Maybe you’re in this position right now: A semester or two away from getting an associate’s degree you didn’t plan on pursuing. You meant to be at the community college for a year tops and then transfer to a four-year school, but things didn’t happen quite as planned.
Is it worth it to postpone your bachelor’s degree to earn that associate’s? Both Alex Deangelis and Shandon Guthrie have been in a similar situation, yet handled it very differently.
Yes, get the associate’s degree
Guthrie, who teaches philosophy at a few colleges in Las Vegas, earned an associate’s degree before going on to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in philosophy. He’s now in a Ph.D. program and still claims his two-year applied-science degree has been beneficial.
“It’s my only degree I possess outside of my primary field of philosophy,” Guthrie said. “It helped me tremendously in advancing my knowledge of science and has served as a backdrop for my avocation in science as I steered into using physics and engineering as factors in my studies.”
Guthrie doesn’t advise all students to earn an associate’s, but mainly just those in a similar position as him, in a field that has sub-fields. This way you can combine the knowledge of two degrees and be that much better of a job candidate.
“Getting a dual major can accomplish the same thing,” Guthrie admitted. “But I do believe that on paper when people examine your resume, they will see the associate’s degree as a separate emphasis, having been studied in its own right. It proves stability and independent accomplishment — something the dual major might not necessarily accomplish.”
But does having an associate’s degree even matter when you’re looking for a job? The 2012 annual survey by Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) suggests so. The survey showed that job opportunities for associate’s degree holders increased 30% since the 2011 CERI survey.
There are professional careers you can launch without having a bachelor’s degree as well, according to a recent Business Insider article. Examples mentioned in the article include dental hygienist and construction manager. Several health careers, such as the aforementioned dental hygienist and others such as x-ray tech, may require only an associate’s degree.
It all depends on what you study and go on to study, Guthrie said. While an associate’s degree in a different subject than your bachelor’s degree could give you an additional knowledge base that may help you stand out, getting both degrees in the same field might not make a difference.
“An AA [associate of arts degree] will not add to one’s credentials if they remain in the same field in pursuing a bachelor’s,” Guthrie said.
No, head straight for the bachelor’s
Deangelis, a graduate student at Long Island University studying education, decided against an associate’s degree a few years ago, even though she was two semesters away from earning one. She instead went straight to her bachelor’s degree program.
“There’s no point to my associate,” said Deangelis, who was just pursuing the basic AA “It didn’t certify me for anything or provide jobs. My goal at that college was to just leave and go to another college.”
A good reason for attending a community college, according to Deangelis, is to save money on core classes before transferring. While she thinks certain certificates and associate’s degrees can make sense for someone going into a specific field, she didn’t see the point in postponing her bachelor’s degree for something that wouldn’t benefit her career.
“I’ve never really heard of a specific associate’s that holds so much strength,” Deangelis said. “I always heard to get your bachelor’s and then go to grad school because even a bachelor’s nowadays is holding less strength, which is why I just rushed to get some sort of bachelor’s.”
One or two semesters might not seem that long in the course of a lifetime, but some may agree with Deangelis on this one. Why spend time earning something that may not matter one way or the other to your career, especially when the average community college tuition for one year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), is just below $3,000. While that’s not a lot of money to spend on a year of college, if you’re going on to earn a bachelor’s degree and that extra money won’t help you directly with that goal, do you want to spend education dollars on an associate’s degree?
There are many excellent reasons for getting an associate’s degree. It’s important to understand all the angles as you decide whether you want to put extra time into earning that associate’s degree, or if you want to move right in to your bachelor’s degree studies.
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