The challenge of starting college can be daunting, regardless of age or life experience. Individuals can be uncertain about choosing courses, applying for financial aid and balancing work with school. While these are valid concerns, there are several advantages to earning an associate degree. Individuals should weigh the pros and cons of attending college, but many graduates of associate degree programs find that the advantages far outweigh their initial fears.
Increased Lifetime Earning Potential
In addition to being a stepping stone to earning a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree can dramatically increase lifetime earning potential as compared to people who hold a high school diploma or GED — some estimate as much as 23 percent or more. Many people are surprised to learn that there are high-paying careers for those who have an associate degree. Examples include air traffic controller, radiation therapist, operations manager and construction manager. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for air traffic controller is $122,530. The healthcare industry employs many people who have associate degrees, including registered nurses and dental hygienists. They typically earn more than $65,000 annually.
Associate Degrees Cost Less
It can be expensive to go to college. It’s common for students to graduate from baccalaureate or graduate programs with student loan debt. This is another reason students consider earning an associate degree instead. Institutions that offer online associate degrees can have affordable tuition rates. And associate degree programs can be completed in as little as two years.
- Students don’t need to look far to find a place to earn an associate degree.
- The programs can take a shorter time to complete and require fewer credit hours, usually around 60 credit hours.
- Prerequisites are easier to meet.
- The format of online programs allows students to work while pursuing their degree.
Whether an associate degree is your end goal or you want to eventually transfer your credits and complete a bachelor’s degree, the benefits of an associate degree dwarf the common worries many students have about starting a program.