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Getting Started in Higher Education: Associate’s Degrees

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Undoubtedly, education transforms lives. If you are looking for a way to create the best life possible for yourself, the best way to start is to pursue a college education. According to CNN, “The average college graduate earns $78,000 a year compared to the $45,000 earned by someone with only a high school education”. And the benefits are not only monetary. In fact, according to Education Corner, “studies have shown that it also leads to overall happiness and stability”. Still, earning a college degree is a major commitment and the process is not a viable option for everyone. For those who are not ready or able to commit to a 4-year program, an Associate’s Degree is a great option. Normally, they require under 2 years to complete.

What is an Associate’s Degree?

Earning an Associate’s Degree is a flexible, cost-effective option to gain job skills and open doors to new opportunities. This educational path is between a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s Degree. Associate’s Degrees are offered in many different subjects. There are Associates in Arts (A.A.) and Associates in Science (A.S.). They can prepare you for further study with the end goal of transferring to a 4-year university. Sometimes, students start out at a community college to save money before transferring. Other times, students may not think that a Bachelor’s Degree is an option for them until they achieve success in earning an AA or an AS and then they develop the confidence and/or drive to continue their education.

What Can You Do with an Associate’s Degree?

Associate’s Degrees open a lot of doors. The benefits include higher earning potential, career opportunities, networking, skill development, and lower risk of unemployment. Coursework in an Associate’s Degree is helpful to students in finding their path and passion. Students can take a wide variety of classes in general subjects and discover what speaks to them. Most community colleges offer robust counseling services to help students explore what they can do with certain majors and what requirements are needed for particular career paths. Having the skills that come with earning an Associate’s Degree can be a great starting point or can help you land your dream job, dependent on your goals. Some students in community colleges may have already earned a college degree in another field but have decided to shift their career path.

Where Do I Begin?

If you are interested in earning an Associate’s Degree, start thinking of what you would like to study and how you want to pursue your education. Do you want to take night classes? Do you want to take mostly or all online classes? The answers to your questions will help inform your research. If you are looking for a specific program such as nursing or EMT, you can research schools in your area that have these programs. Next, you want to look at the kind of support services and facilities available on that campus. What kind of resources will you have access to as a student? Some things to consider are tutors, peer mentors, counseling, library services, student activities, and the college’s connection with local businesses. Potential internships are an important feature to consider for long-term career opportunities.

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