By Krystal Ramos
Looking for a career in the medial field but want to potentially avoid the high cost that comes with attending a four-year university? Well, look no further than your local community college.
There are numerous job opportunities within the medical field that do not always require a bachelor’s degree. Among those jobs are radiation therapists, respiratory therapists, cardiovascular technologist and technicians and registered nurses, just to name a few.
For example, the nursing program at College of the Canyons is among one of the more popular programs offered by the school. Prospective nursing students can enroll in COC’s program for an estimated cost of $4,000. That is less when compared to a program found at a four-year university, like California State University of Northridge, which is estimated at $20,000.
According to the California Employment Development Department, the average income for a graduate with an associate’s degree in nursing is $76,731. That is nearly $18,000 less than graduates who earned a bachelor’s in nursing.
For Rebecca Janke, a COC alumni, an out-of-state university is where she planned on continuing her education. After being told by her mother that out-of-state would not be an option, Janke decided to look into community colleges.
Her search led her to COC. The school was affordable, close to home and more importantly it had a nursing program.
Unfortunately for Janke the road to becoming a nurse would be anything but an easy one.
“I was dismissed from the nursing program at COC and it made me never want to become a nurse again. I just lost faith in myself,” said Janke.
Despite being dismissed from the nursing program, Janke would go on to complete her associate’s degree at COC in biological and physical sciences in 2006.
Rather than continue her education further, she spent the next couple of years teaching computer classes and taking on the role of after school coordinator at Mary Immaculate School, an elementary school in Pacoima.
While working at the elementary school Janke was making $10 an hour as the after school coordinator and $13.50 as the computer teacher.
“I just wanted to stay teaching at Mary Immaculate, although teaching has its flaws,” said Janke. “I even contemplated becoming a probation officer, but nursing was always on my mind.”
Then came the chance for Janke to go back to school, this time for an LVN at NVOC & Manual Arts.
“I was afraid of having to go back to a world of mean teachers and deans. I prayed on it and decided to give it one more chance. If it wasn’t mean to be, then I would go back to school for a different career path,” said Janke.
The program at NVOC & Manual Arts cost $2,000. With the help of family and savings, all Janke had to pay to enroll was $900. She completed the program and went on to take the test for her license, which she passed.
Today, Janke is working at a county hospital and is provided benefits and a retirement plan. However, those benefits come at a cost. She takes home $1,248.67 twice a month.
“My gross pay is $1,973.25 but after you factor out taxes, health and dental insurances, life and accident insurances, union dues, retirement plan, and supplemental insurances that I pay into, it lessens my income by a lot,” said Janke.
Janke was just married three weeks ago so she is expecting her income to go up by almost $200.
As for the future, Janke is planning on enrolling in a program similar to NVOC that would allow her to bridge from an LVN to an RN. Once she becomes an RN, Janke plans on picking a specialty to stick with and continue her schooling to receive her bachelor’s in nursing.
Receiving a two-year degree can not only offer graduates a well-paying job, it can potentially open other doors for those students looking to transfer out and continue on to a four-year university.
Eric Encinas attended COC with the goal of pursuing a career as an athletic trainer.
At COC, he gained hands-on experience from the numerous classes he enrolled in as well as the sporting events he took part in. However, Encinas knew that if he wanted to continue pursuing a career in athletic training a two-year degree would not be enough to secure a job.
“The only way to achieve a degree in athletic training is by going through a four-year California Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA) accredited program,” said Encinas.
He continued his education at COC and graduated in Spring 2014 with an AS in Social Science, AS in Athletic Training and AA in Liberal Arts and Sciences CSU Social and Behavioral Science.
With his associates’ degree in hand he transferred to California State University of Long Beach where he put his focus on graduating with his bachelor’s degree in athletic training.
The decision to transfer also saw a much greater price increase in tuition.
At COC the cost of attendance for a full time student is $540 a semester. At CSULB Encinas is currently paying $4,000 a semester.
Encinas has been a student at CSULB for two years and this fall he will be entering into his third and final year at Long Beach.
In his time at CSULB he has been unable to find a job to save up for when he has to pay off those loans. It is not for lack of trying either.
The program that he is enrolled in requires students be in rotation and work at numerous sporting events to put in hours as a student trainer. All of this is done without any pay or compensation.
“It does bother me that we don’t get paid because during the season I can put between 40-60 hours a week and when the season is completed I can put between 20-40 hours a week,” said Encinas. “With all of our time spent on our rotation we are unable to work other jobs at reasonable hours.”
With only in-school training to rely on, Encinas must network in order to potentially secure a job after he graduates.
“Networking is key for this profession so being able to network while still in college and forming these relationships that can help with future jobs,” said Encinas.
Encinas has yet to secure a job following his graduation next spring, but networking has put him in touch with people that are hiring or know of other employers looking to hire someone with Encinas’ experience.
Those connections will prove to be greatly beneficial should it result in a well-paying job for Encinas.
The average income for an athletic trainer in California varies depending on the county you are working in. In Carlsbad, a graduate with a bachelor’s in athletic training can earn an average of $44,619 a year. In Berkeley a graduate with the same degree can earn an average of $47,605 a year. This is not including bonus and other factors that can potentially impact your annual income.
For now, Encinas is continuing on towards his bachelors and plans on pursuing his master’s and possibly a PhD in athletic training or sports management.
For any student wanting to further their education, weighing out all of their options can be important. According to Encinas, attending a two-year college first helped prepare him for the university level. There are even times where he says that some classes are easier at CSULB than they were at COC.