An associate’s degree done right can help you earn more than $80,000 a year
Just take two.
Getting your associate’s degree, rather than your bachelor’s degree, can be a smart move — as long as you’re savvy about what school you attend and what you major in.
A report released this week from compensation data and software provider PayScale found that graduates from Helene Fuld College of Nursing, Pacific Union College, and Laboure College — all of which grant two-year degrees — have high earnings. By the time they’re mid-career, which means they have at least 10 years of experience, they make $87,300, $85,400, and $83,300, respectively. Early on in their careers, grads from these schools make roughly $60,000.
While that’s nowhere near what grads of an Ivy might make — Princeton grads, for example, are raking in $147,800 by mid-career — it’s a lot more than many grads from four-year schools. Indeed, grads with bachelor’s degrees from roughly half of all the more than 1500 four-year schools measured earn less than $80,000 at mid-career. (This figure did not include those grads who went on to get advanced degrees — and presumably also take on more debt.) Part of the reason the earnings are so high for associate’s degree grads from these schools is that they offer in-demand, well-paying associate’s degrees in things like healthcare and nursing.
Of course, it’s important to point out that bachelor’s degree holders, still, on average earn more than associate’s degree holders: $57,900 as compared to $46,000.
But that gets mediated a lot by what you major in. “You’re still typically going to make more with more years of school, but there are some degrees where it’s pretty close,” explains Lydia Frank, the VP of content for Payscale. For example, an associate’s degree in nursing science earns you roughly $72,400, as compared to $76,400 for a bachelor’s in the topic. And Payscale notes that earnings are also quite high for grads with an associate’s degree who study instrumentation technology, in which you learn to install, maintain and calibrate devices used in automation; radiation therapy, which helps cancer patients; and management information systems, in which you learn to support a company’s IT processes.
What’s more, at two-year schools, because you’re in school for fewer years, you might pay about half the tuition you would at a four-year school — assuming you finish school in a timely manner. And they generally cost less anyway: The College Board notes that the average yearly tuition and fees at a public two-year school are $3,440, compared to $9,410 for a public four-year school for in-state students and $23,890 for that same school for out-of-state students. A private four-year school costs even more: $32,410 per year.
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