Students have different motives for getting a college degree. Most of the drive behind those motives is one thing: money. It’s no secret that people with degrees usually have higher paying jobs, and generally have a higher income.
Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics have concluded that people ages 25 to 34 who were working full time with higher levels of education had higher median annual earnings.
The median income in 2011 for young adults with a bachelor’s degree was $44,970compared to $37,950 for those without a bachelor’s. Median income is the average amount of income that people make.
Let’s take each category separately: associate degree, high school diploma or GED, no high school diploma.
Those with an associate’s degree earn, on average, $7,000 more than someone with only a high school diploma or GED.
“Well, it gives one more motivation to do what they’re coming to do, because, I mean, obviously some people want more than a high school degree…you can come here to get a job that you like to get up and say ‘I work here’ or ‘I like the pay’ or it’s something you like to do,” said Adriana Fierro, physical therapy assistant major.
There are two different types of associate degrees, which are an applied science or technical degree and a university parallel associate degree.
OCCC President Paul Sechrist explained that an applied science or technical (associate in applied science A.A.S.) degree allows students to go straight into their career after graduating, versus transferring to a university for a parallel program.
“[Transferring to a four- year institution] is less important for students who receive an A.A.S. (applied) degree. These programs are not designed for transfer but for preparation for a professional or technical occupation that requires an associate’s degree as the minimum degree level,” he said.
Some examples include: associate of applied science in nursing (R.N.), film and video production, biotechnology research assistant, physical therapy assistant, certified occupational therapy assistant, licensed paramedic, and many more.
“The earning potential of an applied associate’s degree actually is greater than the average bachelor’s degree, Sechrist said.
In 2011, the median income for people with a bachelor’s degree was $44,970, which is 50 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. People with a bachelor’s degree also earned 21 percent more than those with only an associate’s degree.
Even though students who receive an A.A.S. degree do not have to transfer, Sechrist strongly recommends that students earn an A.S. or A.A. transfer to complete their bachelor’s degree. “It is very important to transfer and complete a four year bachelor’s degree to receive the full benefit. Essentially these transfer degrees are the first two years of a four-year degree program,” he explained.
Frederick Kordsiemon, mechanical engineering major, plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma after completing his associate degree.
“I want to as soon as I come out be able to find something that will fit me, that will suit me, and something that I enjoy but also something that…will work…” said Kordsiemon.
Many students start out at OCCC to save money, or acclimate themselves to the college pace.
While earning an associate’s degree before a bachelor’s degree does have some benefits, students in the job force with an associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree are looked at no differently than those with only a bachelor’s degree.
“Having an associate’s degree before you do transfer does have some advantages, but it is not essential if in fact you transfer and complete the bachelor’s degree. However, if a student has to stopped out of college, or for some reason never completes the bachelor’s degree, having an associate’s degree is significantly better than having no degree at all,” said Sechrist.
Some universities offer special scholarships, admission into certain programs, and transfer courses for those who have earned an associate’s degree prior to transferring to the institution.
Students can also consider furthering their education by earning a master’s degree or higher upon completion of their bachelor’s degree. Those with a master’s degree or higher earned an average of $59,230, which is 32 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree.
For more information about the degrees that OCCC offers, visit www.occc.edu/academics/programs/index.html. For more information about the average of income for young people, visit http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77.