2 Years vs. 4 Years: Is An Associate's Degree Adequate for You?

2 Years vs. 4 Years: Is An Associate’s Degree Adequate for You?

A two-year degree program is also known as an Associate’s Degree. A student who opts for a four-year program usually ends up with a Bachelor’s Degree. Some new students may be wondering if the extra time, work, and tuition fees are really worth it to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. It certainly does have benefits, but this ultimately depends on what the student’s long-term goals are.

Benefits of an Associate’s Degree

The benefit of a two-year degree, as mentioned, is that it will cost less and take less time to achieve. Two-year degrees can often be obtained at local community colleges too. This may be preferable for those who don’t wish to travel far or move away for two or more years. Therefore, if you know exactly what you want to do, and it can be done with an Associate’s Degree, then this can be a great option.

Advantages from Bachelor’s Degrees

Even if one doesn’t need a Bachelor’s Degree to break into their chosen career field, it may still be helpful. This is especially true if there’s a lot of competition for your desired job. The more education you get, the more attractive you will be to potential employers. There may also be more opportunities for advancement for those with a four-year degree, even if you can get in at an entry-level with a two-year degree.

The most significant benefit of the extra two years of time and studying is the increase in potential pay that a Bachelor’s Degree brings. In the U.S., the average yearly salary for someone with a two-year degree is $46,126. The average annual salary for those with a four-year degree is $64,896. That’s a significant jump in earning potential. In addition, the number of career paths that will be opened to you is immense when you go for the higher-level degree as well.

Types of Jobs You Can Expect

Types of Jobs You Can Expect

Associate’s Degrees are often technical degrees or occupation degrees. They are designed for specific jobs or job types. Courses will typically be focused specifically on the job and the skills you will need to be successful. Students will usually still be completing general studies during these two years. Credits earned towards an Associate’s Degree can often be applied to a Bachelor’s Degree. This is useful if you wish to go back and get a higher education later while jumping into the workforce right away.

A Bachelor’s Degree opens up whole fields of career paths to choose from. Fields such as healthcare, chemistry, science, and mathematics often require a four-year degree to break into. Most four-year degrees require a minimum of 120 credit hours to obtain. A Bachelor’s Degree often requires even more general education classes than an Associate’s Degree. These courses will include studies in English, math, science, history, and more.

Choosing the Right College Experience

If school isn’t your strong suit and you know what you want to be, then the two-year degree can serve you well. If you choose a field such as cyber security, for instance, this typically only requires an Associate’s Degree. This will allow you to get right into the workforce and build experience. Experience can significantly increase your earning potential, sometimes as much or more so than the extra education.

On the other hand, there really is no option if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or engineer. You’re going to need that Bachelor’s Degree at a minimum, and usually, you will need more education after you achieve that degree for some of those professions. It may seem like a lot of extra work, time, and money, but it really will pay off in the end. You will end up with a successful job, a set of skills that will mean job security and higher pay over your lifetime.

Consider Your Budget and Other Factors

Consider Your Budget and Other Factors

There’s another angle to consider when deciding whether to go for a two or four-year degree. Some young, potential students will simply be on a tighter budget. Getting a two-year degree will cost much less, and as previously stated, it can be done at a nearby community college. These institutions often have much lower tuition too. By getting a two-year degree, the student can move into the workforce, earn more than someone without a degree, and potentially save up for further education down the road.

Whether you decide on a two-year degree or a four-year degree, the importance of further education after high school cannot be overstated. Just like the wage jump for those who get a four-year degree over those with a two-year degree, there’s also a significant increase in earning potential for those with an Associate’s Degree over those who only have a high-school diploma or GED equivalent. The average high-school grad with no further education only makes $38,792 per year, on average.

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