When you’re making decisions about higher education and an eventual career path, keep in mind that an associate degree can offer some important advantages. These degree programs take less time to complete than a 4-year degree program, but is an associate degree worth it? You might not be aware that earning this kind of degree can lead to more earnings while also helping you keep college costs lower. Learning more about these advantages and other benefits of associate degrees can help you decide if this type of degree is suitable for you.
Types of Associate Degrees
Different types of associate degrees are available. The kind you should choose will depend on the type of career you’re interested in, as well as other factors, such as whether or not you plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree afterwards. These are the main types of associate degrees, but keep in mind that there can be several specific degree programs that fall under these broader categories:
- Associate of Science: An Associate of Science degree includes several courses in science, math, or both, along with any other coursework students need for their particular degree program. For example, students can pursue an Associate of Science degree with a focus on legal studies, early childhood education, criminal justice, marketing, accounting, or management. These degrees are common among students who plan to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher after getting an associate degree.
- Associate of Arts: This degree is also a common choice for students who want to work toward a higher degree after earning an associate degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree. An Associate of Art degree includes several courses in the humanities, social sciences, or both.
- Associate of Applied Science: An Associate of Applied Science degree tends to offer more targeted courses based on a student’s major instead of general education courses.
- Associate of Applied Business: This degree also typically offers courses that are more focused on a student’s major rather than more general college courses.
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Benefits of Earning an Associate Degree
What kinds of advantages can you expect when you’re working toward an associate degree? The following are some of the top benefits of associates degrees.
When you have an associate degree, you can expect to find plenty of career opportunities compared to only having a high school diploma. This shows prospective employers that you have the motivation and discipline needed to earn a college degree. Keep in mind that associate degree programs often prepare you for the workplace rather than focusing only on education. You’ll gain valuable skills that benefit you in many types of jobs while also building specific skills needed for your field.
With an associate degree, you’ll have a better chance at finding plenty of job opportunities to choose from, no matter what the current unemployment rate is. Whether you plan on starting a new career or advancing in your current career, this kind of degree can open a lot of professional doors for you.
An associate degree doesn’t necessarily have to be the only degree you earn. You can use this degree as a steppingstone to reach more advanced higher education degrees. For example, you can earn your associate degree, then go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. You will likely be able to transfer some of the credits you earn with your associate degree when you begin a bachelor’s degree program. These education options provide you with more opportunities to explore careers that require more advanced degrees, although you’ll still find many career options with an associate degree.
When you’ve put in the time and effort to earn an associate degree, you’ll find that you can earn more money than you would with only a high school diploma. In fact, there are several jobs requiring an associate degree that lead to much higher earnings.
For example, an occupational therapy assistant can earn a median pay of $59,200 a year or $28.46 an hour, while a computer programmer can earn a median pay of $86,500 a year or $41.61 an hour. While the salary you’ll earn will vary based on the kind of work you do and where you work, you can expect to have higher earning potential with an associate degree.
Just how much do people earn with one of these degrees compared to a high school diploma? According to the Census Bureau, adults with an associate degree who work full-time earn at least $5,000 more per year compared to those with a only high school diploma. Those with an associate degree had a median pay of $39,687 per year in 2009, while those with a high school diploma had a median pay of $33,213 the same year. Overall, those with an associate degree earn roughly $400,000 more over their lifetime than those who have a high school diploma.
The rising cost of tuition for higher education is one of the main reasons for people to think twice about getting a degree. In fact, college costs have gone up 25 percent over the past decade. This increase has been even more significant over the past few decades. For public institutions, the cost of a 4-year degree went from $3,859 in 1985 to $20,050 in 2017. This increase is even higher in private institutions. The cost of a 4-year degree at one of these institutions went from $9,228 in 1985 to $43,139 in 2017, making college a major financial burden for many students.
An associate degree program provides a way for you to earn a degree without having to accumulate significant tuition costs. Associate degrees generally cost less than what you might pay for tuition when you join a bachelor’s degree program. You’ll pay even more if you plan on earning a master’s degree or higher. With an associate degree, you can start working in your field earlier without having to shoulder the burden of high tuition costs. This can give you the budget flexibility to begin saving money rather than having to spend years paying off your education.
Flexibility to Work
Earning an associate degree gives you the chance to work as needed while getting an education. Other degree programs, such as bachelor’s degree programs, usually don’t leave you with much room to work and focus on education, especially if you need to work full-time. With an associate degree program, you’ll have the ability to continue working part-time or full-time, depending on your situation. You can more easily fit in a full-time education with a part-time job or work on your associate degree while holding a full-time job.
This flexibility to work makes it possible to earn a degree for those who need to support a family or those who don’t want to give up a full-time or part-time job for other reasons. Instead of having to put off getting a higher education degree, these individuals can keep working while studying and earning their degree.
Being able to work while going to college thanks to associate degree programs also means you can start working in order to pay off college costs as you go. Rather than leaving these costs for when you graduate, you can start paying off college tuition and other expenses while still in school.
Less Time to Earn a Degree
One of the main benefits of associate degree programs is that they don’t require as much of a time commitment as other degree programs, such as bachelor’s degrees. Associate degrees typically only take 2 years to complete compared to 4 years for a bachelor’s degree or 6 or more years for a bachelor’s plus a master’s degree. When you want to earn a college degree and get started on your career as soon as possible, associate degrees provide you with a faster way to do so.
Taking less time to earn a degree means you don’t have to set aside a few or several years for higher education. Instead, you can begin making plans for building your career within a couple of years. This shorter timeframe can help you focus more on finding job opportunities since your graduation isn’t as far off in the future. With less time to get your degree, you’ll have more time to devote to starting your search for jobs in your area or researching employers you might want to work for in your field. Taking steps toward finding a job now while you’re earning an associate degree can help ensure that you find work right away after you graduate.
If you’re eager to begin exploring your associate degree options, please contact Post University. We can help you find the right associate degree program for building the career of your dreams.
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Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.