There are exceptions, however, and they have to do in part with the occupation as well as the individual. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that students with associate's degrees who go on to work as dental hygienists, nuclear technicians, computer specialists, fashion designers and radiation therapists on average earn between $62,600 to $68,600 a year. A social worker with a bachelor's degree, on the other hand, might earn $45,000 a year even with 15 years of experience, Payscale.com shows.
Some wondered for a time also whether the type of college or university - Ivy league institutions that tend to cost more, for instance - produce higher paid graduates. A Payscale.com survey published in the New York Times in 2009 suggested that graduates of engineering schools were paid the highest starting salaries, while Ivy League graduates earned more at mid-career. College and university majors made a difference: Those who earned engineering, economics, math and science degrees earned some of the top 20 highest paid starting and mid-career median salaries, the Payscale.com survey showed. In Florida, community college graduates with associate's degrees were also found to earn higher entry-level salaries than those who obtained bachelor's degrees from public and private colleges and universities.
The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 4 didn't single out individual institutions but showed that, in general, students graduating with bachelor's degrees from Florida's public and private universities in 2009 were provided average starting salaries respectively of $36,552 and $44,558 annually as compared with the $47,708 that students graduating with associate's degrees in science from community colleges earned. Students with bachelor's degrees over time, however, might expect to earn more based on their potential for advancements in the workplace, the article noted.
At least one expert in The Herald and St. Petersburg Times suggested also that community colleges tend to train students for in-demand careers in areas such as nursing, dental assisting and auto collision repair. "Green collar" jobs also are said to be experiencing increased demand. In Toledo, a university as well as a community college are offering associate's degrees in alternative energy, according to a Jan. 18 report in Toledo on the Move. The associate's degree programs would train students in developing, installing and maintaining alternative energy systems, the Toledo on the Move article noted.
In Worcester County, Mass., community colleges might see increased enrollment as a result of new sheriff's department hiring policies. The News Telegram on Jan. 20 reported on a new requirement that sheriff's department employees either have associate's degrees or two years of experience in the military. The county sheriff centered some of his new hiring policies on those that other sheriff's departments in the state already have in place, the News Telegram noted.
Many two-year colleges are also collaborating more often with four-year institutions in their area. The Orlando Business Journal on Jan. 19 noted that a two-year associate's degree in architecture was part of a new partnership that took students on to bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture at a university in Florida. Students in Pennsylvania who obtain an associate's degree from community colleges in the area are able to apply all of their academic credits toward fulfilling Allentown college's general education requirements in instances where they enroll in the institution's School of Adult and Graduate Education, according to a Jan. 20 article in The Morning Call. In Tennessee, a community college and a technical university have established a "dual admissions" program partnership where students are offered a more structured means of completing an associate's degree at the community college and moving on to a bachelor's degree program at the technical university, a Jan. 19 article on knoxnews.com noted.
Associate's degrees generally take two years to complete. This can be particularly appealing for students who want to get out into the workforce more immediately. Some students might even enhance their future advancement and salary increase opportunities by taking part in flexible bachelor's degree programs, such as earning an online bachelor degree, that allow them to participate in studies in between their professional and family responsibilities. College in PJs, more time with family, and the freedom to work at one's own pace are some benefits of online school.