If you’re looking to gain the most educational bang for your buck, it is tough to argue against an associate degree.
For two years (or approximately 20 classes) of learning and around $5,000 of tuition, you could graduate and be ready to earn just as much as someone with a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, many four-year schools accept applications from community college graduates looking to complete their bachelor’s degree. It’s not as though an associate degree will close any doors for you.
The advantages of earning “only” an associate degree in terms of job prospects depend on your career goals and location. According to a study by Georgetown University, 28 percent of associate degree holders earn more than the average person with a bachelor’s degree. How can you land in that camp? Programs in certain industries will absolutely qualify you to succeed and find a job whose earning power is comparable to what might be available to a four-year graduate.
Career Prospects for Associate Degree Graduates
Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. has identified several of the careers in which associate degree holders comprise a large percentage of the workforce and earn approximately as much as their colleagues who have pursued four-year degrees.
Top Healthcare Industry Jobs for Graduates with Associate Degrees
- Radiation Therapists - median annual wage: $77,560
- Dental Hygienists - median annual wage: $70,210
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists - median annual wage: $70,180
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers - median annual wage: $60, 350
- Respiratory Therapists - median annual wage: $55, 870
Top Technician Jobs for Graduates with Associate Degrees
- Nuclear Technicians - median annual wage: $69,060
- Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians - median annual wage: $61,530
- Engineering Technicians, including Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical and Electronics) - median annual wages: $47,560, $51,980, $57,850, respectively
It’s important to note that job opportunities vary significantly by region.
Sometimes, community colleges partner with regional employers to ensure a well-educated workforce, including Ford, General Motors, and John Deere. It’s a win-win, because it’s in the interest of both the school and the employer for students to be prepared for jobs that are in demand. So if you plan to attend a particular community college or are considering only schools in a certain region, check to see if the school has launched any corporate partnerships or job placement programs. It could help to guide you — and ultimately, land you a good job — as you choose an associate degree program with an eye toward career advancement.
Ashford, E. (2011, August 30). Corporate partnerships are the lynchpin for many college programs. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from Community College Daily
Selingo, Jeff. The Diploma’s Vanishing Value. (2013, April 26). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from The Wall Street Journal
The College Payoff. (n.d.). Center on Education and the Workforce. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from Georgetown University