Recent high school grads have a variety of choices regarding what to do next: travel, get a job, join the military, attend college — just to name a few. In fact, the options can be overwhelming. The same is true for working adults looking for a career change. Earning an associate degree is a great next step, and it can help students improve their careers without committing to a single path.
An Associate Degree Creates Options
This program, which typically takes two years, is a relatively short postsecondary program designed to help students transition into a range of career paths. For example, students can earn qualifications in areas such as accounting, real estate, marketing, information technology (IT), finance, human resources, small business management and occupational or physical therapy.
The associate degree is also a good way to start a bachelor’s program. Some students may find it advantageous that some schools, including LSUA’s online program, allow students to earn an associate degree at a faster pace: Students can earn credits by taking advanced placement tests or CLEP tests — or even through work experience.
Students also have more choices regarding where they earn this degree: They can earn an associate degree at community colleges, vocational schools, four-year colleges and universities, and trade schools. Often, these programs are available both on-campus and online.
Students can also choose the focus of their associate degree. For example, both Associate of Art (AA) and Associate of Science degrees are often the first step towards a bachelor’s degree; an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) is often for career preparation. The AAS sometimes carries a more specific title, such as an Associate in Business or Associate in Engineering Technology. Students can also earn an occupational associate degree that prepares them to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. For both an AA and an AS, students do not have to declare a major, which buys them time to develop a career plan and decide on a bachelor’s degree program to suit.
Better Employment Rates (and Higher Earnings)
Other statistics also show the advantages of an associate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, unemployment rates were 3.8 percent for associate degree holders, 5 percent for people with only some college, and 5.4 percent for those with only a high school diploma. Earnings in each group reflect a similar advantage: The median weekly earnings were $798 for associate degree holders, $738 for those with some college, and $678 for those with only a high school diploma.
An Opportunity to Flourish
While some hiring managers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, younger managers may prefer potential hires who have strong portfolios or skill sets, regardless of their education. For example, a U.S. News & World Report article titled “How Employers View an Associate Degree” notes that 41-year-old Deanna Harper made over $100,000 in 2013 at a Shell oil refinery after earning an associate degree in process technology in 2012. She was hired at Shell after she interned there while earning her degree. Her position would have required five years of experience otherwise.
Choosing the Best School
There are over 2,000 schools that offer an associate degree in the U.S. To narrow this list, students should start by looking at prospective schools’ accreditation. If the school is not properly accredited, graduates may not be eligible to transfer credit hours into a bachelor’s degree program. Further, students should consider the types of courses offered, the cost of the program, the faculty’s reputation, and the school’s facilities and career services.
An associate degree is a smart option for many people. Because the program is relatively short, it could be the perfect fit for those who are not sure what they want to do, have less money to invest in their education, or want to fast-track a career. Students have a choice regarding how they pursue the degree: online or in person. For students interested in the online route, LSUA offers two associate degrees (an associate in art [AA] or in science [AS]). Many students find these degrees viable options that position them for success.
Learn more about the LSUA online Associate of Arts program.
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