Education by association: the benefits of a two-year degree

UW-Fox associate degree program is a road to success for many college students · photo by Cole Stefl

Studies find that getting an associate degree not only helps start a college education, but also has perks for people who plan on getting a degree beyond the associate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ most recent 2013 data, employees who have a two-year degree earned nearly $10,000 more in median income for the year.

An associate degree shows employers a willingness to put in the extra work and that a prospective employee is well-rounded. Getting an associate degree can help undecided majors choose what career path they wish to pursue. For students who have already decided what kind of field they wish to work in, the associate degree still holds importance.

For instance, getting an associate degree in a different field than one’s bachelor’s degree not only expands one’s knowledge base, but it also makes employers view him or her as more of a desirable person to hire.

There are times when getting an associate degree may not be beneficial. In this case, when one is getting a bachelor’s degree in the same field, the associate degree will likely be overshadowed or unnecessary.

This was a consideration for Alison Brugger, sophomore at UW-Steven’s Point, who elected to earn only a four-year degree.

“The main reason I skipped the associate degree is because of when I was looking for colleges to attend, and then when I found the program and major I really wanted to do, it was a four-year plan with no possible way to do it in any less time,” Brugger said.

However, stopping after the associate degree can save money while still offering valuable experience. Although the higher level of education typically results in jobs with a higher pay, one must also consider the original investment

that higher education costs. Schools such as UW-Fox Valley make getting an associate degree easier with both the transfer program and the considerable cost differences in comparison to other UW schools.

Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) is a similarly-priced option in the Fox Valley area.

Alison Nutting is one such student who received her associate degree from FVTC.

“I chose to get my associate degree because I wanted to continue my education but I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a four-year degree. It has helped me realize that I can earn a college degree without being thousands of dollars in debt,” Nutting said.

Her concern is shared by Jesse Peotter, who received her associate degree from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Peotter also brought up the benefit of getting into the workforce faster.

“I guess the reason I chose an associate degree would be because I wanted to be in the workforce sooner than the other students my age. I think that real life experience is more valuable than sitting in a classroom. You also aren’t in debt as long as a four-year college and we were very hands-on.”

The decision to get an associate degree or to skip it relies on each individual’s plan for the future. For some who do not know what they wish to do, an associate degree may help to shed some light on what is and what is not a good

career path to follow. If one’s desired career requires more than the associate degree, it may be wise to skip the associate and go straight for a bachelor’s. However, in both cases, there are clear advantages to going beyond a high school diploma.