive. For others, two-year schools without dorms or other school spirited activities for the ultimate college experience may be a deal breaker. Knowing what you want from a college experience gives you a headstart in choosing the best option.  Listed below are a few explanations on why a two-year or a four-year college may be the best path to take, depending on the individual.   

One  benefit of  a  four-year university   is that it holds  a perception  of prestige when applying for jobs in many fields. In addition , four-year schools  offer a variety of courses  allowing students to develop more than one skill set, adding versatility to their resume and potentially more job opportunities.  bachelor's degree  may  hold  more weight on the salary scale in many professions and there's more opportunities for growth and increasing pay. While attending a four-year college yields great benefits in the job market, it also gives the full college experience where you can network and join social clubs that can develop relationships benefitting you professionally for life such as: business fraternities, fraternities and sororities in general, student government and business organizations/clubs. 

For most recent graduates, the choice between post-secondary educational paths is less about the college experience and more about what they can do to launch a career to make money faster.  One benefit of a two-year college is that tuition is less expensive than a four-year college, especially since high school graduates can now attend two-year colleges tuition-free through the America's College Promise Act of 2017. Also, two-year colleges and trade schools often provide skills that land jobs quicker after obtaining an associate's degree than four-year universities. Some jobs obtained by those who attend two-year colleges are in very high-demand and have attractive salaries like those listed in the image below. However, the opportunity for career growth and substantial salary increase throughout an entire career may be limited with only an Associates degree.
Career selection and associated expectations should be taken into consideration when choosing a post-secondary educational path. The action items below provide steps that you can take, or give someone else, to make the best educational choice.

Get What You Need to Get the Job!   
  1. Do you know the field that you want to pursue through the two-year route? Learn about America's College Promise Plan and find out which community colleges in your state offers this incentive. 
  2. Check out collegechoice.net's 50 Highest Paying Careers for College Graduates for ideas on choosing the best field of study for the job that you want. 
  3. College tuition is constantly rising and becoming less affordable for many. Check out these organizations that help low-income students get to college

Choosing the School that is Right for You!
There are different types of schools that you can go to after you graduate high school. These are all called post-secondary schools. You may choose a school where they teach you a skill that would be useful in a career. You may or may not need to go to college to learn this skill. A trade school teaches a certain skill set for doing a job. You may choose a two-year college, a school that gives you the skills needed for a career in two years with an associate's degree. You may choose a four-year college or university, a school that requires at least four years to graduate with a bachelor's degree. After graduating college, you can extend your education further with a graduate school, where you can earn a master's degree or a doctorate degree.
(For All Ages)
Begin researching the schools that you may want to attend after you graduate high school. What do you need to do during your educational career in order to attend this school? For most schools, participating in both in-school and out-of-school activities, makes you a stronger applicant.  

(For Elementary School Students)
Listen to  the audiobook Mahalia Mouse Goes To College. This book is about a  mouse that goes to college and graduates. The  author, John Lithgow, is reading his book to students who are graduating from college.  

(For Middle School Students)
Talk with your family and complete the   Middle School Checklist created by Federal Student Aid.  Go to your local library and check out the book The Middle School Student's Guide to Academic Success: 12 Conversations for College and Career Readiness by Blake Nemelka and Bo Nemelka. 

(For High School Students)
Do you want to go to a four year college? Do you want to go to a big school or a small  school? Do you want your school to offer certain classes or a certain major? Go to your local library to check out The Princeton Review: The Best 382 Colleges 2018 Edition and use  The Princeton Review to help you "Find Your Dream School." 

Share Your Story! 
Did you attend a two- or four-year institution? How has it impacted your career? Would you have taken the opposite route? Why? Tell us about it. Share your story.