When it comes to college options, associate degrees are growing in popularity. The number of college students who earned associate degrees grew by more than 49 percent, between 1996-1997 and 2009-2010 and is projected to grow another 21 percent from 2009-2010 to 2021-2022 .[i].
Why are associate degrees making such a strong statement? The current job market is... one influential factor. We’re learning that not everyone needs four or more years of college. Select associate degree programs are designed to prepare graduates for some of the country’s fastest growing positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
In healthcare, for example, an associate degree is often the entry-level requirement for registered nurses.[ii] Many dental hygienists,[iii] radiologic technologists,[iv] occupational therapy assistants,[v] and diagnostic medical sonographers[vi] are also graduates of associate degree programs. All of these roles are growing faster than the average job.
In the business world, some associate degree grads go on to claim high-level support roles in administration, human resources, payroll, or accounting. Information technology teams may rely on associate degree graduates, just as many law firm rely on associate-grad paralegals. Childcare centers and public schools may also turn to qualified paraprofessionals and aides with associate degrees in education.
If you’re not 100 percent certain about your career plans, you might want to explore online associate degrees in general studies or liberal arts. These “academic” associate degrees incorporate a broad background of literature, science, history, and philosophy into the coursework. Some associate degree grads use their general studies degrees to transfer into bachelor degree programs. If you’re planning to go this route, you should ask enrollment advisors about credit transfer considerations.
Finally, associate degrees are often valued for being student-friendly. Associate degree programs typically involve half the number of courses (usually about 20[vii]) that are required for bachelor degree programs. Fewer credit requirements means associate degrees may be more manageable from an academic standpoint and a financial one.
So research your options in online associate degrees. Whether you choose a career-oriented program or a general study option, you could be next to join the thousands of Americans who are finishing college on their own terms.
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