When people talk about going to college, especially right after high school, one would assume that they’re referring to their plans to earn a four-year (bachelor’s) degree or higher. Very rarely do you hear of people discussing their plans to earn an associate degrees.
It has never been a secret that having a college degree is a great way to improve earning potential (among other things) – so why do so many people dismiss the associate as an option? Does it have any value in today’s world?
The answer is yes, in some cases – let’s explore its potential.
It Depends on the Program
Because college degree equals more money in most peoples’ minds, they also make the association that a ‘lower-level’ college degree means a lower pay grade. While that’s somewhat true, the gap, in some areas of study, is borderline negligible. Let’s look at this study of wage statistics in Virginia from last year. Researchers found that nurses with four-year degrees jumped into the career world with an average salary of $48,959, while nurses with associate’s degrees immediately began earning, on average, $45,342. Not only is the associate’s pay grade comparable to its four-year counterpart, but it’s also higher than the average salaries of a number of different four-year programs. In short – do your research!
Industry Plays a Role
It’d be insane to think that the average two-year art student will be making more than the average graduate of a four-year engineering program. However, some industries are simply more lucrative and require less schooling. Two-year degrees in technical fields, for example, have been shown to be more financially valuable than a great number of four-year degrees across all sorts of industries. In most cases, those who pursue an occupational and technical associate’s will make more money than those who pursue non-occupational associate’s. This shouldn’t be news to anyone.
So, what do I do?
Still not sure whether to go to your local tech school or get your bachelor’s at some big-name university? Do your homework – and not just the kind you get in class. You need to simply research your industry of choice to find not only what type of degree best suits your goals, but also what school you should go to, what supplemental certifications you should get, and what the job market is like in your region. If you want to take classes online, research the top online colleges; if you want to live in Washington, DC, research what kinds of jobs exist there for engineers. But to answer the big question: yes, associate’s degrees – like bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctorate’s – have plenty of value if you pursue them wisely, but can end up as no more than a hunk of debt if you don’t.