Associates, Bachelor’s, or both?

I’ve worked at a small, private college, an HBCU, and community colleges. For some time, there has always been a push for students to go to a four-year college and earn their Bachelor’s degrees. Even when people earned their Associate degrees or professional degrees, there wasn’t much talk about it in the news. But, times are greatly changing as more recognition for the trades and workforce development programs have been touted. In the midst of the continuing student loan debt crisis, job rates for students graduating with bachelor degrees, and the need for more people working in trades, students and families are taking a hard look at what’s best for a person’s career and one’s financial pockets.

There’s a lot of reports on the types of degrees students are currently getting. One report states that around 50% of students are earning certificates or Professional degrees, while 47% are earning bachelor degrees. Although studies still show that earnings are higher over time for those with Bachelor’s degrees, that is dependent on the field one enters, the job location, and the future projection of earnings in that field. It’s important to look at some facts when deciding which route to take for earning any advanced degree.

Fact: Not all associate degrees earn high salaries. A program leading you to becoming an electrical lineman leads to different earnings than a CNA (certified nursing assistant).

Facts: Not all bachelor degrees lead to high salaries. For example, the salary of an analyst who earned a degree in Finance looks different over time than someone who became a teacher with an Education degree.

Fact: Your education, plus relevant experience, still matters when it comes to landing a decent job with decent pay. *Be sure to take advantage of internships, apprenticeships, and summer jobs to strengthen your skills and your resume.

Fact: It is possible that you will need a bachelor’s degree after getting a certificate or professional degree. Most people know this as transferring from an Associate to Bachelor’s. *This is a great option for someone who wants to get their general education requirements completed at a community college before moving to a four-year institution.

Fact: It is possible that you will get a certificate or professional degree after getting your Bachelor’s. *There are many certificate programs that compliment four-year degrees, especially in the trades.

We are simply in a time where one degree is no longer better than the other. What is best for you strictly depends on your goals in life and which degree (plus experience) gets you there in a timely manner. Be sure to research all of your options and pick the one or ones that align with your goals. Instead of investing in one option, it’s usually best to invest in as many that suits your purpose, so be strategic about it.

Keep moving forward!

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