After graduating from high school, you're faced with a lot of choices. Some students choose to fill out a college application for a bachelor's degree program right after they finish school, but some seniors consider earning an associate's degree. What are the benefits of an associate's degree, and is this type of qualification right for you?
One of the most obvious benefits of earning an associate's degree is that it can be completed in around two years. The degree is typically awarded after 60 course credits, which equals around 20 classes. One advantage of this approach is that you could get a job much sooner than students earning their bachelor's degree.
Another benefit of getting this degree is a higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates of associate's degree programs earned more than $150 per week on average more than high school graduates in the workforce in 2010.
Some employers, especially those in more vocational fields, only require an associate's degree from prospective employees. Predictions indicate that by 2018, almost one-third of new jobs will require at least an associate's degree, meaning that students who choose this route will be more adequately prepared to enter the workforce than high school seniors.
Many professions and fields that require an associate's degree are in demand. For example, many degree programs in fields such as nursing, electronics and liberal arts professions like design are ideally suited to associate's degree-level education and, according to the BLS, job creation in these fields is expected to increase over the next six years.
Typically, associate's degree courses are divided into two categories. The first are programs that teach a more skills-based curriculum and prepare students to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. The other category includes majors where an associate's degree prepares them for continued education at the bachelor's degree level. This type of education path is sometimes referred to as a transfer degree program. Students can apply the course credits they earn in their associate's degree program towards their bachelor's degree, preparing them for the coursework at a higher education level.
Like any qualification, there are pros and cons to studying at the associate's degree level. Talk to your parents and your college admissions adviser about your career plans and your choice of major. An associate's degree may be ideal for you if you want to enter the workforce sooner, or if you want to give yourself an edge when you fill out a college application for a bachelor's degree program.