Associate’s Degrees Are Worth A Second Look

Over the last several decades an increasing amount of pressure has been placed on college students by parents and academic advisors and educators to forgo the Associate’s degree and instead pursue a Bachelor’s degree. As a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science, I can tell you that when I was in college at a traditional large university and expressed some interest in obtaining an Associate’s I was discouraged by my college advisor. And I understand why:

  • Advisors know that your earnings potential with a Bachelor’s is much higher. That’s a legit reason.
  • Advisors also know that universities typically charge more per hour, not to mention they keep you paying tuition twice as long or longer for that Bachelor’s. That’s a little shady.

The truth is that with some majors, students who obtain a 2-year degree can out-earn their peers who graduate with a traditional Bachelor’s. According to data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the typical starting salary for a graduate with an Associate’s degree in computer science is about twice as much on average than a graduate with a Bachelor’s in philosophy.

Other fields with high paying 2-year degrees include technology, with degrees in computer science, information security, and computer information systems. Students who earn an Associate’s in electrical engineering can expect a median salary of almost $60,000 per year.

Nursing, rehabilitation therapy, and medical imaging students can also expect salaries far above the typical graduate with a Bachelor’s in a field of general study. Radiation therapists are in high demand due to a shortage of qualified candidates, and can expect median earnings of about $75,000 per year with only a 2 year degree.

It’s also important to note that in many fields, you’d be wise to obtain an Associate’s and start working while completing a 4-year degree. By earning an Associate’s in field that’s experiencing high demand like healthcare or information technology you can start earning money earlier in life (which greatly increases your long-term wealth) and could have much of your student loan costs covered if you find an employer that offers tuition reimbursement. That’s a big deal. And many of these fields need qualified candidates so urgently that they’re willing to offer great perks like signing bonuses, full tuition reimbursement, and more.

Sound appealing? I encourage you to spend some extra time researching your field of interest to find out if you’d be well served to focus on completing an Associate’s degree instead of (or in addition to) your Bachelor’s. Many colleges will accept all of your credit hours and let you roll them into a Bachelor’s later if necessary.

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