Community College Offers Career Paths Without Huge Debt

When Pablo Martinez got out of the military, he didn't know what he wanted to do next.

"I was in the Marine Corps for close to eleven years." he says, "I joined when I was 17."

But unlike many college aged kids, Martinez didn't want to spend years figuring out a major. The husband and father wanted to be able to provide support to his family fast. He signed up for a special welding program at Mountain View College.

Turns out, that was a good call.

He's been in the program for only a few weeks, but when he posted his resume on a jobs website, he got three offers within a couple days.

Welding is just one of the professions hot in North Texas right now, professions that don't take a four year degree to make good money. According the nonprofit College Board, the average cost to go to a private university is $31,231 a year. For public colleges, it's $9,139 a year. An associate's degree from one of the Dallas County Community colleges will cost about $3,500.

It may earn you a starting salary of $40,000 to $70,000, depending on the profession you pick.

"It really is a supply and demand issue," Chancellor Joe May of the Dallas County College District explains. "When the demand for jobs exceeds the supply of workers, salaries go up."

Some of the professions that are particularly in demand include those in the healthcare industry, jobs like respiratory therapy assistant or radiology technician.

Also hot is the position of car collision repair technician. May also mentions that any jobs related to the construction industry, like welding, are in high demand.

Just how much money can you make? It's not the norm, but May says welders can potentially make six figures.

Dwayne Roy is a welding instructor with Mountain View College, where Martinez attends. He says the high demand doesn't surprise him a bit.

"I got on the internet this morning and just pulled up welding jobs in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and the first thing that I found there are about 100 jobs there just right now," Roy said.

Roy says many welders are his age, nearing or at retirement. The growth of the industry has also helped increase demand.

"The growth of the welding industry right now is about 25 percent per year," Roy said.

Over a wage earner's lifetime, on average, a worker with a four-year degree will earn more than one with a two-year degree.

Still, Martinez feels like he made the right choice for him and his family.

"There's plenty of more jobs and earning that I can get for doing this, he said. "It's really really good for me."

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