Are Associate Degrees Valuable?

517285033When 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.

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The Pros and Cons of Open Enrollment Colleges


As you embark on your journey to find the school that best suits your post-high-school life, you may come across a term you’re unfamiliar with: open enrollment. If you’ve heard it before, it was probably when your parents were discussing healthcare or their 401ks, and those are a whole other can of worms.

Open enrollment schools refer to colleges that don’t have a stringent acceptance process. Anyone who has graduated high school is welcome to attend and acquire an education. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to attending an open enrollment school, so we’ll delineate them here to help you get a better understanding and facilitate educated decision-making on your part.

1. Lessened discrimination. A lot of people hold the opinion that competitive schools don’t provide a fair opportunity to students from poverty-stricken areas, certain races/genders/incomes, et cetera. Allowing anyone to attend creates a school with impossibly broad horizons.

2. Lessened pressure. At schools with a competitive acceptance rate, students often feel very stressed out due to the pressure associated with maintaining their acceptances. Open enrollment schools don’t set the stakes so high, so often students find that they have a better attitude toward learning and are less stressed out.

3. A chance for everyone. Some students are led to believe that they simply don’t stand a chance at furthering their educations, whether it’s due to a learning disability or mistakes they’ve made in the past. These schools give students who haven’t always been academically-oriented a chance to prove themselves and, most importantly, a chance to follow their dreams.

1. Controversy. A lot of people believe that open enrollment schools must either lower their standards for education or increase their tuition in order to be successful. After all, how can a school take in so many students and still ensure that they’re all getting a good education? It’s up to the students to peruse the provided resources for college students the school they attend to ensure that the institution has its priorities in order, but you still may catch some flak from those who are uneducated about the system.

2. Discipline. You have to remember that, while you won’t fail out of this school, you are still paying for an education and it’s up to you to make the most of it. Just because you can take and re-take a course as many times as you wish, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t push yourself.

Points of consideration

1. Deadlines. With so many students applying, deadlines for these schools are often very strict, so it’s important to abide by them.

2. Your goals. Just because these schools have lower pressure doesn’t mean there’s nothing to lose. College is expensive any way you roll the dice, and it’s best to only attend when you’re certain about your drive to succeed.

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The Most Popular Online Degrees of 2014

Most Popular Online DegreesWhen making the decision to pursue a degree online, you might feel like you’re the only one, especially if many of your friends are attending school on-campus. However, online degrees are more popular – and more credible – than they’ve ever been. Not only that, but more and more students are making the decision to further their existing education to make themselves more valuable and worthy of a promotion in their current career fields. This is one of many factors that affects which online degrees have become the most popular – along with possibility of being hired, sense of fulfillment, and financial payoff. For a number of different reasons, these have been some of the most highly-pursued online degrees as of late.

Information Systems Management
Those who pursue a degree in Information Systems Management specialize in creating computer technology solutions for various organizations based on their needs. Once implementing these solutions, they then maintain them. They manage the other members of the IT support team, ensure security, and promote efficiency in diagnosing and solving issues. Because computer technology is so relevant in today’s world, it’s easy to see why so many are pursuing this degree. Professionals are in high demand, and jobs in the field are often quite secure.

Web Development
The reasons for pursuing online college degrees in Web Development are not dissimilar to the reasons for acquiring the aforementioned degree: websites are necessary and relevant, coding is not a common skill, and professionals are in demand. There are many nuances to becoming a web developer, from learning various types of codes, to learning the basics of design, to figuring out what a business needs to achieve their goals. Many students desire the fulfillment of having a creative career but the security of pursuing a path in tech.

Health Care Administration
No matter what, there is always a shortage of healthcare professionals. Knowing that, a lot of students take this path because they want to be able to easily find a job after graduating. Others are simply empathetic creatures that want to devote their lives to helping others. Regardless, the degree opens doors to a lot of jobs that are not as hands-on as working as a medical professional, but still involve helping get people the care they need, which makes it a very desirable career.

Like any degree, a degree in Engineering is just not for everyone. It takes a very math-or-science-brained person to excel in this field, but those who do excel to a great extent. Because engineers have a lot of specialty areas that they can choose from, it’s not difficult to be both successful and fulfilled with an engineering degree. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt that engineers are notoriously highly paid. Its popularity, for that reason, is quite unsurprising.

A lot of people are interested in working with the law, but aren’t necessarily interested in the lifestyle of a lawyer. Being a paralegal has a lot of benefits to offer, and it’s very efficient to get certified online. You’ll enjoy a good salary and a cushy work environment while learning from challenges every day. There is even the opportunity to be independently employed and work in any geographical location. Because of the nature of getting this certification online, you can even work in a law firm to gain experience and position yourself to move up over time while you earn your degree.

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6 Tips for Taking Out Student Loans when the Debt is Inevitable

Student Loans

It’s common sense that if you have the means to avoid taking out student loans, then you should pay for school some other way. However, for a lot of students – especially in this day and age – taking out student loans is quite necessary. It’s become so common that it’s actually rare to encounter a student or graduate without debt.

When you’re beginning to finance your education, it’s important to do it wisely. Following these tips will have your future-self thanking you.

Start looking for assistance as soon as possible.
Loans are a great way to make sure that you are able to experience college, but paying them back is not so fun. Many students overlook the fact that there are so many potential grants and scholarships that they can earn, or they’re simply too lazy to apply for them all. Use a scholarship matching website to find scholarships that you could potentially qualify for, and apply for a few per day. Also, if you’re employed, find out if your work has education compensation.

Borrow federal loans, and only borrow privately if necessary.
By now you’ve probably heard about the FAFSA form, or the Free Application for Federal Aid. This is the information that the government uses to determine how much money to lend you while also potentially offering you grants and workstudy opportunities. It’s important to fill this out because federal loans are superior to private loans for a number of reasons: they have a fixed interest rate, for example, whereas private lenders often increase their interest rates over time. Federal loans can also be deferred while you go to school or if you are in tough financial times. All in all, it’s much easier to budget for federal loans over time.

Don’t get duped by private lenders.
Many private lenders advertise an extremely low interest rate to get you to apply. Then, they increase the rate the next month. They will never be more economical or predictable than federal loans, so only resort to these companies after you’ve maxed out your federal loan capacity. Even then, do lots of research and shopping around.

Consider community.
There are a lot of states that will pay for your education if you do your first two years at a community college and finish up at a state school. You could literally save yourself tens of thousands of dollars by going this route. You could also take supplemental college courses online or during summer break at a lower cost offered by your community college, which will help you catch up without being so expensive.

Try not to fall behind in your degree.
It’s best not to declare a major until you feel certain about it, because sometimes, switching majors puts you back so far that you need to take another year of schooling. This means another year of loans, which your federal loan capacity may not allow for. Plan your courseloads wisely and with a schedule for graduation in mind.

Be frugal.
Remember that excess loan money isn’t just “free money.” Pick up a job if you can, and send your excess money back to the lender so you have less debt in the long run. If you can’t get a job or don’t want to, try to live somewhere with lower rent, cut costs on textbooks, et cetera to make your money stretch further.

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Best Options for Online Tutoring


When you’re struggling to grasp a concept in school, a lot of people will tell you to visit your professor during office hours. However, a lot of the time, the reason students struggle to grasp what their professors are saying is because that teaching style simply doesn’t resonate with them. Sometimes, having someone explain the same material in a fresh way is all it takes to get the information to “click.”

It’s always a great idea to schedule a study session with students from your class that seem to understand the subject matter better than you do. But what do you do if you’re taking college classes online? One great resource is online tutoring – and there are, surprisingly, a lot of reliable sites to get it.


InstaEDU is a site through which you can hire tutors by the minute. Get tutored in anything from geography to program – all you have to do is input the specifics of what you need help with and you’ll be matched to a personalized tutor who is best suited to help you. Typically, the tutor will be available immediately and you can text chat, video chat, and communicate via a digital whiteboard. You can even upload your homework material so that you can both be looking at the same document.


HelpHub is another tutoring on demand service with thousands of college-educated tutors who specialize in all different subjects. Again, this is a pay-as-you-go, no-commitment site that allows you to chat with tutors for free so you can get to know them and decide if they’re right for you before you pay. If you find a tutor to be particularly helpful, you can schedule recurring sessions with him or her so that you can get help throughout the semester.


Home to 200,000 teachers, WizIQ is slightly different from the aforementioned tutoring resources. On this site, you can take pre-recorded classes to learn more about a topic that interests you or for supplemental learning. Alternatively, you can enroll with a private teacher for classes and/or tutoring sessions. This site allows teachers and professors to “run tutoring businesses,” so prices vary depending on what that teacher wants to charge.


Finally, there’s eAge, which is a digital tutoring service for non-native English speakers or those who would like to learn public speaking skills. It focuses primarily on vocabulary, comprehension, communication, grammar, and writing so that you can learn to better communicate – which is one of the most important skills in todays world.

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How do I Know Which Degree is Right for Me?

185520715When you near the end of your high school days, you’re going to have a lot of people essentially asking you what you want to be when you grow up. In spite of the implications, don’t let this lead you to believe that you need to choose a career path before you enroll in school. When figuring out what degree is right for you, timing is [almost] everything.

Before choosing, you need the ability to balance your interests with your skills; your strengths with your experience. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to just choose what sounds the most interesting and expect that you will excel career-wise. It takes a lot of trial and error.

So, before you spend four years’ worth of college tuition only to realize you haven’t chosen the right degree path, take these tips into consideration while enjoying your final months of high school.

You don’t have to decide until you’ve already started school – but you should probably decide by your junior year. College is a time of experimentation, as we all know. The great thing about needing core classes to graduate is that you get to try your hand at a few different fields so that you can figure out what you like, what you’re good at, and what has a future to offer you. As long as you don’t set yourself back credit-wise, you can fit classes from all sorts of subjects into your semesters and narrow it down from there.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Surely you’ll be visiting a number of different schools and meeting with potential advisors. Your questions don’t have to revolve around what clubs are offered, how the dining hall food tastes, and what on-campus life is like. You can ask questions about specific degree programs, such as how frequently graduates get hired from certain programs or what the course load will be like. You might also want to ask if they offer online college courses for certain degrees, in case you decide that’s more your speed.

Don’t stress too much about salary. In the long run, you do have to pursue a field that correlates with something you enjoy doing. Don’t throw yourself into engineering if it truly makes you miserable just because you want the big paycheck. Try to picture yourself working in a field for the rest of your life, and think about how that makes you feel.

Know the details. If you do choose a major, figure out what exactly your schooling will entail. For example, teachers will require an extra year of schooling at some colleges, while psychiatrists need to pursue a doctorate. It’s important to figure out whether the necessary schooling fits in with your life plan in order to avoid abandoning your degree.

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The 7 Best Motivational TED Talks For College Students

TED Talks Logo-1

Although exciting, it’s frightening to leave home and start a new college life. You are entering a new world surrounded by new people, and you’re getting ready for new experiences. You have done everything you can to prepare yourself by choosing the right classes and packing up your necessities, but have you prepared yourself mentally?

Below are 7 of the best TED talks that can help prepare and motivate you during your college adventure.

30 Day Challenge By Matt Cutts

Watch the video:  30 Day Challenge by Matt Cutts

College is all about new experiences. It can be exciting discovering your new town, your new friends, and your new life. Matt Cutts explains in his TED talk how a 30 day challenge will benefit your college experience in many new and exciting ways. Following in the footsteps of philosopher Morgan Spurlock, Matt shows how in 30 days you can achieve goals, create new habits, and make substantial changes to your life. Don’t wait, try something new for the next 30 days.

Dare to Disagree By Margaret Heffernan

Watch the video: Dare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan

Over the years, you may have been told that when an expert speaks on a given topic, you are to believe every word, even when you have honest questions, or you think you should challenge the point. Margaret Heffernan challenges you to dare to disagree. She explores the idea of challenging the known and discovering new ideas.

The Key to Success? Grit By Angela Lee Duckworth

Watch the video:  The Key to Success? Grit By Angela Lee Duckworth

Getting into college is challenging, let alone getting into the college you want. But now that you’re here, what’s going to make you stand out? What’s going to make you succeed? Angela Lee Duckworth has devoted her time to studying success and has found that it’s not necessarily one’s intelligence that makes them successful. It’s their desire and perseverance, or their grit as Angela calls it, that helps them to succeed.

How to Start a Movement By Derek Sivers

Watch the video:  How to Start a Movement By Derek Sivers

Feeling a little lost in the crowd? Have a few spare minutes? Pull out your mobile device and listen to the TED talk “How to Start a Movement” by Derek Sivers. Derek uses a short video to show how a young guy who is dancing alone and who is clearly not part of the crowd turns his dancing into a movement when others begin dancing beside him. Often it is the one who dares to be different that starts something new. So dare to be different and start a movement.

Secrets of Success in 8 Words, 3 Minutes By Richard St. John

Watch the video:  Secrets of Success in 8 Words, 3 Minutes By Richard St. John

Everyone wants to know how they can be successful. However, when you are in college, figuring out how to succeed is critical to how you will move forward in life and your career. Richard St. John presents a three-minute TED talk that showcases eight words that successful people say have made them successful. Take a few minutes to listen, because these eight words might make all the difference in your success.

How to Graduate College With a Job You Love and Less Debt By Jullien Gordon

Watch the video:  How to Graduate College With a Job You Love and Less Debt By Jullien Gordon

For years, there has been an ongoing battle between book smarts and street smarts: which is better? In his TED talk, Jullien Gordon discusses how both are equally important. He also discusses what he believes are the key components for this generation to succeed. Jullien can help motivate you to do what you love in college without accumulating a mountain of debt.

Life’s a Great Teacher, Are You a Great Student? By Jeffrey Cufaude

Watch the video:  Life’s a Great Teacher, Are You a Great Student? By Jeffrey Cufaude

Everyone desires to be a lifelong learner, but not everyone knows how they can achieve this. “Life is your greatest teacher,” Jeffrey Cufaude points out in this TED talk. Life is happening all around you and constantly trying to teach you. It is those who pay attention to what is happening right in front of them that will spend their lives learning and thus gain great success.

Making your way out into the world and starting college is a big step in life. These seven TED talks can orient you towards your success and well-being.

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Top Reasons to Go Back and Finish your Degree

reasons to finish your degreeSome students choose to take a gap year between high school and college, while others actually enroll in college courses, only to put their degree on hold until they are in a better place to finish it. For either reason, though, one fact remains true: some students put their educations on hold for so long, that they can never find the motivation to go back and complete their respective programs. Perhaps going back to school becomes an intimidating concept to them, or perhaps they can’t find the motivation to re-adjust their schedules again – there are any number of excuses that can be found for avoiding the topic.

If you’ve begun your degree or have long wanted to go to school, perhaps you just needed a good reason. Here are a few to consider.

Your degree makes you more hireable.
It’s a known fact that the United States has a shortage of skilled workers, which results in unfilled jobs. Everyone wants job security, better pay, and better benefits, and having a finished degree can improve your chances of acquiring those things. Plus, the fastest-growing industries often require educated employees.

You’ve already spent time and money…but right now, it’s going to waste.
If you’ve already taken some classes, but ended up dropping out, you’re letting your time and money go to waste. A few college credits here and there are useless – it’s having a full degree that makes you hireable and helps you get the pay and promotions you deserve. Don’t let the money and effort spent on college classes go to waste!

Now that online courses are offered, time is no excuse.
Some people love to fall back on the excuse that they can’t fit education into their busy schedules, but now that there is an online college for every brick and mortar school, that’s no longer plausible. Online courses can be taken at your leisure, don’t require commuting, and don’t cut into family time. Work at home, on your lunch break, on the bus, or whenever you get free time to finish your degree.

Worried about spending money? Enjoy the ROI.
It’s understandable that cost would be a factor in getting an education. It’s no secret that college courses are expensive. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with college degrees earn an average weekly paycheck of $1,053 whereas workers with only a high school diploma earn $638 weekly.

Become a better person.
Time and time again, students will admit that their schooling has helped them find their passion, meet new people, make new connections, and get character-building experience. Even if you’re not concerned with getting a raise, getting promoted, or finding a new job, there is more value to education than just monetary value. You become a better communicator, critical thinker, and member of society when all is said and done.

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Online Degree Spotlight: Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Have you always dreamed of entering a field of study that aligns with your desire to give back to your community? This is the exact reason so many people pursue criminal justice degrees. After gaining an understanding of public safety theory, research, principles, and procedures, many students have found that their education paths have paved the way to rewarding careers.

A common misconception is that to kick-start a career in criminal justice, it’s impossible to study online. Another misconception is that such a degree is only useful for becoming a cop or a judge. With this online degree spotlight, we’re about to dismantle both of those notions.

What you can Expect to Learn
Whether studying criminal justice online or on-campus, the skills students take away are invaluable. It’s both fascinating and character-building to learn about crime investigation techniques, the principles of law enforcement and how to properly employ them, the inner-workings of the criminal justice systems, and how this all comes together to serve the community. If something piques your interest and you’d like to delve deeper into a certain aspect, you can always implement a concentration or get specified certifications.

After graduating, you’ll have the skills to identify the causes of public safety threats and know how to manage them. You’ll have a reinforced set of ethical standards and know how to apply them to the justice system. You’ll also learn how to think critically about important issues that affect the very community you live in, and how to communicate your thoughts on these matters. All of these skills are useful both for a career and for daily life.

Potential Careers
There are many different potential jobs and work environments that you can enter after earning a degree in criminal justice. Become a border patrol agent working in the field, a corrections officer working in a correctional facility or prison, a drug enforcement administration agent working for a law enforcement agency, or a parole officer working for a probation agency. You could also pair the degree with another in psychology to become a criminal psychologist, or minor in forensics to investigate crime scenes. The possibilities are endless.

Possibilities with Work Experience
A lot of people choose to get their degrees online because they’re already working in the field and would like to expand their realm of possibilities. This is because some schools will allow you to use your previous learning, work experience, and earned certifications as college credits. This means it takes less time and money to begin advancing your career, and because you can take classes entirely online, you don’t need to worry about your busy schedule.

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Why Self Defense Courses for Women are Gaining Momentum

149475365From a young age, women are reminded that they are biologically weaker, and to add insult to injury, they’re pressured to adhere to a set of standards for femininity. Nowhere in this set of standards does “knowing how to fight” appear. This combination of facts, in the eyes of a criminal, is pretty much a recipe for an easy target. It’s quite the catch-22 for 50% of the population.

Luckily, a lot of those gender norms are being reneged. In 2014, more and more women are taking control of their safety and advantage of their strength by taking self-defense courses. This way, even if a potential attacker sees a woman as an easy target, she has the confidence to get herself out of the situation.

Still not convinced? Here are some reasons more and more women have decided to take classes online or in a martial arts studio so they can kick more butt.

Crime can happen anywhere.
Sure, maybe you’ve researched how safe your neighborhood would be before you moved there, but the ugly truth is that no location is 100% crime-free. Couple that with the fact that women are more commonly seen as prey, and you’ve got a good reason to want to take care of yourself. You can never be too safe!

Set a good example.
Whether you’ve got kids, younger siblings, or nieces and nephews, you want to break through the harmful idea that women shouldn’t know how to fight because it isn’t feminine. It’s simply dangerous for anyone to not be aware of how to react in a situation involving crime.

Do something empowering for yourself.
Do you feel afraid walking alone at night? Do you want to gain a new appreciation for what your body can do? Self-defense classes make you feel empowered, strong, determined, and even beautiful. You should still be cautious when walking alone or when you’re in a bad neighborhood, but at least you can feel slightly more confident and have a heightened sense of awareness. Being able to take care of yourself is a truly enlightening feeling.

Get in shape.
Self-defense classes are workouts that don’t feel like workouts. While it can be hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym, taking a self-defense class begins to feel like a necessity and you’ll be less likely to skip. After a while, your body will begin to reap the benefits of having more muscle tone and a lower percentage of body fat. It’s just one more motivating factor to add into the mix!


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