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While community college is sometimes viewed as the red-headed stepchild of higher education, new research shows that graduates with bachelor’s degrees don’t always earn more than those with associate degrees or certificates.
According to NBC News, new data published by CollegeMeasures.org suggests graduates of two-year community college programs in technical or occupational fields such as information technology or nursing tend to earn more than their peers in non-technical and non-occupational programs. The organization’s research also discovered that technical and occupational associate degree holders often earn more than professionals with bachelor’s degrees. For example, employees who earned a technical or career-specific associate degree in Virginia between 2006 and 2010 earned close to $40,000 annually, while bachelor’s degree grads from the same state earned an average of $36,067, NBC News reported.
“In the U.S., we’ve tended to think that the bachelor’s degree is the only thing that matters, and this data tells us that technical degrees from community colleges are hidden gems,” Mark Schneider, president of CollegeMeasures.org and a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, told NBC News.
Recent statistics from the Department of Labor also show that not only is the job growth for those with associate’s degrees bulldozing that of more advanced degree holders, the majority of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., such as dental hygienists to personal care aids only require a community college education. With the rising cost of tuition at four-year institutions, more students are turning to community colleges. According to American Association of Community Colleges, the average annual tuition and fees total $2,963, compared to $8,244 at 4-year public institutions in 2012.
While it’s unlikely that an associate degree will become more coveted than a bachelor’s, it’s arguable that two-year schools may offer more of an applicable and practical value, depending on the field of study.
In today’s job market, how much value do you think an associate degree holds? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.