Learn more about the many educational pathways the North Carolina Community College System offers and which one—or ones—might be a great fit for you.
You’ve got options
Discover the different directions your education can take to get you where you want to go.
Short-Term Workforce Training
Short-term workforce training, also referred to as continuing education, includes a variety of training opportunities that often lead to a certificate or state licensure. These courses tend to provide practical as opposed to academic instruction and are ideal for those who want to hit the job market as soon as possible. People going into fields like cosmetology and culinary arts, as well as those interested in hands-on jobs like construction and welding, can easily find training opportunities in those areas.
Short-term workforce training results in either certificates or continuing education units (CEUs). One CEU is equal to 10 hours of participation in an accredited course. Many professionals, such as real estate agents, lawyers, engineers, nurses, financial advisors and CPAs are required to attain a certain number of CEUs each year to maintain their certificates and licenses to practice. The specific amount needed varies by profession and state.
Certificate programs are one major type of short-term workforce training. They are non-degree programs with the goal of providing specific licenses or certificates needed to begin (or continue) working in a specific field. Nurses, plumbers, building and road inspectors, as well as EMTs, all require these types of licenses. Many careers involving the operation of specific machinery also require certain kinds of licenses that can be obtained through a community college.
These entry-level employment training courses typically range from 12 to 18 semester hour credits and can usually be completed within one semester by a full-time student. Any associate degree-level courses taken as part of a certificate program can also be applied toward a diploma or an associate in applied science degree.
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with related instruction, allowing participants to earn money while mastering a highly skilled trade. This pay-as-you-go model makes apprenticeship a great way to complete your education without taking on any school-related debt. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and community colleges work together with business and industry to create and provide a wide variety of apprenticeship programs designed to prepare you with the exact skills you will need in your job once you graduate. You’ll find apprenticeships in a number of surprising fields such as banking, logistics, health care public safety and renewable energy, in addition to more traditionally apprenticed fields, like construction and other trade work.
This avenue for hands-on learning is typically done through one-on-one observation and instruction and feedback. Additional related instruction is provided by a community college and may be administered either on campus, online or through an individualized instructional program. Eligibility for apprenticeships does not require a high school diploma, so North Carolinians from all educational backgrounds—even those who are still in high school—can apply for the Apprenticeship NC program.
An associate degree is a two-year degree that qualifies the degree holder for more jobs and career opportunities than they otherwise would with only a high school diploma. Associate degrees give students the academic knowledge and technical skills they need to get a job or pursue further education in in their area of study.
Not all highly skilled careers require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, there are quite a few high-paying jobs with great benefits that an associate degree can prepare you for. Web developers, radiation therapists, aerospace engineering technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers, dental hygienists, nuclear technicians and air traffic controllers can all get jobs with an associate degree. While semester hour credits within an associate degree may be transferable to a four-year university, they might not all be. It’s always a good idea to check whether or not your specific credits transfer if you plan on continuing your study once you have your degree.
A transfer degree is a type of associate degree that is specifically designed to easily transfer to a public four-year college or university in North Carolina. This type of degree was created to ensure completed course credits don’t get lost when advancing to a four-year school. Transfer degrees can be earned through an Associate in Arts, Associate in Engineering, Associate in Science and Associate in Fine Arts.
Like any other associate degree, transfer degrees can be completed within two years. They include an array of basic courses, each of which are guaranteed to provide transferrable credit hours. Transfer degrees are the equivalent of having taken two years of coursework at the institution to which they’re being transferred. All North Carolina community colleges offer at least one of these transferable associate degrees.
Career and College Promise
(for high school students)
The North Carolina Career & College Promise program allows current high school students to receive college credit while still working on their high school diplomas. This dual-enrollment program between high schools and community colleges across the state offers structured opportunities for students to get a head start on earning a certificate, diploma, degree or other recognized credential. Career & College Promise is a completely free program that’s available to all students who meet the eligibility requirements.
This no-cost option for earning college credit allows high school students to attend classes on a community college campus and includes three distinct pathways, depending on the student’s interests and career goals. The College Transfer Pathway is intended for students who plan on pursuing a bachelor’s degree and focuses on earning at least 30 hours of transferrable college semester hours.
The second option is the Career and Technical Education Pathway, which is focused on students who see themselves pursuing a technical career. Students on this pathway complete a curriculum that is geared toward earning a diploma, certificate or state- or industry-recognized credential that’s aligned with a high school career cluster.
Cooperative Innovative High School Programs are the third pathway in the Career & College Promise program. These schools are located on college campuses and offer students the opportunity to complete both their high school diploma as well as an associate degree (or up to two years of college credit) in just five years.
Career & College Promise not only provides students a more direct path to the career they want, but also allows them to take these college-level courses for free—which can significantly cut the cost of receiving a higher education. To learn more about this program, reach out to a high school career counselor or your closest North Carolina community college.