2-Year Programs Explained – GradPlan


2-Year Programs Explained

Learn about Community Colleges and Associate Degree programs

What is a two-year program? 

These are college-level programs at local community colleges or city colleges. These colleges provide discounted tuition and benefits for students who live in the community (or city) where the college is located. Course offerings include 2-year (60 credit hours) Associate’s Degree programs; or, 1-year or less (30 credit hours or less) Certification programs and training.

Why consider a two-year program?

Over four million students enroll in 2-year community college programs each year. Here are some potential benefits to these programs:

  • Lower tuition costs and “free-college” initiatives make it easier to afford.
  • A wide array of degree and certification options, including job training programs.
  • Flexible schedules, including night and weekend classes.
  • Often closer to home, requiring less travel.
  • 2-year colleges generally open their doors to all high school graduates, regardless of past academic performance.


At the end of a two-year program, students earn an Associate’s degree. There are a lot of career paths that start with just an Associate’s degree, so it is possible to step right into the workforce after graduating from a two-year program. Or, some students choose to transfer to a Bachelor’s degree program to further their education.


Types of Two-Year Programs

There are several types of programs which fall under the umbrella of a “two-year program”, even though they can often take much less (or sometimes more) than two-years. Check out the different types and examples of each in this chart:


Common Career Paths








Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Emergency Medical Technician

Solar Panel Installation

Programs can range from as short as 30 days to up to 12-months in length.

$600 – $2,000 depending on certification


Associate’s Degree

Web Developer

Occupational Therapist

Construction Management


Most Associate Degree programs take 18-36 Months to complete

$20,000-$35,000 depending on the program type and length

$49,000 – $64,000

Professional Licensure

Pilot’s License

Licensed Journeyman (trades)

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Licensing programs can take up to 1 year to complete after an Associate’s Degree

Licensing programs can run from $2,000 to $20,000


Pause & Consider

Now that you have learned what two-year programs are, here are some reflection questions to help you think through this option:

  • What concerns you about choosing a 2-year program?
  • What makes a 2-year program exciting for you?
  • What is your goal? Is it to save money, to enter a certain career field quicker, to obtain a certification, or to later transfer to a 4-year university?
  • Does a two-year option fit with your career plans after high school? Why or why not?
  • What additional information do you need in order to fully understand this option? How can you get this information, or who can you ask?

Knowing the answers to these questions before you start is a great way to ensure you are on the right path from the get go. And being on the right path often leads to the finish line!

Recommended Resources


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Possible Pathways

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist