Associate degrees

Associate’s degrees and certificates are now as popular as bachelor’s degrees

U.S. students began earning associate’s degrees and certificates at a rate equal to bachelor’s degrees as early as 2016. Recently analyzed data from this year shows that colleges awarded 1.95 million associate’s degrees and certificates combined, compared to 1.92 million bachelor’s degrees.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce (CEW) published these findings in The Overlooked Value of Certificates and Associate’s Degrees report, which also contains the labor market outcomes of these degrees in 10 states. Blue collar workers were found to earn the highest salary of all their certificate-holding peers.

Graduates with associate degrees or certificates can match or beat the salaries of those with bachelor’s degrees in the job market, especially in skill-based industries. Nonetheless, the researchers argued that a four-year degree remains the “gold standard” for stable employment.

Alternative degrees allow students to hone career-relevant skills without committing to a full degree program. Source: Pexel

Alternate Credential Value

According to for Anthony Carnevale, CEW Director and lead author of the report, field of study matters most when it comes to certificates and associate degrees.

“A worker with an associate’s degree can earn more than a worker with a bachelor’s degree, and short-term degrees such as certificates and certifications can earn more than associate’s degrees,” a- he declared.

Alternative degrees allow students to hone career-relevant skills without committing to a full degree program. In light of their growing importance to industry, more community and four-year colleges are would have offering stackable credentials. This allows students to develop their qualifications over time, gradually bridging the gap between workplace demand and industry skills.

Another CWE search from 2018 found that a quarter of all “good” jobs in the United States required more than a high school diploma, but less than a degree. Demand for these medium-skilled jobs jumped 83% between 1991 and 2016, translating into 3.2 million positions.

Colleges are mobilizing

Associate’s degrees and certificates have grown as they focus on training employees to meet the needs of a business or industry. CEW data shows that 57% of associate degree programs and 94% of certificate programs are designed to help graduates find jobs in the field.

At a time full of uncertainties about future jobs and savings, more graduates are opting for this career-focused approach and employers realize this. In fact, companies are increasingly partnering with colleges to train their future workforce.

Take Google, which is working to expand its IT certificate training program to 100 community colleges by the end of 2020. This is done through a workforce development organization Jobs for the future, which customizes the certificate to Google’s requirements. On top of that, Google is working with colleges to make sure that students with their certificate can easily turn their qualification into credits.

Why? Well, IT support specialists are in high demand. With this certificate, graduates can move into an established profession that earns them a median annual salary of $52,000.

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