Total student loan debt in the United States now exceeds $1.2 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Institute of College Access and Success estimates that one in 10 graduates has $40,000 or more in student loan debt, while the average borrower carries about $26,000.

Numbers like these can cause any rational person to think twice about enrolling in a four-year college program. It also doesn’t help that only 27 per cent of college graduates are actually working in their field of study, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

For many, the smarter investment would be to attend a two-year college and learn skills that open career doors immediately. The average annual tuition at a community college is around $3,130 compared to nearly $9,000 for a four-year university, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Here are a few majors to consider:

Medical Assistant

No matter how you feel about it, the Affordable Care Act will create more opportunities for hospital and office personnel. Medical assistants perform various clinical and administrative duties, ranging from scheduling appointments and updating records to collecting lab specimens and taking vital signs. The median annual salary for medical assistants in 2012 was just less than $30,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Graduates of a medical assisting program should also get certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) to maximize their employment opportunities. The cost of the exam is $125 for AAMA members and $250 for non-members, and there may be extra costs involved if you wish to take a review course. You can put these expenses on your credit card or, for those who are currently receiving regular structured settlement payments, visit the J.G. Wentworth Facebook page. You may be able to sell your future payments to the company for a lump sum of cash now, which you can then use to help cover the cost of the exam and preparation materials.

Corporate Paralegal

Paralegals have different responsibilities depending on the attorney’s area of specialization. But in general, most paralegals file briefs in court, schedule meetings, draft contracts and do various tasks around the office. Corporate paralegals are a bit different, as they deal with legal matters that could make or break the represented business. Corporate paralegals for established law firms usually complete an internship with those firms and are hired permanently upon completion. reports the average salary for corporate paralegals is $44,000 annually.

Graphic Design

Forrester Research estimates that 60 per cent of all U.S. retail sales will involve the Internet in some way by 2017. It is essential for every business in the country to have an online presence to compete in today’s global, Web-based economy. An associate’s degree in graphic design can not only get your foot in the door with thousands of companies, but it can set you up to go into business for yourself. The median annual wage for graphic designers in 2012 was $44,150, according to the BLS. California, New York and Texas are the best states for new graduates to find employment quickly.