Many prospective students only consider tuition when they research the country's best community colleges and trade schools. Tuition is, in fact, just a fraction of the total cost of college. To understand total cost of attendance, you must include institutional fees, room and board, supplies, and textbooks. Luckily the U.S. Department of Education (ED) includes these expenses in its net price reports to give prospective students transparency.

What are the best community colleges and trade schools of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Southwestern Community College Sylva, NC
2 Northwest Iowa Community College Sheldon, IA
3 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC
4 Colby Community College Colby, KS
5 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
6 Vance-Granville Community College Henderson, NC
7 Trinity Valley Community College Athens, TX
8 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE
9 Frontier Community College Fairfield, IL
10 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, MN

Best Community Colleges & Trade Schools of 2020

Students should think beyond price. Graduation rates remain a telltale sign of a college's quality and commitment to student success. Students must finish their degrees to fully benefit from their education. Transfer percentages remain critical because they indicate how many graduates left to pursue a bachelor's degree at another institution.

Pursuing a college education stands out as one of the most pivotal and costly decisions of your life. The NCES shows that tuition costs for two-year institutions has increased minimally over the past couple of years.

Variability in cost is just one factor that influences the return-on-investment (ROI) for prospective college students. Our team at Best Colleges has put together a definitive list of the top 50 public two-year colleges with the highest graduation rates and transfer rates.

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Southwestern Community College

Sylva, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 41%

North Carolina's SCC offers dozens of online programs that teach in-demand, job-ready skills related to a variety of practical and high-growth fields. Study paths lead to diplomas, certificates, and two-year associate degrees.

Beyond many specialized forms of business-focused career training, SCC also offers a collection of online early childhood education and information technology programs. Students can earn marketable credentials in a single academic year while paying affordable tuition rates.

In terms of student outcomes, SCC has distinguished itself in multiple critical areas. Learner achievement rates exceed nationwide excellence standards in mathematics and English, and the school's curriculum completion rates beat established baselines by more than 50%.


Northwest Iowa Community College

Sheldon, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

Opened in 1964 as Northwest Iowa Vocational School, NCC now serves as one of the best community colleges in the United States. NCC offers popular programs in many areas, including computer science, human services, accounting, and nursing.

NCC offers more than a dozen fully online study paths. Subject areas include general programs leading to associate of arts degrees and highly specialized, skills-oriented career training options, such as medical coding and health information technology.

The college features an intimate learning environment that generates high levels of student success thanks to small class sizes and ample student-instructor interaction. NCC boasts a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, and nearly 100% of graduates go on to earn gainful employment or pursue an advanced degree.


Stanly Community College

Albemarle, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

A leading member of the North Carolina Community College System, SCC educates about 2,500 learners annually. The college's online offerings include an IT network management program that uses a competency-based education model.

Competency-based education focuses on student learning, rather than having a predefined timeline, enabling students to proceed through coursework and programs as quickly as they like. Learners become eligible for graduation as soon as they display mastery of all core concepts. SCC plans to apply this model to more of its online programs in the near future.

This commitment to innovative learning helps drive student success at SCC. Since 2015, institution-wide graduation rates have increased by more than 266%.


Colby Community College

Colby, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Recognized as one of the best community colleges in the Midwest, Kansas-based CCC offers three types of online programs. Learners can quickly train or retrain for new careers by pursuing certificates of completion, technical certificates, and two-year associate degrees.

CCC embraces a career-oriented approach to education, and online learners can earn credentials in emerging fields like wind technology, solar photovoltaic technology, and renewable energy. These offerings complement a full lineup of veterinary science, telecommunication, business, and general arts and science programs.

In 2018 and 2019, CCC led all Kansas community colleges in both retention and graduation rates. These trends indicate high student satisfaction and positive learning outcomes.


Holmes Community College

Goodman, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Based in Goodman, Missouri, Holmes Community College offers online educational opportunities designed to appeal to students who are new to e-learning. Faculty deliver classes asynchronously through the Canvas platform.

Available subject areas include a generalist associate of arts degree that is suitable for students planning to continue their studies at a senior college. Alternatively, associate of applied arts candidates can earn valuable, career-ready credentials in areas like medical office technology, criminal justice, paralegal technology, and medical billing and coding.

Online degree-seekers also have the benefit of choosing between standard and accelerated terms. Learners seeking expedited graduation can take some classes through four-week terms.


Vance-Granville Community College

Henderson, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

Founded in 1969, VGCC serves an area in North Carolina and extends its academic reach to learners everywhere through a collection of practical online programs. VGCC offers several career-oriented study paths that can be completed entirely online.

Degree-seekers can pursue generalist associate of arts and associate of science degrees, which provide strong educational foundations for subsequent enrollment in bachelor's programs. Individuals can also train for careers in supply chain management, medical office administration, IT, early childhood education, criminal justice, accounting, and business without setting foot in a traditional classroom.

VGCC boasts strong graduation rates and small class sizes. The school's 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio allows students to receive plenty of individualized attention from their professors.


Trinity Valley Community College

Athens, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 76%

TVCC is one of the best community colleges in Texas. The school — which traces its history back to 1946 — holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

TVCC's lineup of online programs breaks down into two main groups: academic education leading to associate degrees that can be transferred to a four-year school and workforce education culminating in an associate degree, certificate, or diploma. Learners who live near the school's campus network can also pursue hybrid programs in areas like fine arts, dance, music, agriculture, and athletic training.

Aggregated student satisfaction survey data from 2015-2019 indicate high satisfaction rates. For example, in 2018, 87.5% of respondents indicated they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their educational experience at TVCC.


Northeast Community College

Norfolk, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

Nebraska's NCC enjoys a strong reputation for the quality of its practical training programs. Student success statistics compiled in 2017-18 showed excellent results; 99% of graduates were employed or enrolled in further education and 85% of graduating class members held jobs related to their fields of study.

Online learners at NCC can prepare for career success in four ways: through certificate programs, diploma programs, partner programs, and study paths leading to associate degrees. The school offers more than 20 career-oriented program options.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, NCC ranks among Nebraska's largest junior colleges. The college educates about 5,000 learners each year.


Frontier Community College

Fairfield, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

A member of the Illinois Eastern Community College (IECC) system, FCC maintains encouraging student retention and graduation rates. In 2018, 70% of students graduated or transferred into senior colleges within 150% of the normal program completion time. That same year, 79% of full-time students returned the following academic year. Both of these rates exceed national averages.

In partnership with other members of IECC, the school offers a variety of online programs, including 11 career-oriented certificate paths and eight degree tracks in fields including accounting, health information technology, medical assistantship, sports management, and numerous generalist arts and science paths.

Frontier Community College holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


Alexandria Technical & Community College

Alexandria, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

Minnesota's ATCC maintains a strong focus on transfer pathways in its lineup of online programs. The school prepares learners for successful transition into four-year programs in practical fields that include sociology, psychology, history, law enforcement, economics, business, and accounting.

Beyond these popular offerings, the institution supports school-to-job pathways in fields like computer science, cybersecurity, human services, medical administration and coding, paralegal studies, retail management, and speech-language pathology.

ATCC also offers online learners the opportunity to create individualized programs. With the help and guidance of academic advisors, degree-seekers can build custom study paths.


Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Wesson, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

Based in Wesson, Mississippi, Co-Lin specializes in associate degree programs. Internet-based learners can choose from more than 30 degrees, taking advantage of one of the most varied sets of academic pathways offered by a junior college.

Co-Lin's program options display a strong orientation toward business, health sciences, and education. Together, these fields account for nearly two-thirds of its current online degree offerings. Other options include speech pathology, coaching, entrepreneurship, kinesiology, and exercise science. Students can also prepare for transfer into four-year institutions.

One of the oldest continuously operating junior colleges in Mississippi, Co-Lin first opened its doors to students in 1915. The college holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


Cochise College

Douglas, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 26%

Douglas, Arizona-based Cochise features several academically oriented online study opportunities designed to prepare students for university transfer. This top regional junior college offers associate degrees in multiple career-oriented subject areas, including business administration, economics, and computer science.

Degree-seekers can also earn generalist designations in arts, social sciences, and general studies. Each of these paths provides the academic background needed to earn advanced standing in accredited bachelor's programs in related fields.

Cochise also features a collection of programs for emerging intelligence professionals. Military students can take advantage of accelerated study opportunities if they want to train for careers in intelligence operations.


Carroll Community College

Westminster, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 31%

Carroll Community College offers a customizable generalist degree program. Available to online and hybrid learners, the format of this program supports students seeking purpose-built study paths that lead to associate degrees.

With the assistance and guidance of a dedicated advisor, first-time and transfer students can craft an individualized program, choosing from core courses in seven broad categories. Thirty-one of the program's 60 required credits cover the student's choice of topics in the arts, humanities, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and behavioral sciences.

Degree-seekers supplement their chosen courses with classes in English composition and literature, along with guided electives and other institutional requirements. Graduates make good candidates for continued study at senior colleges.


Kennebec Valley Community College

Fairfield, ME Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

With regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education, Maine's KVCC hosts a practical lineup of online certificate and degree programs. Distance learners can pursue study paths in subjects including business administration, early childhood education, mental health technology, and liberal studies.

The vast majority of KVCC students enjoy positive outcomes after graduation. For example, the school's most recent graduate survey showed a 100% employment rate among respondents who completed the certificate program in mental health technology. Other high-performing online programs include early childhood education (88% employment rate) and marketing (87% employment rate).

KVCC also offers unique options in pulp and paper technology — available as a certificate track or an associate degree program. Degree-seekers based in the Kennebec Valley can also pursue various hybrid study options.


John Wood Community College

Quincy, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Routinely ranked among the best trade schools and community colleges in Illinois, JWCC supports online learners seeking associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of general studies degrees. Learners build customized study plans from dozens of available online courses in a broad cross-section of study areas.

In addition to traditional academic subjects, online degree-seekers can engage with specialized topics, such as fire science technology and homeland security. JWCC uses the Canvas online learning platform to deliver classes that follow the same semester-based schedule as traditional programs.

JWCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In 2019, the school achieved a 72% retention rate, which handily outpaces the national average and indicates strong levels of student satisfaction.


Mid-Plains Community College

North Platte, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

Nebraska's MPCC matches incoming online learners with personal advisors who guide them through application and enrollment. After enrollment, new students convene with academic and career advisors who help degree-seekers create effective, customized education and job transition plans.

These practical advantages enhance the value of MPCC's online degree offerings. Learners can choose from associate programs that include criminal justice, library tech, criminal justice, business administration, and an academic transfer path for students bound for senior college.

Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, MPCC graduates nearly two-thirds of its full-time students. The school owes much of its success to excellent student support resources, which are available to online learners.


Allen County Community College

Iola, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 38%

Based in Iola, Kansas, Allen's online degree paths lead to associate degrees in arts, applied science, science, and general studies. Learners interested in career training can also choose from job-oriented certificate programs.

Recent student surveys find that 90% of online learners felt challenged by their classes and that more than 90% of respondents would recommend the school to others.

One of the best trade schools and community colleges in Kansas, Allen meets the learning needs of a diverse group of learners, including college-bound high school students, working professionals, adult students, and healthcare employees looking to retrain for career advancement purposes.


Shoreline Community College

Shoreline, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

At Washington state's Shoreline Community College, online learners benefit from a variety of student resources, including remote tutoring assistance and a dedicated e-learning technical support team. These benefits complement the school's collection of online programs, which include more than 30 degree and certificate paths.

Learners seeking degrees can complete professional and technical programs in areas like accounting, criminal justice, elementary education, health information technology, and supply chain management. Certificate programs focus on career-oriented paths in both traditional and emerging fields, with noteworthy options including electronic music engineering, social media marketing, and sustainable business.

SCC holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. About 44% of the school's student body takes at least one online class, while transfer and professional/technical education learners account for 87% of enrollment.


Coffeyville Community College

Coffeyville, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 40%

With a history dating back to 1921, CCC is one of Kansas' best community colleges. Structured as a comprehensive junior school, CCC offers an entirely online associate of arts degree path intended for learners who plan to transfer to a four-year institution.

Comprising 64 credits, this online degree program prepares graduates to join a variety of liberal arts, humanities, and social science fields. Students emerge with well-rounded backgrounds thanks to required courses in the arts and humanities, mathematics, science, computing, and personal growth and wellness.

Full-time faculty teach 91% of all for-credit courses at the college. CCC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


Iowa Lakes Community College

Estherville, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

A leading member of the Iowa Community College Online Consortium, Iowa Lakes features more than 300 online courses. The school also offers blended learning opportunities that combine internet and television technologies, bringing a variety of academic programs to students.

The institution focuses on technical and applied science disciplines, which account for a large majority of its certificate, diploma, and degree programs. Iowa Lakes also has high school partnerships that extend college-level learning opportunities to high-achieving, college-bound students.

With affordable tuition, enrollment and academic coaching, and accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, Iowa Lakes delivers a value-laden educational experience. The school's 2018 annual report indicates high achievement standards, including a graduation rate that exceeds statewide averages by more than 20%.


State Fair Community College

Sedalia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 30%

Approximately 50% of students at Missouri's SFCC engage with the school's online learning platform, which includes about 260 course offerings. The college also enables online learners to complete a general associate of arts degree or an associate of applied science in business management degree entirely online.

Local learners interested in hybrid formats that blend online and traditional delivery methods can choose from many additional options. Online courses rotate each semester but typically include classes in business, computer science, education, economics, English, and multiple social science disciplines.

SFCC also features some of the state's lowest tuition rates. Online learners qualify for generous financial aid opportunities, with the average aid package at SFCC topping $5,000 for the 2019-20 academic year.


Barton Community College

Great Bend, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 32%

BCC hosts a dedicated distance learning portal: BARTonline. Designed to deliver a highly flexible and customizable educational experience, BARTonline enables students to create their own schedules by choosing from four-week, six-week, eight-week, and traditional 16-week study sessions.

Using the Canvas e-learning platform, BARTonline routinely upgrades its lineup of supported classes. Remote learners can pursue associate degrees with arts, science, general studies, and applied science designations. Students can also earn three different types of certificates.

Incoming students can also take advantage of comprehensive online placement services that assess candidates' college readiness. More than 90% of students who participated in 2019 satisfaction surveys indicated they had a positive learning experience.


Central Community College

Grand Island, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 41%

Nebraska's CCC embraces online learning, offering one of the largest selections of distance-based diploma, certificate, and degree programs in the region. A fairly early adopter of e-learning technologies, CCC has been delivering online courses since 2005. Students can choose from dozens of academic and technical study paths.

CCC's online programs cover four distinct categories: associate of applied science degrees, academic transfer degrees, diploma programs, and certificate programs. Degree paths emphasize business, computer science, and information technology subjects, while diploma and certificate offerings concentrate on skills-based career training.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CCC outperforms standardized group median comparisons by wide margins in terms of retention and graduation rates. Performance data covering the class of 2016 found that 92% of graduates found employment after completing their education at CCC.


Madisonville Community College

Madisonville, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 40%

Based in western Kentucky, MCC offers fully online programs in many specialized areas. Distance learners can pursue learning opportunities related to energy management, human services, mining technology, and paralegal technology.

All online students benefit from low in-state tuition rates, regardless of their actual physical locations. Individuals also enjoy a simple, three-step application process, which includes submitting an application, ACT or COMPASS skills assessment test scores, and GED scores or transcripts from high school or college.

Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, MCC outperforms national graduation rate averages and hosts a diverse student body. One statistic that highlights the college's institutional effectiveness is the 92.5% licensure pass rate among students graduating into career tracks that require formal certification.


Central Carolina Community College

Sanford, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Regionally accredited since 1972, CCCC supports several educational opportunities that can be completed at least 50% online. In-person attendance requirements vary by program, with some requiring regular campus residencies or internships.

CCCC's lineup of online courses and programs include high-growth career training and academic classes suitable for transfer to senior colleges. Learners can earn associate degrees in arts, science, and engineering, while vocationally oriented students can take advantage of many specialized business, technology, information management, and education programs.

CCCC ranks as a top regional performer. During the 2010s, the school increased its number of associate of arts graduates by 70%, while also overseeing a dramatic 493% increase in associate of science matriculants.

Why Choose Community College or Trade School?

Community colleges and trade schools offer students lower costs, smaller courses, diverse populations, and career preparation.

The best community colleges allow candidates to earn higher education credits at lower prices than four-year institutions. However, the benefits of attending a community college extend beyond cost.

Most of these schools feature small campuses that allow for easier navigation, and class sizes often reflect this same comfortable quality. Rather than studying as a face in a large crowd, community college learners may attend classes that encourage individual interaction between classmates and faculty.

This intimate setting boosts educational quality since students can discuss class concepts with professors. These personal connections can lead to more networking opportunities and support after graduation, such as more authentic recommendation letters.

Community colleges and trade schools offer students lower costs, smaller courses, diverse populations, and career preparation.

Degree seekers experience greater flexibility at community colleges since these schools offer numerous evening and weekend courses. Attending community college allows working professionals to fulfill program requirements around work schedules.

Community colleges and trade schools also include more diverse student populations since many nontraditional learners, such as single parents and learners returning to school after years of absence, frequently choose these institutions.

Many community college students study locally, making it easy for students to live at home. However, this aspect sometimes limits the number of international learners at a community college.

Community college degrees can lead to immediate employment in certain trades, such as nursing and paralegal studies, but candidates can also use these programs as stepping stones toward four-year degrees. Either way, students gain a strong academic foundation to prepare for the future.

Learn more about what makes a trade program unique in our Guide to Trade School vs. College.

Are Community Colleges and Trade Schools Cheaper Than Four-Year Universities?

In general, community colleges and trade schools charge lower tuition than four-year schools. A year's worth of tuition at a four-year school is often more than the cost of an entire associate or trade school program.

While an average trade school program is far more expensive than community college — approximately $33,000 — it's still a fraction of four-year university costs. Due to the cheaper rates, learners can take classes from multiple fields to search for the right major before committing to a program. Additionally, many community college learners live at home, which eliminates room-and-board expenses for lower educational costs.

Average Full-Time Cost of Community College
Tuition $3,730
Room and Board $8,990
Books and Supplies $1,460
Transportation $1,840
Other Expenses $2,400
TOTAL $18,420

Source: Collegeboard

Community College Admission Requirements

Admission standards at community colleges prove lenient when compared to four-year schools' requirements. For instance, candidates may enroll at certain community schools before graduating high school, and other learners may only need evidence of a high school diploma or equivalent before beginning college coursework.

Community colleges may require applications and proof of selective service registration, if applicable, but may omit common admission elements such as standardized tests and minimum GPAs. Due to this leniency, students with low GPAs may study at community schools to prepare for admission into a four-year institution.

Students should note, however, that individual programs may involve limited enrollment that can intensify admission requirements.

Salaries for Associate Degree Holders

Individuals who earn an associate degree make approximately $400,000 more in a lifetime than candidates with only a high school diploma, but expected salaries vary based on career.

This applies to individuals with trade school certificates, as well. The median annual earnings for trade school jobs is approximately $35,000, but salaries for trade school graduates can range upwards to $70,000 depending on the occupation. For instance, registered nurses with associate degrees earn a median salary of $70,000 per year. However, preschool teachers who hold associate degrees earn a median salary of $28,990.

Students can research the typical wages for their intended careers to determine the financial value of an associate degree after graduation.Median Annual Salaries for Positions that Require Only an Associate Degree

Median Annual Salaries for Positions that Require Only an Associate Degree
Position Median Annual Salary
Administrative Assistant $38,880
Legal Assistant $50,940
Chef or Head Cook $48,460
Property Manager $58,340
Audit Clerk $40,240

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Community College or Trade School

Location matters when choosing from among the best community colleges in the U.S. Many students decide on local schools to enjoy the convenience of learning while living at home, while other learners desire to study in a new area.

This decision impacts career opportunities since a program's practicum or fieldwork introduces candidates to potential work environments. When learners fulfill these experiences in their desired city, they increase their chances of earning employment from these program elements.

Degree seekers should also research tuition rates to find budget-friendly options. Neglecting this step leads to higher student loan debt or out-of-pocket expenses. Location impacts cost since in-district or in-state students often pay less tuition than non-resident learners. Other factors that influence tuition rates include program and degree type. For instance, medical courses involve higher tuition rates than history courses.

A limited number of programs remains one shortcoming of community colleges. Due to this constraint, candidates should search for schools that offer their intended program.

Schools provide tutoring services, counseling, writing assistance, sports programs, clubs, and extracurricular opportunities that engage a student's interest and deliver additional field experience. Applicants should consider these opportunities when selecting institutions to ensure a well-rounded and fulfilling education.

Graduation rates should also impact college choice since a high rating indicates student success. Candidates can consult the National Center for Education Statistics for information on these rates.

Accreditation for Community Colleges

Accreditation means a recognized agency has determined a school or program holds academic merit. Currently, the ED lists more than 30 nationally accepted agencies. Institutions may earn national accreditation that reaches across the country. Regional accreditation indicates agency support in one of six regions and provides easier credit transfers between schools.

Community colleges often boast regional accreditation. Programmatic accreditation means an agency has approved a particular program within a school. This accreditation matters greatly when earning a career in certain fields, such as law and healthcare.

Students who attend unaccredited schools may find that employers do not recognize their degrees as valuable. To encourage future employment, candidates should search the ED's database to verify a school's accreditation.

Types of Associate Degrees

The best community colleges in America offer students various associate degrees, and each option provides specific benefits and purposes. Candidates should consider all opportunities to ensure the selected degree complements their career goals.While many trade schools are accredited to award associate degrees, students often pursue trade certificates or diplomas as they require less time to complete. These certifications typically prepare students for a specific occupation.

Associate of Arts (AA)

These degrees provide candidates with liberal arts knowledge in fields such as theater, history, literature, sociology, languages, and art. Programs often require 60 credits and two years for completion. AA degrees prepare students for transfer to four-year schools, making an AA a stepping stone in higher education.

Associate of Science (AS)

Like an AA, an AS presents students with coursework that prepares for studying at four-year schools. These degrees include similar qualities as an AS, such as credit requirements and general education needs, but may call for more math or science classes within the needed 60 credits.

Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)

These degrees focus on liberal arts, but prepare candidates for immediate employment after graduation instead of a school transfer. Specifically, learners can train to become chefs, interior designers, photographers, and paralegals through these programs. Departments may require 60 credits and two years for AAA completion.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

An AAS readies candidates to enter the workforce after graduation. Contrary to an AAA, however, this associate degree focuses more on math and science coursework rather than arts. Possible fields for AAS employment include accounting, nursing, and physical therapy. Students may need to complete 60 credits to earn this degree.

Tips for Prospective Community College Students

  • Plan

    Students should know their goals when entering a community college to prepare for life after graduation. For instance, learners who intend to immediately enter the workforce can step toward this goal by pursuing an AAS or AAA.

  • Talk With an Adviser

    Advisers may provide insights on academic concerns, such as schools that award community college students with transfer scholarships, or internship opportunities that apply to students' career goals.

  • Connect With Faculty

    Four-year institutions may require recommendation letters for admission. Building professional relationships with college educators gives students opportunities to submit positive and genuine letters from higher education professionals.

  • Apply for Financial Aid

    Community colleges often require less money than four-year schools, but candidates should still apply for financial assistance. With scholarships and grants, learners may finish an associate degree without paying any money out-of-pocket.

  • Care About GPA

    Bachelor's programs may insist on a minimum GPA for admission, and employers might consider transcript grades when hiring. GPA matters for learners intending to transfer or immediately enter the workforce.

Transferring to a Four-Year School

Students can transfer to bachelor's programs as prepared juniors by researching transfer details when they first enter community colleges. For instance, some state schools agree to accept all coursework from in-state community colleges. Candidates wanting to attend a specific four-year university should choose a community college from that institution's state.

Furthermore, learners should contact an admissions representative from the intended four-year school for information on how each credit transfers. For example, a student may take a community college course concerning fantasy literature to fulfill a literature requirement. However, if the chosen four-year school does not offer an equivalent course, the class may only transfer as an elective. If too many associate courses suffer this fate, students must complete most general requirements and core classes after transferring in order to earn a bachelor's.

Students should note that only the name of the school awarding a degree appears on the actual degree. For the bachelor's, no reference to community colleges surfaces on the degree.

Find the Best Community College Where You Live

Community college is a great option for students that want to study close to home. Find our top picks for community colleges in every state.

Community Colleges and Trade Schools