Many people believe four-year colleges offer greater career opportunities – but this isn't necessarily true. Many two-year schools offer programs in which graduates can make at least as much money, and have job security.

According to the Department of Labor Employment projections, 19 out of the 30 fastest growing occupations between 2006-2016 will not require university degrees. The department states, "the most significant source of postsecondary education or training is an associate or higher degree." The ones requiring only an associate degree range from computer specialists to dental hygienists. (Looking for a rewarding profession? Check out 10 Jobs With High Pay, Low Education Requirements.)

The mean salary for a computer specialist, according to the latest Department of Labor study, conducted in May, 2008, is over $100,000, while dental hygienists with associate degrees have a mean of approximately $67,000. These wages are expected to increase in future time periods.

Hourly Versus Salaried Positions
Especially when you're just out of school, and new to the professional workforce, your boss could ask you to work oodles of overtime. You probably wouldn't get paid for the extra time if you are a salaried worker, while an hourly employee would.

A few potential hourly positions that are available through two-year programs include dental hygienists, automotive technicians, nurses, paralegals and computer technicians. Depending on the employer, these careers could be salaried, as well. Look specifically for hourly positions if you want to guarantee you will get paid extra when working overtime. (Optimize your job search, read Job Hunting in Desperate Times.)

Less Debt
Lifetime earnings are impacted by the amount of student loan debt you accumulate. For example, let's say three friends take three different educational routes. One takes on $60,000 in student loans and attends a university for a four-year bachelor's degree as well as a two-year master's degree. The second goes to a community college for a two-year associate's degree and borrows $4,000. The third person attends a private career school and borrows $15,000 in private and federal loans combined.

Private career schools train you for many of the same fields as a community college, but generally cut the amount of time in school by avoiding extra classes that aren't necessary suited for that specific field.

Suppose the following payments, payoff time and interest rates:

-- Four-year college, plus a master\'s degree Two-years of community college One-year private career college
Amount $60,000 $4,000 $15,000
Payoff time in years 30 10 15
Interest rate average 4.5% 4.5% 5%
Payment $303.75 $40.13 $117.87

Benefits of a Two-Year Education
Diversity of Fields
There are a variety of fields from which to choose, after just two years of education. Website designers, broadcast videographers, computer technicians, nuclear technician and fashion designer are all viable careers.

Career-Specific Training
While some college majors are abstract, in order to allow for a well-rounded education, two-year degree candidates are trained, often hands-on, for one career choice. Thus, two-year degree candidates are highly employable. For instance, when you train to be an automotive technician, you have the skills to work in the field the day you graduate.

Medical Professions
Healthcare professionals are always in demand. Two-year degrees are available for many career types, including dental hygienists and nurses.

Drawbacks of a Two-Year Education
The main drawback of a two-year education is that you become highly-skilled in one specific field. While this is greatly beneficial for initial employability, the narrowness of your education could leave you with fewer options in the case of a layoff situation.

The best defense from layoffs is twofold. If you attend a two-year college, rather than a one-year career college, you will more likely take core classes. General education classes generally taken in the first two years of a four-year degree can transfer to a four-year college, if you want to continue your education at a later time. Second, try to gather as many different experiences in the field as you can. For instance, if you are a videographer, you can videotape for broadcast television and shoot commercials or weddings once in a while. (Check out six tips for creating a winning business in a losing economy, read Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)

Conclusion
Four-year degrees are great for a lot of people, but don't spend four years in college if there's a career that you can get trained for in half the time, and for less than 10% of the cost.

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