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When high school graduates choose to attend college, a large component of their decision is the type of degree they want to obtain. Before students choose their major, minor, or a course of study, they need to determine whether they want to pursue an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree.

This choice can be especially difficult, because choosing an Associate’s degree comes with a range of positive and negative results. While these students save time and money, they receive less instruction time and experience higher unemployment rates.

To help you make this decision, we’ve compiled a list of the major differences between the degree options. You should take these into account and, only after conducting further research, make your choice based on the best path for your future.

1. Time Investment

Going to college with the intention of getting an Associate’s degree can be rewarding, in that students only need to attend school for two years. For many high school students, this option is appealing. It signals an easier route, and allows them to remain within their comfort zone. Rather than agreeing to another four-year experience, they are simply going for two.

In some industries, this makes sense. For example, highly technical jobs such as computer programming only require two years of formal instruction. Work experience in the field speaks more to these employers than four years of education that could have been used more wisely.

However, this isn’t true for all trades. Public relations specialists, journalists, politicians, and businessmen are all expected to go through four years of professional training in college. You’ll rarely find Associate programs in these fields.

Look at the degree descriptions for your university or college. If you find that your school offers an Associate’s degree for your major, you can probably consider it a viable option. If not, it’s likely that you are pursuing a degree in something that requires a higher standard of education to be hired.

2. Depth of Instruction

Even if you don’t necessarily need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree to get a job, it might still be beneficial to receive an in-depth tutorial on your future position. Computer programmers, for instance, often decide to pursue a four-year degree on the grounds that they want to be more experienced before they enter the field. This is completely acceptable, but it could also be a waste of time for students in high-skill industries. Again, you’ll want to ask around. Your academic advisor is the best person to address when it comes to this question, or you can use career coaching services.

3. Career Opportunities

It’s no secret that students who obtain Bachelor’s degrees have a higher employment rate. There’s no getting around that fact. You’ll find that many positions require a four-year degree, even if that degree doesn’t need to be in a specific field. Because so many teenagers are pushing for higher education, the job market is becoming overwhelmed with the overload of talent and competition. For this reason, companies are becoming stricter about their employees. Even if you don’t need a Bachelor’s degree to prove your worth in the field of Java programming, you may find that you need it anyway. That’s the risk you have to be willing to take when it comes to getting an Associate’s degree.

4. Unemployment Ratings and Earnings

The same rules apply when it comes to unemployment and earnings. Students who push for a four-year degree will, generally speaking, earn more than students who obtained a two-year degree. This information, however, is skewed by the number of students who are simply earning an Associate’s degree because they don’t want to attend college for four years. These graduates will take smaller paying jobs, and are more likely to settle for unemployment. You should keep in mind that, as long as it makes sense for you to get an Associate’s degree, you will most likely be able to find a well-paying job in your industry. It just might be a little harder, and require more tenacity.

5. Cost of Education

This is probably the biggest reason why students choose to pursue an Associate’s degree rather than a Bachelor’s degree. College isn’t cheap, and the experience is only becoming more expensive. For this reason, many teenagers decide to obtain an Associate’s degree with the intention of returning for their Bachelor’s degree once they’ve earned more money. Though this doesn’t always work out for the student in question, it’s still a smart decision that leads to saving money in the long run.

Whether you choose to pursue an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree in your field, you’ll need to be prepared to market yourself after you graduate. A strong candidate with a two-year degree has the potential to perform better in an interview than a weak candidate with a four-year degree. Pay close attention to your professional resume, and highlight the difference between you and the competition. You’ll learn more about this process as you work your way through college.

Good luck!

Cassandra Bondie
Cassandra Bondie

Founder at Misadventures in the Mitten. Author at Cassandra is a journalism and public relations student at Michigan State University. She is also the writer and creator of Misadventures in the Mitten and Howell Teens. She has been featured on MLive and as an activist in her area, and has a strong passion for education and career-studies.